Theatrhythm Final Bar Line | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Monday, February 27, 2023

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line | Review | Switch

Theatrhythm is back and back in a big way. When the series originally started back in 2012 on the Nintendo 3DS, many gamers (including myself) were happy to be able to have bite sized experiences of Square Enix titles in musical form. This was continued with the release of Theatrhythm Curtain Call in 2014 and (for those in Japan at least) the Japan only Theatrhythm Dragon Quest. Fast forward to 2023, and the Theatrhythm series is back on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. It’s likely been awhile for many, but has Square Enix done enough to make old and new fans alike feel the need to take the plunge? That’s exactly what we’re here to talk about. 

If you’re new to the Theatrhythm series, getting into the game is quite simple. Simply tap and hold buttons and swipe the analog stick(s) in line with the beat. While this is an oversimplified explanation, the game does offer a bit more complexity. There are three kind of music stages to play through - Battle Music Stages (BMS), Field Music Stages (FMS) and Event Music Stages (EMS). BMS has four music slots that players will have to pay attention to throughout the songs. These Triggers (the circles moving across the screen) correlate to attacks and actions that you make against waves of enemies. You’ll have to go through these and hit as many Triggers as possible to complete the stage. 
Field Music Stages have only one slot to worry about. In these stages, your characters will traverse, fields, forests, mountains, caves and towns and battle the occasional enemy party. Inputs are exactly the same as BMS, with the Hold Trigger being the only difference. In BMS (and EMS), you just hold and/or occasionally hold/swipe a direction. In FMS, Hold Triggers often go up and down with the beat. At first glance, it appears that you have to match the slight tilts that are on screen, but fortunately, that is not the case. Holding the joystick all the way up or all the way down is the most effective and responsive way to tackle these. 

Event Music Stages are a bit different than the previous types, as notes come from the top down. The background also nixes your party in lieu of a movie/cutscene from the game in question. Input is by and large the same as BMS, just with a slightly different layout.
Controls overall feel very responsive. Difficulty levels are pretty balanced and fun, too. While I spent most of my time in Basic and Expert, I did try the higher levels (Ultimate an Supreme) for laughs. I don’t have enough rhythm to find enjoyment out of them and that’s fine. The point is that the option is there. Not only this, but on top of the Standard input method, there is an option to play with two players simultaneously and a Simple Mode that uses only taps. Square Enix has crafted a nostalgia trip that is accessible to gamers of all levels. 

I was initially a bit disappointed to learn the Final Bar Line did not offer touch controls for the Switch version. This feature worked extremely well on the 3DS, however, I think Square Enix was right to NOT include them in this version of the game. Of course, being a multi-platform release (PS4 and Switch), it makes sense to focus on one control style that works on both platforms. Not only that, but given that the Switch isn’t a dual screen machine, fingers would likely get in the way of the action on screen. There’s probably a clever way they could have done this, but I’m actually glad that they didn’t. 
Setting your party is paramount in Final Bar Line. Sure, you can just go through the songs without much thought, but you will need to worry about leveling up your characters, assigning abilities and more. Things are made a bit easier with an auto equip feature, but sometime you will need to go in and change things to very specific set-ups (we’ll talk more about that in “Modes.”). You also have some options to assign a costumed Moogle to your party as well as an airship. These are both purely cosmetic.

Three main modes are on offer in Final Bar Line - Series Quests, Music Stages and Multi Battle. The Series Quest is where many will spend a lot of their time. Here, players will be tasked with playing through multiple sets of songs from various Final Fantasy titles in FMS or BMS. This is laid out on a mini-map themed after the game being played. There are tons of items to unlock (characters, cards, items and more) as well as various challenges on each stage. It’s pretty comprehensive and will likely take you quite a bit of time to get through, especially if you are aiming to complete all of the quests. I really enjoyed this mode and the quests. You likely won’t be able to clear these in one go, either. Some of the challenges might require you to go back and play with a different party or with different abilities. 
Music Stages are just like how they sounds. In this mode, you can freely access any of the songs that you have unlocked. This is also the only way that you can access the Event Stages that are unlocked in Series Quests. Additionally, there are times that song suggestions come up at the bottom of the screen, occasionally offering songs that you have NOT unlocked in the Series Quests. This provides players with another way to unlock tracks, which is a nice, albeit kind of hidden, touch. 

Multi Battle is the online hub for Final Bar Line. After setting up your ProfiCard (your online profile sharing your username, play time, most played songs and more), you are good to go. Up to four players can battle it out to their favorite tunes. Of course, it’s not just as simple as hitting all of the correct notes. A number of obstacles, or Bursts, will be sent your way from opponents, mostly things that obscure your view of the notes. If you DON’T want to play with these, that is also an option as is playing online in “Casual Mode” which has no bearing on your online ranking.
The connection was stable (in my time so far) and the action frantic. I played both with randoms and with a friend (shout out to Famicast friend of the show Ballz) and had a great time. Not only is this mode fun, it’s also a great way to get your hands on rare summon stones which provide boosts for your party on top of the summon attack abilities. Players can set whatever summon stone they like to share with others. This still stays in their inventory, but others can get a copy of it, too. This is one incentive to play online,. Even if you’re terrible at the game, there are options here.

Overall, while it might SEEM to be a bit skimpy on modes, what’s on offer in Final Bar Line can keep players occupied for quite a long time. As I mentioned previously, there are quite a few things to collect, characters to unlock and tons of Feats (kind of like an achievement system for the game) on offer. A museum is also available to see records, unlocked videos, your collection of character cards and to use a music player. The game is absolutely packed.

Visuals, Audio & Performance
When it comes to visuals and audio, things in Final Bar Line are awesome. While the cute caricatures of series villains and heroes might not be to everyone’s liking, it does a great job making the whole product uniform. Of course, this can probably go without saying, but the audio is absolutely on point here. The tracks on offer are numerous, with 385 songs in the standard version of the game. If you opt for the Digital Deluxe version of the game, you get 27 exclusive tracks, and the DLC will add 90 more. In total, if you opt for EVERYTHING, that’s 502 songs. Even with just the base included tracks, there’s A LOT to go through.  
In terms of performance, things are buttery smooth, as they should be. However, there are some times when navigating the menus that you can see the engine chug just a bit. I haven’t played the PS4This won’t likely be noticed by many, but it is there from time to time. Again, and thankfully, though, this had no effect on the gameplay at all.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is a fantastic game. While I do think that fans of Final Fantasy and other Square Enix RPGs will get the most out of it, the gameplay mechanics are easy enough and accessible to gamers of all levels. For Final Fantasy or other Square Enix RPG fans, this is a must have. It’s a great way to get into nearly every game from the series in a more bite-sized, musically driven way. You owe it to yourself to pick this one up. 

No comments: