It’s amazing how time just stops functioning the same way when you get older. Theatrhythm, Final Fantasy’s musical score-chasing spinoff, still feels kinda new to me. But it’s well over a decade old, and we’re looking at The Last One. Jeez! This series has endured across time and platforms, even hitting arcades with a gorgeous cabinet the likes of which only Square Enix would shell out the cash for. Through all that time, though, the game itself hasn’t changed much. So maybe that’s why the Final Bar Line is here, to go out with a bang.
Theatrhythm has always been weird in structural terms, the first game sort of (barely) having a story mode but every other version feeling more like a jukebox situation. Final Bar Line wants you to play all the songs, but doesn’t put a ton of effort into motivation. You’re just kinda forced to play through each game to unlock the next one. It’s fine, but still feels weird for a big Final Fantasy spin-off to not have some goofy barely coherent story mode. Especially considering how tight this series is with Dissidia.
Related: All Announced Songs for Theatrhythm Final Bar Line
But while I’d love more fanfare pushing me along, there’s still the core Theatrhythm experience. All the wacky puppets, the level grinding and customization unlocks, everything that makes a Final Fantasy music game a Final Fantasy music game is pretty great. The huge cast of unlockable characters is a major draw, even if the “RPG elements” are half-cocked to begin with. Does it really matter which spells I equip my team with when I’m not failing songs anyway? Not in most cases. But you gotta love the opportunity to tinker.
Also, some compromises had to be made in the gameplay department. Theatrhythm debuted on the 3DS and was explicitly designed for touchscreen play. Adapting things like the hold notes to normal controller buttons translated just awkwardly enough for me to notice every time. Some of the multidirectional notes don’t work as well either, especially since your hand might have to reorient quickly depending on the note chart. There was an attempt to alleviate this with multiple buttons sharing purposes, but sometimes that hurts more than it helps.
Of course it’s all in service of the music itself, the main attraction. Sometimes you just wanna hit buttons while songs you love but don’t go out of your way to spin otherwise wash over your brain sludge. The main selection for each “Title” is the stuff you’d expect, but there’s some awesome music on the margins thanks to Square Enix’s ludicrous library of arrangement albums. The FF III airship theme remix off the SQ CHIPS album is an unhinged banger and having it show up in Theatrhythm rules.
A huge selling point for Final Bar Line is its big selection of other Square Enix tunes. That’s certainly a novel way to approach a sendoff. Unfortunately this is also where the DLC comes in. Ya gotta pay extra for the big bonuses, and while that makes practical sense, it’s a bummer one of the most appealing parts of the package are… separate packages. It also means these songs aren’t part of the “campaign”, so to speak, so they’re just dumped into the tracklist. It would’ve been cool to see the songs come with characters and other in-game goodies to help soften the DLC damage. But hey, at the end of the day you can play SaGa and NieR music in Theatrhythm.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the biggest game in the series without a doubt. But it’s still just another game in the series, which lessens the impact a little. Despite all the big colors, cute puppets and obscure tracks there’s still a distinct feeling that something’s missing. At the same time, I’m having a blast playing anyway.
- The most Square Enix has ever crammed into one of these to date
- Tons of neat arrangements and music from outside Final Fantasy
- The best/most interesting music is either DLC or not part of the quest mode
- Wishy washy RPG elements
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PS4.