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Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

Written by Henry Yu on 2/21/2023 for PS4  
More On: Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

If you know me at all, then you know that music plays a pivotal role in my life, as it not only elevates my mood and relieves anxiety, but also allows me to appreciate a wide variety of rhythmic masterpieces. A big part of what I enjoy about video games is the soundtrack and audio design, and I find myself listening to songs from my favorite titles even when I’m not gaming. So when Square Enix last year announced Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, a brand new rhythm game celebrating 35 years of Final Fantasy music, I couldn’t have been more excited to dive right in. The one thing that most fans can agree on about the Final Fantasy franchise is that its music is immaculate, considering it's one of the most recognizable ongoing soundtracks in the entire industry, and Final Bar Line fully embraces it.

Rhythm games haven’t been that popular in general since the Guitar Hero and Rock Band phases of the early 2000s. In fact, the Theatrhythm series is not a widely popular one, considering Final Bar Line is the first entry to ever receive a docked console release. The first title, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, released only on the Nintendo 3DS and iOS, whereas its sequel Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call was exclusively on the 3DS handheld console. Final Bar Line comes with a whopping 385, compared to Curtain Call’s 281, selected songs from mainline Final Fantasy games, including the recent Final Fantasy VII Remake and Stranger of Paradise. Get ready to be in your feels when To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X and Why from Crisis Core come on. While the number of songs is impressive, a minor complaint is that some of the longer songs do get cut short a bit too early.

This might be a more controversial take, but I don’t agree with the fact that the game comes with paid DLC featuring more tracks via the Digital Deluxe Edition and the Premium Digital Deluxe Edition. The base game costs a somewhat reasonable $49.99 but the Premium version costs a whopping $99.99, which features 27 extra songs and season passes 1-3. Each season pass contains an extra 30 songs so the number of tracks in Final Bar Line hits a grand total of 502 if you buy everything. Why couldn’t all the content have been included in the base game? Songs from non Final Fantasy games such as NieR or The World Ends With You are planned to be included in the aforementioned DLC, which is nice. It’s a staggering amount of content but the pricing is a bit jarring and I can only see the most diehard fans purchasing the most expensive version of the game.

If you played any other Theatrhythm title or just rhythm game in general, then you’ll feel right at home with the core gameplay here. The selected track will start to play and you will need to perform the correct action on the screen with the correct timing. These range from simple button presses and holds to utilizing the directional analog stick to move the cursor in a particular fashion. The patterns of the notes are well synced with the music itself and gameplay feels natural and intuitive. Things obviously get more complex and hectic as you raise the difficulty, with tighter timings and more notes to complete, but even then there’s a sense of comfort and zen to playing.

What makes Final Bar Line so excellent is its ease of accessibility to allow players from all different backgrounds to have a fun time. You can easily toggle the timing of the button triggers in the settings if you find yourself hitting them too early or too late. Every song features a no-consequence practice mode with actual difficulty levels ranging from Basic and Expert to Ultimate and Supreme. Don’t feel pressured to complete songs on harder difficulties because there is no incentive to do so, other than to fuel your innate desire for challenge. If you find things to be difficult still, the game offers consumables that you can use during a song to heal you once your health drops below a certain threshold. You can unlock every single song in the game by only playing on easy mode. This game puts the music and experience first over the difficulty, because that’s what's important.

There’s not really an overarching narrative or story here, but the game steps through each of the Final Fantasy titles in order with its Series Quest mode. Every Final Fantasy iteration is divided into a world and you complete a series of stages featuring various soundtracks from the focused game. Every stage contains a mini-quest of its own to complete, such as achieving a certain score or completing the song under a certain amount of time, with rewards including collectibles and consumables. What’s cool about Final Bar Line is that it integrates role playing elements into a rhythm game, something no other game has done before. You set up a party of four characters that you can then level up to last longer in harder songs and unlock special skills that work well against particular enemies featured in the tracks. The roster is huge, and implementing this mechanic allows the characters to feel like more than just cosmetics that make no difference in gameplay.

Completing missions and progressing through the Series Quest mode permanently unlocks songs to be played in the Music Stage mode. The great thing about this game is that you aren’t forced to do anything in this game to get the most out of it. You don’t need to dive into the intricate RPG elements of leveling up your party or finishing every stage's side quest to reap all the rewards. Casual players can simply finish songs at their own pace without worrying, while more veteran or hardcore fans can fulfill their completionist dreams by achieving high scores on the hardest difficulties. The game even features couch co-op and online play, something that most games lack nowadays! After the main campaign is finished, Final Bar Line features an Endless mode, which serves as “end-game” content that pretty much does what the title entails. The game picks songs for you and ramps up difficulty increasingly until you fail out. With all this being said, I can see the longevity that this game will have for years to come.

I haven’t played every single Final Fantasy game, so there’s plenty of music that I am unfamiliar with from lesser-known titles. And to be honest, I don’t have the time to go through these gigantic JRPGs just to enjoy the soundtracks that I have yet to discover. Final Bar Line solves this exact problem for me effortlessly with its massive catalog of songs from the older Final Fantasy games. Song backgrounds also feature visual details relevant to the track being played, such as the grassy plains accompanying Thunder Plains from Final Fantasy X or the streets of Midgar accompanying the Bombing Mission from Final Fantasy VII. This attention to detail shows the developer’s labor of love and how this game is a true celebration of Final Fantasy.

There isn’t a native PS5 version of the game but I’m not even mad, because the game performs flawlessly with the PS4 version. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is an all around addictive and fun time that I can see myself playing for years down the line. It’s both simple and complex, and caters to virtually anyone who enjoys music.

I absolutely adore Theatrhythm Final Bar Line as it’s a loving celebration of both the Final Fantasy franchise and its music. From the cute little chibi depictions of characters and the impressive catalog of songs to the extensive accessibility features and impressive role playing elements, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is a masterful rhythm experience.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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