Following Theatrhythm Final Fantasy‘s success, I wondered what it’s sequel, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, could accomplish as a follow-up to a pretty much complete game. Each Final Fantasy game featured in the first title received a fairly whole treatment in terms of their soundtracks as most of their iconic songs and characters were present. When Curtain Call was announced, the first question that came to mind was “Will Curtain Call have enough new content and mechanics to warrant the purchase of an experience I felt was already complete?”. After playing through the sequel, however, I can safely answer with a melodic yes.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call features the same storybook art style found in its predecessor and it’s still as charming as ever. Lush backgrounds and vibrant caricatures of Final Fantasy creatures and characters light up the screen, giving the player a delightful set of visuals to accompany each rousing tune. It really helps to accentuate the lighthearted nature of the game and puts the player into a relaxed, fanciful mood. In terms of sound, the game’s core component, each track is beautifully orchestrated and really pops with each tap of the stylus. There are, unfortunately, some mixing problems found in a number of songs; volume levels seem to fluctuate between pieces to the point where some numbers have to be played with the volume turned all the way up to hear anything. This was a rare occurrence however and only affects a handful of tracks. Other than that small inconvenience, the game’s sound is poignant and pleasing with each score.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
The core gameplay of Curtain Call still retains the same mechanics as its previous installment; songs divided into three separate categories — Battle, Field, and EMS — which all require the player to input certain commands synchronized to the music. It’s a simple, straightforward method that’s common among the rhythm game genre and in Curtain Call it’s executed with brilliance. Each song presents its own challenge, whether it be the fast, upbeat pace of the battle tunes or the slow, methodic EMS stages that require a certain degree of patience and timing. The game, however, does get repetitive after a while as certain modes will have you playing the same song over and over again, but for the most part it’s an enjoyable experience that really captures the beauty within each Final Fantasy track.
Another mechanic that makes its return in Curtain Call is the in-depth RPG element that separates Theatrhythm from other rhythm games. Same as before, you can create a party of four characters and customize which abilities and items they’ll take into each stage. What’s great about Curtain Call‘s improvement on the system is the few extra mechanics they’ve slipped into the game, such as being able to trade in cards to boost stats or just the incredible amount of characters they’ve included. It’s a great little distraction that bolsters the rhythm aspect of the game and allows the player to really invest themselves into the content.
Now for the new stuff, the tweaks and total overhauls that make Curtain Call worth the extra time for those who played the first Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Series Mode, the main progressive mode of the first title, has been completely removed in favor of strengthening free play and crystal grinding. Although the novelty of Series Mode was an interesting experience that journeyed you through each game, the vast amount of new secondary Final Fantasy titles (a big shout out to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles) and extra songs and characters from the main Final Fantasy entries makes the new emphasis on free play a welcome change. It’s refreshing to see the increased focus on each individual title as a result and it really helps to draw out more of what made each title and their soundtracks unique.
Secondly, a few new modes have been added to the existing structure. The Chaos Shrine mode of the first game has been removed and replaced with Quest Mode, which undergoes a more traditional Final Fantasy approach to gathering crystal shards. In Quest Mode, the player moves from stage to stage on a map collecting keys and other items until they face the final boss of the map. Compared to its predecessor, the new Quest Mode reduces the amount of grinding needed and allows the player to sample a broader array of songs with each map, or at least that was the intent. The fallout of Quest Mode is that it repeats the same songs over and over with each new map and really shows the game’s limitations and repetition. Also new to the game is Versus Mode, which pits players against each other via local or online in an all-out rhythmic showdown. It’s incredibly enjoyable as each player attempts to disrupt the other’s rhythm by manipulating the other’s notes and at higher levels of difficulty, becomes a fast paced, chaotic circus of chords and catastrophe.
The sheer amount of new content in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is staggering in the best way possible. The inclusion and revision of many different mechanics, such as Quest Mode and the enhanced RPG elements, allow the game to stand apart from its predecessor as being the definitive Final Fantasy rhythm game experience. It accomplishes what it sets out to be, a complete fan service to Final Fantasy patrons, with excellence and delivers a nostalgic, entertaining journey through multiple soundtracks. I’d recommend this game not just to those whom consider themselves fans of the series, but to those whom enjoy a fantastic rhythm game as well.
Final Score: 8.5 / 10
Written and Edited by Tim Atwood