Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line Impressions – Just Warming Up the Band

Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line Impressions – Just Warming Up the Band

The demo for Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Final Bar Line may be a small chunk of the full game, but after watching the intro cutscene, my overwhelming thought was, “They did not have to go this hard.”

Final Bar Line is, much like Dissidia NT before it, a port of an arcade game in a series that only existed on handheld consoles. But, where NT was a massive departure from the original series, Theatrhythm’s arcade version – titled All-Star Carnival – strived to faithfully translate the touch-heavy gameplay of the 3DS entries to a button-based control scheme.

While the travel stages were the hardest to adjust for since they feature a vertical sliding mechanic, the transition to joysticks does manage to feel like a natural next step if touch screens were no longer going to be a guarantee.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line 1

So, thankfully, the move from an arcade pad to typical console controllers feels equally natural. The frantic tap-and-swipe gameplay maps nicely onto a controller, where the sticks are used for slides, and any button can be used for taps. (I feel the optimal way to play is to use your shoulder buttons for taps and holds so that your thumbs are always free for the analog sticks!)

Booting up the demo, the intro cutscene all by itself had me excited – a montage of songs and characters from across the series helps to sell Final Bar Line as a significant anniversary title for the franchise. After that, the player is presented with a simple tutorial on the basics of the rhythm stages and then taken to the stage selection.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line 2

Each song must first be played in the “story mode” before becoming playable in free mode. Six Final Fantasy titles were available for play in the demo, and I, of course, started with Final Fantasy XIV. Inside the story, the player is presented with several sets of songs and can choose to complete either one of each or the whole set before moving on to the next, though you can always come back later.

Theatrhythm has traditionally included three difficulty settings for each track. However, a fourth difficulty called Supreme has been added to select songs in Final Bar Line to further test players unsatisfied by the Master mode present in previous games.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line 5

There are three different categories of a song in each Theatrhythm game. Battle music gives the players four lanes of button inputs, Field music is a single lane that slides up and down with player input, and Event music plays out in a pattern over a cutscene in a fashion similar to Elite Beat Agents.

While I was most concerned with how well I would adjust to playing the game on a significantly larger screen – a learning curve that it took me a few weeks to get used to when the Project DIVA series moved from the PSP to the PS3 – this ended up being a complete non-issue. I found it easier to keep up with the high-velocity note tracks with more screen real estate.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line 4

Final Bar Line’s demo is, obviously, just a taste of what we’ll see in the final product. It only has a little under ten percent of what will be in the game, but that taste has given me even more of a craving. It’s clear that this title is much more than just a port of an arcade game, and I’m excited as hell to get my hands on the full release in a few weeks.

Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line is coming to Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 on February 16, 2023.

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