Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for 3DS is Square Enix’s way of celebrating the famous RPG series’ 25th anniversary. Thirteen games worth of acclaimed music have been collected in one rhythm game and set to a backdrop of series’ equally famous visuals, from the sprites of old to the latest in CGI animation. How could this package not be pure awesomeness?
Surprisingly enough, Theatrhythm feels just a little off for a couple of reasons. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit my gameplay experience might have been slightly hampered by the general cacophony of the E3 show floor. Square Enix had the demo units equipped with headphones, and fairly decent ones at that, but not even they could defend against the blaring dubstep pervading the throughout the conference hall. However, the franchise’s exemplary musical record is pretty much beyond dispute, so that isn’t likely the issue.
Theatrhythm is immediately reminiscent of Elite Beat Agents, Nintendo’s wonderfully weird and eclectic touch screen infused rhythm game. But this title is lacking a little in the gameplay department. Where Elite Beat Agents featured a host of touch based motions requiring precision timing and placement, Theatrhythm has four inputs and all are based solely on timing. This resulted in a demo that was surprisingly shallow. Later songs and higher difficulties might result in more interesting and challenging gameplay, but what was on display didn’t quite due the music justice.
My only other complaint with the game is purely a matter of personal taste, but I really am not a fan of the original artwork done for it. Some songs feature characters from throughout the series and to avoid any awkwardness from disparate art styles clashing, Square Enix decided to implement a unified art style for these sequences. The approach they chose is a really weird super deformed style that I thing looks just plain weird, if not inappropriate given the typically epic nature of the music.
Another small visual problem is the rather poor use of 3D. The rhythmic prompts pop off the screen quite nicely but the background imagery is flat. It probably would have been difficult to do, but the amazing CGI sequences from the post SNES days could have been really cool in 3D.
Given the fact that the game is already out in Japan and will hit the US in less than a month, these issues are unlikely to be addressed. Then again, this issues might be insignificant to the target audience. While I found the gameplay to be overly simple, others who are interested more in the game as a tribute to Final Fantasy might find it very approachable. And one’s opinion on the aesthetic design is completely subjective so by no means is my opinion law.
Regardless of how you feel about these potential trouble spots, the music at the core of the game is amazing and this is just another way for gamers to experience it.