Despite a limited number of songs and an incredibly small number of game modes, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy garnered critical praise when it first launched two years ago. Its sequel is now here, packing in more songs and game modes than ever before. In fact, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call not only contains several times the number of songs as its predecessor, but a vastly larger number of game modes, collectables, and characters. Yes, bigger is truly better. Unfortunately, however, a few shortcomings prevent Curtain Call from truly reaching its full potential.
The core gameplay of Theatrhythm has stayed the same. There are three types of level designs: field music, battle music, and event music. Although, in reality, just different sides of the same coin, each mode looks different visually. Field music features a character running through a field (surprise?), battle music has your party fighting various monsters, and event music, my favorite mode, has captured footage of the actual Final Fantasy games running in the background. The difference in levels is purely an illusion, though it is still nice to see the developers attempt to diversify the gameplay. Unfortunately, no matter how different each level looks, the gameplay boils down to the same thing: tap, slide, and hold the stylus.
That is not a bad thing, by any means, as tapping through various songs is what Theatrhythm is at its core and asking for anything different would not be fair for a rhythm game. Playing through the actual game is incredibly fun, as well as addicting, and chasing high scores time and time again will not get boring. What truly helps is the source material. Final Fantasy music is known to be some of the best music in the industry, so packing in 221 songs from 25 games into one package is sure to keep players busy for a while.
Those that begin to get the hang of Theatrhythm can then move on to harder difficulties. Whereas the original game required players to first play easier versions of songs before moving on to harder difficulties, Curtain Call allows players to start off at the very hardest difficulty if they so desire. This seemingly insignificant improvement is actually invaluable, as it quickens the pace of the game drastically and allows for more experienced players to feel challenged immediately.
Trust me, those playing on Ultimate difficulty will face quite the challenge. Aside from the quickened tempo of the beats, the game begins to throw in large amounts of triplets, sixteenth notes, and uneven rests. Adding on to that, the game begins using many different directional commands in succession, which is incredibly challenging to master. What is truly unfortunate, however, is Theatrhythm\’s shortfall in its practice mode. Although players can run through a song for practice without any fear of failing, it would have been more helpful had the developers included a \”slow-down\” mode to allow for players to learn the intricacies of the specific song. If I am failing at the same part of the song each and every time, playing through at full-speed repeatedly will not do me any favors. Just like learning any sort of music, taking it slow at first is the first step to mastery.
Underlying all the rhythm gameplay are some very, very light \”RPG\” mechanics. Players can craft a customizable party, equip various items and abilities, and even level everyone up to level 99. The only problem is that the RPG mechanics do not even matter. I could be playing with four level 99 characters with the best abilities or four level 1 characters with no abilities; it really does not matter in the slightest, as long as my sense of rhythm stays steady.
Outside of the basic song selection mode, there are two other major modes that players can partake in. Quest Medley is a mode that somewhat reminds me of Find Mii mixed with Theatrhythm. Players traverse across randomly generated overworlds with various splitting paths, playing through random Final Fantasy music in their journey. I particularly like this mode, as it combats my indecisiveness. While in the main mode of Theatrhythm, I may have a hard time choosing which songs to play or what difficulty to play on; however, when playing in Quest Medley mode, the game does the heavy lifting, spewing out a random, custom-tailored soundtrack for you.
The game also features an online mode, new to the Theatrhythm franchise. Players can play through songs with random people across their region and the world. The catch? Each \”battle\” has various nuances, which I can only liken to items in Smash Bros. By using various abilities, your opponent may be faced with disappearing, fading, randomly generating, or any mix of notes. This added gameplay feature, along with an online ranking, actually create quite the competitive arena for online play. It is quite unfortunate that it is so challenging to find anyone else playing online.
Throughout the game, players constantly unlock a vast amount of collectables. After almost each song, the party will level up, new characters and songs will be unlocked, and various collectable cards will be obtained. This constant play-and-reward system goes a long way in keeping players continually engaged and constantly returning to replay levels.
Overall, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is an excellent sequel to the original title. Not only is the whole game expanded with a larger number of songs, but it also features all new game modes and collectables for players to discover. Square has already confirmed that Curtain Call is the last title in the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy franchise; however, after playing through the game, I am ready for Theatrhythm Kingdom Hearts!