Final Fantasy is a game franchise that, even if you’ve never played it, you know what it is. From humble beginnings as a simple pixel RPG on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987 to a massively multiplayer online game, the series has conquered most mediums in its 30-plus year history.
On top of this storied history is what is widely regarded as some of the best music in video games. Knowing this, Square Enix hopped on the rhythm game train in 2012 with Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a rhythm-based RPG featuring characters and songs from the series. There have been a couple of entries in this series, which leads me to today’s review. In February 2023, a new entry in the rhythm series was released, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line. Naturally, I needed it.
As with previous entries in the Theatrhythm series, Final Bar Line blends the traditional RPG elements of Final Fantasy with timed inputs set to a soundtrack that spans the series. It also features cute chibi-style art of the characters and enemies from the series and a veritable truckload of collectibles and unlocks. All of these things are my kryptonite.
Playing the game consists of playing through sections representing the different games and music from the series. To unlock new game sections, you have to collect keys that can be found throughout the different levels. During the stages/songs, you must hit buttons in time with the cues rushing across the screen.
You can hit any button for red and green cues, including triggers, but green means you have to hold the button down. Yellow arrow cues mean moving one or both analog sticks toward the arrow. Simple and familiar rhythm game mechanics mean Theatrhythm is easy to pick up for rhythm game newbies. The multiple difficulty settings mean that even hardcore rhythm game veterans will get a challenge. Have you tried playing any of the songs on Supreme difficulty? I have; it is impossible. Here’s a screenshot from me attempting a song on Supreme alongside a practice of another song on Supreme. No thank you.
Of course, regardless of your difficulty level, the songs get harder and vary within each cluster of stages. The music of Final Fantasy is incredibly diverse. It ranges from operatic epics such as Answers from Final Fantasy XIV to insane guitar riffs in The Dance of Silver and Crimson from Final Fantasy XV. There are also different mixes and arrangements of some songs to unlock as you advance as well. All this talk of unlocking songs leads me to another major aspect of Theatrhythm, unlocking and collecting about one million things.
Finishing full game collections will unlock the characters of that game. Every character has unique abilities, just like the originals. Magic, fighting, hunting, and healing are the main character classes; each character has specialties within that. Some are good for finding items and treasures throughout levels. Others are hard hitters. Mixing and matching your team depending on the boss’s weaknesses is the best way to succeed. You can power through with one set of highly leveled characters, but you’ll miss out on some stage rewards with specific requirements to collect.
On top of unlocking characters and abilities, there are also CollectaCards to find, which come in five different varieties. There are characters, summons, enemies, albums, and memory cards to collect. There are also videos to unlock for theater mode and 100 feats (achievements) to complete. You can also unlock different airships that drop your party off at the stage’s beginning and Moogles accompanying them.
There are a lot of things to do and collect. This won’t be that important for some, but for others (ME), collectibles are very important and will become an all-consuming task (still me.) You can also create your own ProfiCard to exchange with other players. Many, if not all, characters and monsters can be used as your picture, but amongst these is a stack of rainbow-colored toads, and of course, that is my picture. Why offer anything else?
Of course, this is inconsequential because the game is just fun. There’s no specific narrative. The aim is just to play the songs and defeat enemies while unlocking as much as possible. Final Bar Line has so much replay value, especially if you are a completionist. If this game was based on a weaker series of games with less iconic music, it might be able to get away with the lack of narrative as much, but the massive and varied music catalog keeps things interesting and challenging.
The publisher provided a review code for this game.