Thursday, 2 October 2014

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

I've always loved videogame music. I'm sure many non-gamers assume videogame music is tripe, something that sounds like a bunch of haphazardly arranged bleeps and blops, but we all know better, right? Even before videogame music consisted of massive orchestras, it was always something that was an integral part to the gaming experience. Since playing Streets of Rage on the MegaDrive for the first time on Christmas morning back in 1992, and hearing tracks such as the drum heavy “Attack of the Barbarian” and the insanely ominous “The Last Soul”, I was hooked. Despite playing many games in the years following Streets of Rage, when I played Final Fantasy VII for the first time it's music just floored me. Featuring almost 100 tracks overall, I can still hum every one of them today. So because videogame music seems to linger within us many years after actually playing the game itself, I was incredibly excited to try this latest spin-off in the Final Fantasy series. However, this isn't a typical Final Fantasy game, but rather it's a game that pays tribute to the series' musical legacy.

Developed by Square Enix 1st Production Department and out now for Nintendo 3DS comes Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, a game any hardcore Final Fantasy fanatic will adore. Curtain Call is a spin-off from the main Final Fantasy series, and also a sequel to 2012's Theatrhythm. Curtain Call is a rhythm game (yeah, I didn't even know that was a genre either!) and bases all of its gameplay around the music that has populated the Final Fantasy series over the past 25 years. The game contains 221 songs from Final Fantasy, with an additional 50 tracks on offer as DLC. Still though, without any DLC there's plenty of music available here. From the original Final Fantasy, the rarely played Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest and the more recent Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Curtain Call covers a lot of ground.

There isn't much to the gameplay in Curtain Call, but it is rather addictive and quite rewarding. Simply put, the player must tap the screen with their stylus in time with the music cues displayed. There are three types of music cues – Red, Green and Yellow. Red music cues simply need to be tapped, with Green music cues the player must hold their stylus down on marker, while with Yellow music cues the player must slide their stylus in the direction of the arrow on screen. It all sounds incredibly simple and mundane, but while this may be the case with some of the easier tracks, when you attempt “One Winged Angel” on Extreme difficulty it's incredibly tricky to master. Gameplay comes in one of three scenarios – Battle, Field and Event sequences. While gameplay remains pretty similar throughout, Battle sequences has your team go up against a foe, with every successful music cue hit being turned into an on-screen attack. Field sequences, compared to Battling, are far more relaxing, and put you in charge of one character making their way through the world. Event sequences simply showcase the many cut-scenes throughout the Final Fantasy series, with the inclusion of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children especially being a standout point.

There are 60 characters on offer in Curtain Call, though many of them will need to be found in the world through playing “Quest Medley Mode”, which are randomly generated quests that add a nice extra layer of uniqueness to the game. There's also “Versus Battle Mode” a multiplayer mode that was sadly absent from the original game, which pits two players against each other. It all comes together to make a truly wonderful package, topped off by the cute and charming visual design. All characters, bosses, enemies and locations have been tailored towards a certain visual style, and though this may upset some hardcore fans, the result is a truly different, yet strangely familiar Final Fantasy experience.

Overall Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is a celebration of the music that has made the Final Fantasy series so memorable. Long after you've forgotten how to beat Ruby Weapon in Final Fantasy VII and how to acquire Madeen in Final Fantasy IX, you still remember the music. While this game can easily be enjoyed by a non-fan of Final Fantasy, it's primary audience are the ones who have defeated Kefka, watched Aeris die and won every Blitzball game.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call gets a standing ovation with a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call at CeX

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