Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review
Released in Japan in 1987, the first installment of the Final Fantasy series reached the West in 1990 with a little help from Nintendo, creating a franchise that is still going strong worldwide. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is an aural celebration of this achievement, filled with hundreds of compositions from various games, as well as an extensive collection of artwork and even videos. While Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is as ideal a birthday blast as most fans could ask for, its delivery feels a little uneven. RELATED: Insider Mimics Final Fantasy Tactics Remaster Players who purchase the standard edition of Theatrhythm Final Bar Line will receive an impressive 385 tracks taken from games in this series, with an additional 27 tracks available for those who rush to the Digital Deluxe edition. This more expensive package also includes the first of three season pass installments with 30 additional tracks from other popular franchises such as SaGa and Nier. The Premium Digital Deluxe Edition includes all of the above, plus the second and third installments of the season pass to add 60 shards. When everything is ready, the final shard total for the biggest spenders will be 502. An impressive figure, but not as exciting in practice as it is on paper.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line takes place in multiple modes: Series Missions, Music Stages and Multi-Battle. Its main attraction is the single-player Serial Quests mode, which pokes players through a variety of songs divided according to the games in which they appear. Each of them are examples of numbered Final Fantasy installments, as well as Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, Final Fantasy Record Keeper, Final Fantasy Tactics, and even the short-lived Mobius Final Fantasy (Square Enix shut down Mobius Final Fantasy in 2020). Some of these options also collect multiple titles from a sub-series. For example, the “Final Fantasy VII Series” option, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7, Last Order: Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children.
The game’s primary flaw is that despite there being 385 or more tracks taken from various Final Fantasy games, many of them are repetitive. Some are repeated often enough to feel tedious, with only minor differences distinguishing one version from another. Other tracks, while technically different compositions, sound so similar to the casual ear that they start to sound more like noise than great music. For example, there are numerous fast-paced battle themes featuring the same choice of horns and notes. At least people who like “One-Winged Angel” are well served. This should also be true for Final Fantasy 7 fans in general, thanks to the inclusion of tracks from the main game, its spin-off and the latest remake. Unfortunately, a lot of great Final Fantasy has skipped town. For example, Final Fantasy 6 is loaded with enough quality compositions to fill multi-disc soundtrack releases, but Theatrhythm Final Bar Line only offers 13 songs taken from that original release, with several remix versions also available. A few of the character-driven themes rank among the best compositions the game has to offer, but many other solid selections are simply absent. Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, a game with a surprisingly solid soundtrack at the time of its release on the Super Nintendo, is particularly poorly treated. It could be argued that it was lucky to even get an invite to the party, but five tracks pales in comparison.
When players start their nostalgic journey, they will not have access to all the different game campaigns. Most of them are strictly forbidden and a few are offered as a starter option. Players must use a key to unlock the first title they want to experience, out of the handful that are allowed. Oddly enough, the little-loved Final Fantasy 2 is allowed, but Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy 6 are not. To access each additional title, players need to progress through several nodes on a map they’ve unlocked until they reach a treasure chest containing another key. They can then continue playing on the current map or retreat and choose the next title. This setup, while initially limiting, works well in the end and also helps the games represented maintain a distinct identity.
Alongside most maps, players unlock some (but not all) of the characters featured in the original releases. However, many of the fan favorites show up even in these cases, and deleting all the songs sometimes adds a few more. The list of included characters grows to become quite substantial. It even includes Kefka, one of the craziest Final Fantasy villains. Players are also rewarded for spending time with each character; they gain new abilities that allow them to attack with various basic spells, cast healing spells or cause status ailments. While the character skills may not seem overtly useful, their benefits eventually become clear. Various map nodes have “quests” that players must clear.
It’s not always enough to put together all the notes that go into a song, or even to play a song perfectly. A quest may insist that the player eliminate a particular enemy who may only have a weakness to a particular item. Alternatively, the player may need to triumph with a particular character in their party. Finally, of the dozens of members available, only four can be active at the same time. Leveling everyone up can mean spending hours of gameplay, even beyond the time investment required to listen to each song.
Some of the rewards players receive for completing missions and finishing all the songs in a given game are simple, but others are more exciting. These consist of cards with illustrations that feature prominently in the instruction manuals and cover art that accompany the release of the games. There are also videos to enjoy, featuring compilations of scenes taken from key moments in a game’s story. Another title’s video might focus on a specific scene, such as the famous waltz sequence, which is one of the best things about Final Fantasy 8.
The Final Fantasy series has delivered some truly memorable moments over the years, and many of them are represented here in some form. In this respect, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line almost feels like an interactive commercial. It’s likely that many players will want to revisit some of their favorites from the timeline or maybe even try them for the first time. While Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is primarily a single-player experience, with two of its three modes dedicated to solo play (Music Stages mode allows players to enjoy any song they unlock), the game’s third mode is Multi Battle. It allows players to compete in groups of four with friends or strangers.
This setup is a nice way to extend an already lengthy experience. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line scratches a certain itch, which means that the game is unlikely to be of great interest to people who aren’t already familiar with the Final Fantasy series. Still, the franchise has produced some great music over the years, and fans who already love it will welcome a new excuse to listen to some of their favorite compositions once again. The combination of music and visual assets can also help newcomers to the franchise see what they’ve been missing. A little more variety in the compositions included would have been nice, but otherwise, the package contains the right bells, whistles and nostalgia to keep players engaged and happy for a very long time.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is available now for PS4 and Switch. Today Technology was provided a Key code for this review. MORE: Theatrhythm Final Bar Line: Song of the Ancients Shows NieR Can Make a Spinoff Rhythm Game