Discover the finest notes of the Final Fantasy series across a musical masterpiece in our Theatrhythm Final Bar Line review.
When talking video game music, few series can compare to the grand musical scale of Final Fantasy. Spanning over 35 years, more than 100 games, and literally thousands of songs, its influence on videogame soundtracks cannot be overstated. From its humble chiptune beginnings through to epic symphonic masterpieces performed across the world, Final Fantasy has constantly set the bar for the sounds of our favourite role-playing games.
And in 2012, a title to honour the music of Final Fantasy was released on the Nintendo 3DS: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Blending simple touch-screen controls with a suite of memorable melodies, it quickly became a favourite among rhythm game connoisseurs. An expanded sequel was released in 2014 with Curtain Call, and even a Japan exclusive Theatrhythm Dragon Quest. After almost 10 years, Theatrhythm triumphantly makes its home console debut in its most sweeping score yet: Theatrhythm Final Bar Line.
Combining the simple yet addictive gameplay of its 3DS predecessors with an absurd library of over 400 individual songs, Final Bar Line is truly a love letter to the series’ surreal soundtracks. So don a pair of headphones and lose yourself in distant worlds as we lift the curtain on our Theatrhythm Final Bar Line review.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review – Story
Unlike most Final Fantasy games, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line features absolutely no story at all. No shattered mystical crystals, no malevolent god hell-bent on destruction, and certainly no Blitzball or Chocobo races. What it does instead feature is snippets of story from across almost all of your favourite games in the series. You’ll be reunited with iconic characters – friends and foes – who join you on your musical journey.
They’re finished with Shinra, now they’re just here to enjoy the music.
The main portion of the game is broken down into the 15 main titles and various additional spin-offs, all of which unlock new characters, songs, and scenes from their respective games. There’s no dialogue or narrative, but instead you’ll be taken through each of the games through their songs, beginning with opening themes and concluding with their final battle tracks.
The Event Music Sequences are the perfect way to travel back through the series.
As an additional treat for completing each story section, you’ll eventually unlock “Event Music Sequences” (EMS), where songs play out on top of iconic cutscenes or gameplay. Travelling back to nostalgic memories from across the series presented through music offers the perfect way to be reminded of the brilliant stories behind Final Fantasy. Though admittedly, story is only the smallest portion of Theatrhythm, as this is a rhythm game, and the focus is on one thing alone: music.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review – Gameplay
At its core, the gameplay of Final Bar Line is incredibly simple. As with most rhythm games, the majority of the gameplay involves tapping buttons in time with the music. In Theatrhythm, this is broken down into three sorts of “triggers”. These include standard triggers (button presses), slide triggers (flicking the analogue stick in a particular direction), and hold triggers (holding down a button for a length of time). Each trigger is then layered on top of each out rhythmically and with increasing complexity based on difficulty.
Playing through the story mode allows you to progress through each game, playing through songs from each individual title. Most main entries consist of 15 – 20 songs, covering the majority of the big hits from each game. Every track can be played on up to 4 difficulties based on your own personal preference, and also features a “Quest” where certain conditions must be met (e.g., finishing with 80% health, taking down the final boss). Items like potions, phoenix down, and XP-boosting consumables can also be used to assist you along the way.
Numerous tracks from remakes and remasters also make an appearance.
Unlike a regular rhythm game, Theatrhythm also incorporates elements of its role-playing origins. Throughout each track, you’ll lead a party of 4 heroes venturing forth, facing waves of enemies along to the music. You’ll be able to mix and match from over 200 characters, each with varying stats and skills tailored towards offence, defence, or support. Like in Final Fantasy, you’ll need to plan your party accordingly. Overload your team with offensive types and you’ll fail quickly upon missing triggers. But too many support types and you’ll be unable to take down enemies.
In addition to its story mode, Final Bar Line also offers an entirely new multiplayer mode that promotes competitive play. Connecting to a match takes only seconds and will randomly match you with other players who have chosen the same difficulty. Each player chooses a song and then competes head-to-head for the highest score. This game mode also adds “Bursts” which impact your gameplay – Chocobos will block the screen, difficult enemies will judge your triggers more harshly, or false notes will begin to fill up the board. With four players at once, it quickly becomes frantic and challenging!
Online play offers additional challenge with “burst” modifiers that change up the gameplay.
With almost 400 songs in the base game, there’s a wealth of musical gameplay on offer in Final Bar Line. And even if you’re not particularly inclined towards rhythm games, you’ll be able to ease yourself into it through the game’s lower difficulties and simpler tracks. Conversely, if you enjoy a challenge, Final Bar Line can be punishingly difficult, especially in some of its later stages that are unlocked once progressing through the story.
But enough about the gameplay! How does the music hold up?
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review – Audio
This might be a big call to make, but Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is without a doubt the most impressive tribute to videogame music in the entire history of videogames. Where the vast majority of rhythm games offer decent setlists to keep players satisfied, Final Bar Line has crafted the most comprehensive collection of Final Fantasy music to date. Whether you’re a retro fanatic or only begun playing recently, there are tracks for absolutely every type of Final Fantasy fan.
And it doesn’t just stop at music directly taken from the main games, as there are plenty of additional songs for game music fanatics like myself. You’ll be treated to tracks from live performances, big and bold brass band arrangements, epic symphonic compositions of older songs, and intense fast-paced battle tracks unlike ever heard before. Don’t believe me? Just take a listen for yourself.
Even outside of the gameplay, you’ll have the chance to further indulge yourself in the sounds of Final Fantasy through the game’s in-built music player. At any point you can listen back to any of the previously unlocked tracks, build playlists, and create your own favourite albums, turning the Switch essentially into a portable music library. It’s an excellent option to be able to enjoy all of these songs on the go, especially if you don’t have the luxury of owning or streaming them.
You’d have to be Dancing Mad not to take advantage of the music player.
While Theatrhythm certainly does its best to offer the most comprehensive music library possible, this isn’t without some slight shortcomings. Certain titles and series are over-represented, with numerous tracks repeated multiple times (albeit in various different arrangements). For example, the iconic FFV boss track “Battle At the Big Bridge” appears in no less than SEVEN individual songs, whereas not a single song from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance makes the cut.
Want to hear some of your favourite tracks? You may need to fork over more Gil…
And disappointingly, some of your favourites may even be completely inaccessible without dishing out some extra dosh. The base version of the game contains a whopping 385 tracks, but purchasing the “Digital Deluxe” version gives access to an extra 27, some of which definitely should have been part of the base game. Missing out on a classic like “To Zanarkand” is inexcusable, whereas most players will be happy to purchase DLC to experience tracks from other games like LIVE A LIVE, Chrono Trigger, and even NieR.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review – Visuals
Combining so many worlds, characters, and enemies from vastly different games would result in clashes of style. Instead, Theatrhythm opts for a simple yet adorable chibi art-style perfectly suited to handheld gameplay. This looked perfect on the small screen of the 3DS and thankfully transitions beautifully to handheld play on the Nintendo Switch.
Sephiroth has never looked so… cute?
The simplistic aesthetic also means the game runs flawlessly without any performance issues, as lag and latency would be a concern for any rhythm game. Whether playing in docked mode or enjoying the game on the go, Final Bar Line looks and plays brilliantly. While it may not be the most graphically detailed game, the vibrant and minimalist character art seems like the ideal choice to allow players to focus on the gameplay.
Even the menus look excellent, drawing upon the designs of each game.
What else is in Final Bar Line?
Beyond its plethora of percussive perfection, Final Bar Line also includes a mountain of added content to keep you playing tracks again and again. Thousands of collectable “Collectacards” can be unlocked by playing through songs at varying difficulties. These showcase memorable scenes from the games, powerful foes, and even detailed concept art not unlike a digital art book.
Completing the game also unlocks an endless mode that randomly generates worlds for you to complete, with quests that become increasingly challenging as you progress further. And despite being on Nintendo Switch, the game does feature a long list of achievements for completionists to pursue.
You’ll be ranked on a star system based on your performance in songs, how many titles you’ve played or triggers you’ve hit, and your online match ranking. And if you’re seriously dedicated, each song can be completed with a “crown” when all notes are hit perfectly on time, but good luck with that.
Don’t overlook the online mode! It’s an excellent way to test your rhythm skills.
Lastly, Square Enix have plans for numerous DLC packs so that you keep Theatrhythm Final Bar Line on loop. Some of the upcoming DLC packs include:
- LIVE A LIVE
- The World Ends With You
- Chrono Trigger
- Chrono Cross
- Secret of Mana
- Octopath Traveler
And there’s even more unannounced on the way! Although DLC often plagues many rhythm games, the huge offering in the base game seems to justify many of these additional packs being available through added purchases. Though if you’re playing Final Bar Line purely for its Final Fantasy songs, then there may be no need to consider investing in the DLC or season passes.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line truly is the Ultima musical love letter to Final Fantasy. With a gargantuan offering of tracks from across 35 years of musical history, and a tonne of added gameplay to keep you hooked, this is easily one of the most impressive rhythm games ever made. Where the series set a solid foundation on the 3DS with the original and Curtain Call, Final Bar Line lifts the bar in every single way possible.
So, why should you play Theatrhythm Final Bar Line?
- The perfect tribute to the incredible music of Final Fantasy
- You love Final Fantasy and want to take a trip back through the series
- Massive tracklist of 385 songs in the base game
- Absolutely huge amount of unlockable content
- Additional game modes, including multiplayer, add lasting value
But why shouldn’t you play Theatrhythm Final Bar Line?
- You don’t have a single musical bone in your body
- Absolutely no interest or prior experience with Final Fantasy
A review code was kindly provided by Bandai Namco Australia for the purpose of our Theatrhythm Final Bar Line review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out our Crisis Core Reunion review or explore the history of Final Fantasy music.