Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review
In what I would describe an unorthodox amalgamation of Rhythm and role-playing, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line melds the best of both worlds into one of the most unique experiences this year. The Theatrhythm series has had an impressive journey, first birthed on mobile and portable platforms with a primary formula being that of a general melodic rhythm based gameplay loop. The generic delivery in executing basic commands made it a casual favourite among Final Fantasy fans for initial releases before being bought over to Dragon Quest for a rare occasion. However, with a first on console comes many firsts for the franchise including 385+ tracks that span across the rich history of the Final Fantasy franchise.
Nintendo3DS owners would remember its early iterations being heralded for its touch screen interactivity, a facet of accessibility that trended for most titles of its ilk on the handheld but without this feature, it was a questionable release for home console, apart from the obvious Nintendo Switch. However, playing Final Bar Line on PlayStation was indeed a treat given some of its barriers that exclude said features, but a variety of game modes give players the chance to iron out that learning curve and begin bashing baddies to a bolstering blare of a bouncing beat. Encouraging players to pounce on frolicking foes in a true Final Fantasy foray, it strays slightly from marketing itself a vanilla rhythm game, rather an action-packed JRPG with heavy emphasis on its theatrical nature with fundamentals that have popularised the series.
Song of the SOLDIER...
Aside being a Final Fantasy fanboy, I was ecstatic to cipher through a litany of solid soundtracks that have cemented the series’, with landmark moments that are cherished within the industry. From exercising my ambidextrous abilities, controlling each tune and chapter with a simple directional tag on an analogue stick, to pressing down on the circle button for basics, the title gives players the chance to learn very quick, before they jump into its intricacies, but not before tutorialising each aspect of its imperative control scheme. It’s goes without saying that Theatrhythm FBL without a touch screen is an interesting release, as this is the first time a title within the franchise has released on PlayStation, with the very evident feature omitted.
Players of the standard rhythm based gameplay loop will adapt with easy, if carrying over their skillset from such elaborate musical titles like the Persona Dancing line-up, but for newcomers this will indeed be a fascinating excursion outside their comfort zone. The directional based indicators on screen are quite simple to follow, with red, yellow or green displaying a timed reference for each note to be executed in certain fashion. Red being a basic button press, yellow for an analogue stick direction and green will pursue a lengthy note hold for the player to follow, whether it be a straight line, or a crescendo that climaxes with multiple notes in one melody.
Performing chain combos will execute critical hits on enemies during battle, encouraging players to replay each track – as if we needed anymore reason to – with very minimal gauges representing the leader of your party during battle. HP is generally replenished by successful input strings with the aid of party members to back you, along with coinciding button combos that deliver a massive tag team blow, or special attack that is displayed on the bottom right corner of the screen. Levelling each party member is part of the RPG element of the title, and is mostly mandatory to clearing more of the heavy hitting battles later in each respective track listing. Your success range will be rewarded with a letter grade from F, A, S, up to SSS Rank, and will display each characters HP, Strength, Magic, Spirit, Agility, Luck and the additional points earned toward each.
It’s easy to say that Final Bar Line will keep Final Fantasy players hooked, but the casual player may find it cumbersome with no general campaign narrative to keep them engaged. For those that are familiar with the series, will know what to expect but newcomers will be left questioning an opportunity left devoid without a story to fill awkward transitions. The title does give some sense of campaign facets with failure delivering a penalty to players. Three heart containers will keep you on your feet, but imperfect composure will result in depletion for each round. Get to zero, and it’s game over.
On Cloud Nine...
✔️ Fun and addictive. A musical compendium of Final Fantasy’s greatest.
✔️ Rhythm and RPG Mechanics make for quite the unique gameplay loop.
✔️ Easily accessible for newcomers.
❌ Some input lag with online had me rushing back to single player.
While I would describe FBL’s strengths to be in its single player route, the online multiplayer poses great potential in bringing friends together for some mindless joy. But in its fatal four way of tag teams, shine wears out quickly. I had a moderately fun time playing online, but was quick to head back to single player and continue my quest there. Thankfully, there’s no mandate to having to play online unless you’re a trophy hunter, but even then I’m not sure there’s an allure that will attract a large portion of this audience to poignantly grace it.
The differences in playing online were minimal, but more aesthetical than anything. There were a couple rounds where I experienced bad pings and was a definite deterrent from wanting to continue down that rabbit hole. You can’t do much with lag on a input demanding title. Not to mention on-screen indication becoming harder to follow. Music Stages gave me the freedom to jump back into levels that were available from the beginning or later in the game to have a friendly free-play, and grease the wheels a little before getting back into the nitty gritty of its Series Quest mode.
Personalising your party of four to suit your needs, the lexicon of Final Fantasy faithfuls that are available from boot are astounding. Being enamoured with Final Fantasy VII, I had to have my favourites lead my group, but I had to make some sacrifices later for certain attributes that will be of demand as you continue your quest. Each attribute will be listed below the character avatar as you customise your party, along with their respective levels. Character’s are represented through chibi-like cut-out caricatures that fight cutesy looking creatures and bosses. Tracks are segregated to each entry within the Final Fantasy franchise, and up to ten to thirty respective tracks per album are playable and unlockable.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line promulgates the very best overtures that are fanfare-tastic, representing Final Fantasy’s engrossing musical escapades throughout decades in its illustrious history of gaming. Comprising over thirty years of melodic efforts from hall of fame worthy video game composers including the great Nobou Uematsu, right unto Yoko Shimomura, it’s truly a magical experience worth trying if you adore the franchise for its depth and creative efforts aside from its narrative and JRPG roots. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is a grand way to celebrate Final Fantasy’s unique offerings within the industry, with a fun and addictive demonstration that will surely have the devout applauding this entry for years to come.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review
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