Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review – Musical Masterpiece

    Title: Theatrhythm Final Bar Line
    Developer: indieszero
    Release Date: February 16, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Genre: Rhythm

Rhythm games can provide a serene sense of comfort that can grow dangerously addictive. One of my favorite outings in the genre is  Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, so a return to the series via the recently announced Theatrhythm Final Bar Line excited me to no end. This is the first time the series sees a console release, after being a handheld exclusive, and surprisingly, it ended up becoming my favorite rhythmic gaming experience in recent years.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line doesn’t really have a story. Instead, players get right into the thick of it through Series Quests. Here, every mainline Final Fantasy game and correlative material, such as compiled tracks from sequels, are divided into separate worlds. Each world contains several stages, which comprise songs representative of the focused game(s).

Additionally, each song in the Series Quests contains a Quest of its own to complete, granting a variety of rewards; either consumable items or collectible cards. The Quests themselves vary in criteria, such as achieving a certain score or defeating a boss enemy in a specified amount of time.

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Still, none of these song-specific Quests need to be completed to progress. Simply clearing them will unlock them for play in the free-select Music Stages menu. So, the Quests are optional, meant for completionists and the like. In fact, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line does a stellar job of appealing to various groups of players. Beginners can simply take their time going through and unlocking songs at their own pace, while the more hardcore players can delve into the intricacies of achieving high scores and unlocking the purely ornate collectibles.

This ease of accessibility and choice extends to another collective mechanic. Despite primarily being a rhythm game, Final Bar Line contains actual RPG mechanics that make themselves known in the customization menus and stages. Before starting a song, players can set up a party of four, made up of countless characters from various titles in the Final Fantasy series. These party members are unlocked from initiating and clearing Series Quest worlds, and they all have distinct strengths and weaknesses.

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Moreover, each character learns skills as they level up, with up to three equipable at a time. When considering everyone’s stats, stat-enhancing items, and elemental affinities, there’s a surprising degree of depth here that impacts the achievability of Quests. Further, when counting summons, with duplicates having unique abilities, alongside cosmetic Moogles, and airships, there is no shortage of ways to keep every element of the title fresh and special.

However, in all honesty, if you’re just here to unlock the songs and play at your leisure, you do not have to engage with these RPG mechanics. As long as you perform well enough in the rhythm stages, you’ll be completely fine. Although if you’re struggling at any point, you can equip consumables before starting a stage that will aid you under certain conditions, such as potions that heal you once your health falls below the stated threshold. While some may find these gimmicks questionable, I find it genius since those solely looking for a rhythm experience might not have much care for the RPG implementations. In essence, both crowds are catered to nicely.

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As for the song selection, this is undeniably one of the best rhythm game packages on the market. The base game alone boasts almost 400 tracks, with many Final Fantasy entries receiving justified limelight. Regardless of one’s taste in music, the sheer quantity is nothing to scoff at. Yet, if I had to nitpick, some games have more tracks than others. For example, Final Fantasy XIV has well over 30 songs on its own, which does overstay its welcome, and I’m not as much of a fan of that title’s songs as others are. Players are bound to have their own biases for games and songs they like and dislike, but those affinities don’t take away from the impressive lineup this game houses.

Regarding the rhythm gameplay itself, notes arrive in multiple formats; single-press, hold, and directional inputs. Controls and execution are rather self-explanatory, though there are added options for accessibility. For instance, there are several difficulty modes, Basic, Expert, Ultimate, and Supreme, all comprising inherently different levels of challenge that will provide unique experiences for everyone. Plus, aside from the Standard control style, players can utilize Simple mode, only requiring the use of a single button or Pair Style, enabling cooperative play. There is an online mode, too. Unfortunately, due to this review occurring pre-release, I did not have the opportunity to try out multiplayer matches. The replayability present within this package is astonishing, and it’s amplified by the constant sense of reward.

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After clearing a song, a resource called Rhythmia is granted, serving as a culminated numeric representation of one’s gameplay efforts and a gateway to earning even more items. Select breakthroughs of held Rhythmia grant awards and playing the day’s Top Hits in the Music Stages menu gives far more Rhythmia than usual, managing to instill daily replayability. If you fall in love with this game as I have, you’re bound to keep on playing for who knows how long. I should also mention that once you clear all of the songs in the Series Quests and see the credits roll, you’ll unlock an Endless Mode that plays exactly as it sounds like, so there’s yet another option to keep on coming back.

Before concluding, one worry I had with this game before its full release regards the hold inputs for notes. On 3DS, these utilized the touch screen, so I was uncertain about how these would feel with a console control stick. Thankfully, I got used to them after a few songs, and their windows are pretty generous, so you don’t have to be overly precise. I just wanted to inform potential players that they don’t have to be concerned about these note types.

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Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is a terrific rhythm experience that, even after over 30 hours in, I can’t get enough of. Its almost overwhelming number of playable songs, waves of unlockables, addictive progression, and endless methods of replayability coalesce to provide a game that all Final Fantasy fans, new or not, will fall in love with. Heck, even if you’ve never played Final Fantasy, Final Bar Line is worth picking up. It’s that good.

I genuinely can’t sing this title’s praises enough, and I’m thrilled that it is receiving extensive DLC support with non-Final Fantasy songs. At its core, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line feels like a lovingly crafted 35th anniversary of the franchise that will be cherished for years and years to come.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.