Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Hands-On Impressions [E3 2012]

It’s easily one of the oddest titles in Square Enix‘s 2012 lineup, but also one of the most intriguing. While many people at E3 were rushing to get their hands on the Wii U, Borderlands 2 or Assassin’s Creed III, I wanted to get my giant hands on Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy.

The game handles exactly like you’ve probably seen or heard. The entire game is essentially just a celebration of the rich soundtrack that has encompassed the entire franchise. Considering the soundtrack has enough of a fanbase and establishment to support an entire concert series in the form of the Distant Worlds concerts, I’d say that’s pretty good subject matter.

The songs themselves are broken into three main modes: event, field and battle. Events are story elements of the various games played for you while tapping and swiping in time with the music. Field songs have the ultimate goal of getting to the other end of the level, also while tapping and swiping in time to the music, and gaining speed bonuses for getting higher accuracy ratings during specific sections. Battle are replicated battles with various trademark enemies of the series played by, surprise surprise, swiping and tapping.

Different colored notes mean different things. Red dots are simply for tapping, green are held notes where the player has to hold the stylus on the screen until the next note, and arrows require a swipe in the prompted direction. As with any rhythm game, players are scored by accuracy, and rack up combos for higher hit notes. No surprises here.

One thing I was concerned about, however, was difficulty. Admittedly, the premise seems a bit simple. Rhythmic tapping is fairly easy, although that may just be the musician in me talking.

So when I walked up to the demo, I looked through the few songs available for the demo, and picked Final Fantasy VII‘s One Winged Angel, given my history with the song. And since I used to (key word there,) be a bit of an expert at rhythm games, I chose a higher difficulty.

It actually pleases me to say that I failed the song about half way through. The game is legitimately challenging.

The only thing that was a bit odd was some of the songs from earlier games being in their original 8-bit forms. Nearly all of this music has been remastered for re-releases or recorded by an orchestra. I’m not sure if they were going for nostalgia or what, or if there was an option to change it that just wasn’t in the demo.

Admittedly, the game probably won’t please anyone who isn’t a fan of either Final Fantasy or great music in general. But Square never set out to make the game for anyone other than the fans anyway, so it all works out. I seriously can’t wait for the game to be released next month.