Thoughts on Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

Fun fact: the first blog post I wrote on this blog back in 2019 was on a post on my favorite songs from each of the first nine Final Fantasy games. I am a huge fan of the Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy soundtracks.

Anyway, I was playing some karaoke in Yakuza Kiwami and had a strong urge to play a dedicated rhythm game – just something I could pick up every now and then. I ended up just purchasing Theathythm on a whim since it was released relatively recently and I’m a complete sucker for nostalgia bait. The base game has 385 tracks in it from across the entire series. It includes all the mainline games of course, but also has a bunch of spinoffs like the Final Fantasy Tactics, Crystal Chronicles, Dissidia, the new Stranger of Paradise game, and even the Chocobo Dungeon games.

I went and unlocked all my favorite OSTs first and then went to unlock the rest of the mainline games. Now I’m cleaning up on the rest of the spinoffs.

The gameplay itself is really simple, which is partially why I enjoy the it. It’s a nice way to turn my brain off and also a great game to play for short spurts of time. Between the simple gameplay and the hype music, I’m finding it to be a great cardio exercise room game.

In the “Battle Music Stages”, there are three types of actions: a tap, a hold, and a directional joystick flick. The taps and holds can be done with any button on the Switch – any of the face buttons or any of the L/R/ZL/ZR triggers, though I find it much more comfortable using the triggers. This makes it really simple because you can just think about the rhythm and the song and not worry about which button to press (I can never remember which button is X and which one is Y). Sometimes you have to hit two at once, but never more than that.

I had a really hard time getting a screencap of the directional circle hit because I have the same preferred finger (left thumb) for both the screencap button and the joystick, but basically you just flick either joystick in that direction. Sometimes you’ll have two arrows on one circle which means you have to use both joysticks and hit both directions. This requires a teeny bit more coordination, but since it uses arrows, it’s still very straight forward and intuitive.

For both arrows and normal button actions, sometimes they will be highlighted with a rainbow ring around them and if you time the hit right, it will trigger a “critical”.

The “Field Music Stages” add one more mechanic which is the sliding hold. Basically the arrow hits are removed and you have these long lines where you hold the button and use the joystick to slide up and down to match the shape. The “Field Music Stages” are usually reserved for slower songs, such as town/world map/dungeon themes (hence the “field” part). I personally much prefer the gameplay on the battle songs because I’m not a huge fan of the sliding hold and I also prefer faster songs in this game.

There is an actual “battle” RPG aspect with character levels, team building, skills, summons, etc., to this game to make it a little more “Final Fantasy-esque”. This aspect is only somewhat consequential on the rhythm game side. You take damage if you miss triggers and this damage can be slightly mitigated with skills. From that perspective, a defensive character like a healer will help you not game over as quickly if you’re struggling with a song. The score you actually get for completing the song doesn’t seem to be affected by any of this though.

The team RPG aspect is primarily used in the campaigns that you play to unlock new songs and gallery achievements. Each song has an extra challenge attached to it. It can either be something like in the picture below in which you have to clear a stage with a certain amount of health. It can also be something like defeating a boss or dealing a certain amount of damage before the song ends (which means you need to load up on offense), hitting enough of the critical triggers, using a specific character, etc.

Basically you have a team of four characters and a summon. Each character can have up to four skills. Each skill goes off when a certain condition is met.

To be honest, I didn’t put very much thought into this part of the game because I just wanted to play the songs, but it did give me a good excuse to throw my three all time favorite Final Fantasy characters (Terra, Vivi, and Balthier) into one party + an obligatory healer just in case.

I’m finding Expert difficulty (the second easiest, seems equivalent to “normal” mode) to be the sweet spot for me in terms of challenge. I’ve tried several songs on Ultimate and usually end up failing. Maybe one day I’ll get good enough for that but for now, I’m having a good enough time on Expert.

Anyway, that’s it on my thoughts on Theatrhythm for now. It is time for me to retreat back into my hermit hole for Tears of the Kingdom.

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