by David Kreinberg,
Over at the Square Enix booth, we took a look at Theartrythm Final Fantasy, a rhythm compilation of some of the series most beloved music tracks. Is it worthy as the premiere and currently sole product of Final Fantasy's 25th anniversary?
To give it a unique flavor, the game employs an original super deformed art style unlike any other of the company's media products, though it does share similarities with other handheld games such as the Crystal Chronicle series or 4 Warriors of Light. The animations take advantage of the art style, giving the characters an almost puppet-like way of moving, which, when the stage permits, also fits well with the background.
The actual gameplay is both familiar and new. Similar to Elite Beat Agents, the player will have to tap the screen in correspondence with colored circles that are constantly appearing. But unlike EBA, the circles aren't tapped directly as they are on the top screen, instead requiring the player to tap anywhere on the bottom screen when the prompt to tap is given or the circle lines up with the bar on the right side of the screen.
But those are just the basics. Just tapping won't cut it in many situations. The player may also have to swipe the stylus against the screen in certain directions to switch things up. Sometimes keeping the stylus pressed against the screen was necessary. Sometimes these were combined, forcing the player to move the stylus up and down while holding it against the screen. There will most likely be even more functions to break up the monotony of merely tapping.
The demo threw us right into a few different stages, both visually and mechanically. The first one was a cinematic, recreating the famous lake scene while Suteki da Ne played. The circles would appear at different points on the screen, at first connected to each other in a diamond shape.
The second demo was more akin to a boss fight, pitting four past Final Fantasy heroes against a number of monsters and iconic enemies. Each "party member" would get their own row of constantly moving circles, with each successful tap resulting in an attack from the character.
There are also out of "battle" features such as levels, but there wasn't enough time in the demo to give us more than a vague idea of just what this means. There will likely be a good number of options that may alter the gameplay in different ways.
While maybe it's not what everyone wanted from such an important landmark in a beloved franchise, Theatrythm Final Fantasy is a well-made rhythm game with the potential to be very addictive. By taking some of the best the genre has to offer and combining it with a series known for good music, this is something fans of both rhythm games and Final Fantasy should pay attention to.
The game releases next month in both North America and Europe; July 3rd and 6th respectively. Keep an eye out for our full review.