Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

The Final Fantasy era of Theatrhythm goes out on a high note!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 09/24/2014 13:00 1 Comment     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Solid improvements to the already impressive gameplay; Sharper touch controls; Strong sound quality and visuals; Excellent song selection; DLC fairly implemented; Tons of content and replay value
Poison Mushroom for...
Though improved, Hold Triggers still sometimes too unresponsive; Character customization and upgrading is superfluous, which might irk some RPG purists

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call goes well beyond being a simple bow and wave to the audience. Though it lifts quite a bit from the first game, Curtain Call improves upon the original with more precise controls, a better selection of music, and improved visuals. It’s a meaty game, with a ton of content to explore and discover, which will keep players busy for many hours on top of simply trying to get better scores. There are still a couple lingering snags that developer Indies Zero wasn’t able to totally eliminate, but overall Curtain Call is an excellent sendoff for the series bearing the Final Fantasy moniker, and demonstrates that the concept is still sound and worth continuing.

A rhythm game similar to Guitar Hero and Donkey Konga, Curtain Call features a massive collection of songs from across the history of the Final Fantasy series. Covering far more games than the original Theatrhythm (DLC included), Curtain Call tackles everything from Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. There’s a lot more fan service on display in terms of song selection this time around, and it’s a better experience for it. The same can be said of character selection, with more favorites making an appearance, and even multiple iterations of a single character: Tifa is a good example of this, as there’s a Final Fantasy VII version of her along with a Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children take. The diversity is mind-boggling, and makes running through all the songs a joy.

All that music and those characters wouldn’t mean a thing if Curtain Call‘s gameplay didn’t back them up, and luckily the game does. There are three basic song types: Battle, Field, and Event Music Stages. Each Music Stage offers the same fundamental gameplay as the other, but there are key variations to take into account that separate them. Battle has four lanes of Triggers (notes) that scroll across the screen, Field features a single lane that scrolls from left to right, and Event also has a single lane, but with an FMV playing in the background while the Triggers move across the entirety of the screen without any set direction. Within each Music Stage are sections called Feature Zones, which activate if a string of special Triggers are hit in succession. The Zones bring a different benefit to each Music Stage: Battle Features result in summons for super damage, Field Features give a speed boost, and Event Features allow the player to see the extended version of a particular video. All three song types are great fun, though the Event Music Stages are criminally scarce.

Production values are top notch in Curtain Call. The signature cartoony aesthetic returns, and is as charming as ever. It just seems to work for Final Fantasy, somehow seamlessly meshing all the disparate visual styles of the different titles into a cohesive package. It doesn’t read as being too kiddie, while also maintaining a little bit of the edge that some of the newer titles are known for. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Curtain Call‘s art direction is as happy a middle ground as can be reasonably expected. The 3D effect is much better this time around for those who like to crank the 3D slider all the way up, but even without it, this is a great looking game. The sound is also well done, whether wearing a pair of headphones or played straight from the 3DS’s speakers. With all the content in this title, it’s astounding that Indies Zero could keep the quality so high across the board.

Indies Zero maintains the touch screen controls of its predecessor, but makes some welcome, if not always workable, additions and adjustments to them. Along with using stylus swipes, taps, and presses, there are now optional face button and Circle Pad controls, too. They’re mostly reliable, but are not as useful when playing the game on higher difficulty levels. I suppose someone could master the game using button controls, but I’d imagine a broken Circle Pad as a result. The game simply becomes too fast for anything but the stylus to be the optimal control input. There are three different Trigger types to hit: Touch (tap), Slide (directional swipe), and Hold (press down continually). In the first game, Slide Triggers in all three Music Stages could be finicky, along with Hold Triggers in the field stages. In my time with Curtain Call, both have seen vast improvements, but Hold Triggers in the Field Stages are still hit or miss. There will be times when the touch screen completely loses track of the stylus, resulting in a bad or completely missed mark against the player’s score. Again, I feel like the controls have been improved, but expect an unwarranted miss here and there.

Curtain Call has quite a few different ways to play besides just running down the list of songs one at a time. Quest Medleys have an assortment of tracks that are arranged on what are called Chaos Maps, which have branching paths. At the end, a final boss must be defeated in order to win. They’re not extravagant by any means, but they do offer some welcome variety to the proceedings. It’s in this mode that Curtain Call‘s character customization is most important, which isn’t saying a lot. Players assemble a party of four characters from across the Final Fantasy mythos, and each one can be upgraded with a variety of abilities and items. As songs are completed (regardless of game mode), party members earn experience, becoming stronger as they level up. It’s very akin to a traditional RPG, but unfortunately comes across as more superficial than beneficial.

The numerous abilities and items serve to grant players an edge during gameplay, but it’s incredibly hard to see any discernible change after micromanaging party members. It feels superfluous to put any real effort into making inventory and skill adjustments when success is intrinsically tied to skill. If the player can’t hit the Triggers, no amount of experience points is going to stop them from losing. In that regard, it’s arguable that Curtain Call falls a little flat, but in my opinion, I think it’s a good thing that this aspect of the game isn’t integral to the experience. The rhythm gameplay is the whole point of the Theatrhythm series, and though it’s fun to level up characters, I prefer not being forced to obsess over more traditional RPG minutiae in these games. If players want true grinding and inventory control, all of the games that Curtain Call draws inspiration from are ready and waiting to deliver just that. Curtain Call‘s character customization seems more intended to be like window dressing than anything else, and I’m fine with that.

Beyond what I’ve described here, there are even more things to enjoy while playing Curtain Call. Versus Mode pits players near and far against one another. StreetPass lets players exchange ProfiCards, which hold player data and Chaos Maps for new Quest Medleys. The Museum has a whole host of CollectaCards (think Final Fantasy baseball cards, which also help with player customization), a theater to watch Event Stage cutscenes, and a music player. Whoof! Curtain Call is crazily bloated with content, and as someone who long ago grew weary of paltry offerings from developers, it’s a breath of fresh air to see Square Enix and Indies Zero be so generous with players. There is DLC available for the game, which will be regularly updated for a time, but it’s DLC in its best form: honest additional content. Curtain Call doesn’t skimp, and the DLC just adds more to the pile. Make sure to download and play the demo before buying Curtain Call, by the way. Those who do will have more characters available for their party if the game detects Curtain Call demo save data.

With great music and great gameplay, Curtain Call is a triumphant celebration of Final Fantasy. For series enthusiasts, the game is a brilliant tour through all the great Final Fantasy titles that have been released over the years. For music game fans, Curtain Call‘s robust, eclectic collection of tunes will suck them in regardless of their familiarity with the source material. It’s not without faults, but other than a couple blemishes, Curtain Call is yet another bright spot in the 3DS software library. Square Enix has a number of series and games that could be a perfect fit for future Theatrhythms (or even a crossover with Zelda or Super Mario!), and I sincerely hope that Square sticks to its plans to see the series continue.

One Response to “Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

  • 1332 points
    Andrew Hsieh says...

    This game is so good. I picked it up right when it came out and I still play it for as long as I can muster (i.e. until my hand cramps) every day. SO. GOOD. Gotta get that daily bonus.

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