Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Preview – On track

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy quickly became one of my favorite Nintendo 3DS games when it launched in 2012, as did the Curtain Call sequel two years later. These weren’t perfect rhythm games, but they were unique and used one of the best compilations of video game scores in music history. The Final Fantasy series is special to me for many reasons, and perhaps the most important of these is its music. It came as no surprise that I ended up loving the Theatrhythm series on 3DS. However, I was surprised when publisher Square Enix and developer indieszero announced Theatrhythm Final Bar Line last September, with a release date just a few months later, no less.

I didn’t expect this series to return but I was always hoping for it since its predecessor only covered the franchise until 2014. There are hundreds of new popular titles in the series between the Final Fantasy XIV expansions, Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy 7 Remake and other games that have been released since the last Theatrhythm. Final Bar Line adds tracks from these titles and more, including other Square Enix games via DLC such as Live A Live (and its recent remake), the Nier series, The World Ends With You, and Chrono Trigger. And after playing through 30 of the game’s songs in a preview of the demo, which will be available to everyone starting February 1st, I can safely say that Final Bar Line is a must-play for me next month.

Not much has changed in the almost 10 years between the last game and Final Bar Line. The sequel keeps the cute chibi art style of the first ones, the same types of stage formats, and a lot of the same songs, which is great; it worked in 2012 (and 2014) and it works here too. One big difference, however, is how you play Final Bar Line. Theatrhythm’s horizontal music roll, which dictated when beats should be played, was odd, especially considering how popular vertical music rolls were thanks to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But since the games used the 3DS’s robust touchscreen and stylus, horizontal scrolling worked well, giving players a nice view of the battles and adventures taking place to the tune of your beats. That horizontal scrolling returns in Final Bar Line, although it was more cumbersome at first, without the same touchscreen mechanics to get used to.

For my first few songs I wasn’t sure if I liked it. You can press the triggers or any of the four Face buttons to “tap” a beat on screen, regardless of the note color or placement on the four lines of the scroll. However, when a punch with an arrow appears, you need to use one of the analog sticks and swipe it in the indicated direction. I quickly got into a rhythm of handling directional strokes with my left hand and pressing standard note keys with my right hand. Then the difficulty increased and I had to quickly hit two notes at once, followed by directional strokes. As a result, I had to reconfigure my playstyle and get used to using my right hand (and a face button) to handle standard hits, my left hand on the left trigger for double standard hits, and my left thumb for directional strokes. And if a note has two directions, I would use my right thumb at the same time to handle the second direction. If that sounds strange, it is. However, once I hit the one-hour mark in my 30-track preview, it felt natural, and I was even able to start tackling songs at the next higher difficulty level.

The presentation of field tracks and battle music stages is similar to the first game – your four chosen characters, with dozens to choose from, encompassing most of the included games, either waltz through a simple chibi-like landscape or fight a chibi enemy from the chosen one Game. It’s easy, and while I initially wanted to get more out of these scenes, I was soon reminded that my focus would be 99 percent of the song’s horizontal scrolling and that I would be watching the battles in my peripherals; That said, the scenes that play out didn’t particularly detract from my enjoyment in any way. I’m looking forward to playing through the special music video tracks in the final game, which feature iconic cinematic sequences from Final Fantasy titles, as I think these will have the visual sparkle I’ve missed from the stock tracks.

When you launch the game, a flashy Final Fantasy 35th Anniversary logo appears on the screen, and with good reason. A rhythm game at first, Final Bar Line is also a celebratory museum to the series’ iconic music, characters, and stories. Earn special rewards as you tackle quests in the new Series Quests mode, which tasks you with completing objectives such as defeating a certain number of enemies or completing a level without taking a certain percentage of damage. This can be an item like a healing potion or a phoenix feather, but also a CollectaCard that will be added to your museum collection. These cards feature concept art, in-game screens, enemies, characters, and more, and there are over a thousand to collect. It’s a nice touch that adds some premium nostalgia to Final Bar Line’s Final Fantasy celebration.

At the museum, you can view your CollectaCard collection, rewatch videos, listen to tracks you’ve unlocked, and see the achievements you’ve completed. There’s a lot of Final Fantasy history to consume here, and completers will likely need dozens of hours of play to unlock it all.

This iteration of Theatrhythm, like the previous ones, is far from the best rhythm game, and among the games out there it certainly plays out as one of the weirdest. But what Final Bar Line has that other rhythm games don’t have, for my money, is access to one of the best music catalogs of any game. Playing through more than a dozen of Masashi Hamauzu’s brilliant Final Fantasy XIII tracks is treat enough; Throw in the other 370 tracks that will be in the final game and I can’t wait for February 16th.

On February 1st, you can play the Theatrhythm Final Bar Line demo, which includes 30 songs and progressions that carry over into the final game. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Preview – On track

Fry Electronics Team

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