Gameological At E3This Could Be Good

Final Fantasy Theatrhythm

Second Verse

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy belies its cynicism with warm tunes.

By Anthony John Agnello • June 8, 2012

The preview events provided by most game studios offer only brief glimpses at very big games, so reporting on a preview requires a lot of guesswork and reading between the lines. For E3, we’re highlighting a few games in which we see some promise. Who knows how any given game will pan out in its final form? The most we can say is This Could Be Good.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Developer: indieszero
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: July 3, 2012

Most people carry a mechanical brick that can play them tens of thousands of songs. Your phone doesn’t have the song you want to hear? Go to YouTube and pump up some Was Not Was. Go to iTunes and download “Closing Time” so you can sing along while you’re going to the bathroom at Chili’s. You’re almost always carrying a portal to a lifetime of song.

If anything, this limitless access makes narrowly focused music devices more precious and moving. Winding a music box and hearing its delicate teeth pluck a melody off of a metal cylinder is still magic. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy may not use a steel comb in recreating Nobuo Uematsu and Masahshi Hamauzu’s songs from the iconic role-playing series, but even in a sample size at E3 2012, it evokes the joy of intentional listening.

Theatrhythm outwardly reeks of modern day Square Enix dementia: It’s got the batshit crazy title and a seemingly cynical recycling of classic Final Fantasy. In practice, though, it’s a charmer. You select a group of characters from past Final Fantasy games and then take them on treks across familiar countrysides and battles while tapping along to songs from each game. As the song plays, colored icons appear onscreen for you tap in time. Miss cues, and your party is hurt. Hit them perfectly, and your team levels up.

The bit I tried had paper doll versions of Final Fantasy VI’s heroine, Terra, marching through that game’s deserts and forests in time with Uematsu’s theme. It’s a rousing, beautiful march whose stoicism is complemented by Theatrhythm’s warm visuals. It makes you follow the song closely, and even as it calls to mind happy memories of the original game, it also illuminates just how great a song writer Uematsu can be.

Nostalgia is a dangerous flavor for art. Like nutmeg, it can be poisonous in heavy doses. Theatrhythm may prove to be noxious as a full meal, but this small taste was wonderful. It is a music box that lets you visit an old friend by listening closely to his songs.

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657 Responses to “Second Verse”

  1. PugsMalone says:

    It sucks knowing that losing my childhood sense of wonder means that I’ll never be able to enjoy anything the ways I enjoyed SNES RPGs when I was a kid. I remember hoping that someday, they’d make a direct sequel to FF6, but seeing The After Years has made me glad that that hasn’t happened.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      XII’s were amazing-to-good!  I’m glad that their other mobile games are less related to the proper franchise.

    • PaganPoet says:

      Personally, my dream is a remake of Final Fantasy VI, in full 3D with Okami-like cel-shaded graphics in the style of Amano’s drawings and a fully orchestrated aoundtrack. Pretty much, the most beautiful game ever made. *sigh*

  2. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    What platform is this for? It actually looks pretty cool, and I don’t even like Final Fantasy.

    • 3DS, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it ported to Vita and iPhone sometime next year.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      I wish original compositions were in it (check Bemani Style or Zenius for downloadable content), but it really is a top-notch ripoff of a mobile game with just enough new gameplay.  (That said, Square-Enix has been cribbed from far more often.)