Square Enix’s Theatrhythm Final Bar Line blends RPG elements with traditional rhythm game gameplay. While the series lived on for some time in Japan through an arcade cabinet exclusive release, the latest title in the series will appear on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Siliconera was given the opportunity to talk to several key members of the development team, including Producer Ichiro Hazama, Series Director Masanobu Suzui, and Director Tsukasa Okayasu.
Kazuma Hashimoto: Did you expect international audiences to be so excited when Theatrhythm Final Bar Line was announced?
Masanobu Suzui: We were definitely very nervous and excited at the same time. It has been quite some time since the release of a title within the Theatrhythm series, with the last one being eleven years ago in 2012. It’s been around eight years since the release of the last Final Fantasy-related title in the series. But it’s been great for us to know that the fans have had such a positive reaction to the announcement of this game, and some of us on the production and development side of the game are very excited as well. Some of us are still nervous and wondering if people will buy the game, if they will enjoy it, so there are definitely those kinds of heightened emotions are at play.
What impacted your decision to include songs from other popular or classic Square Enix titles into Theatrhythm Final Bar Line?
Suzui: So regarding the title, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, the “final bar line” refers to the very last line of a musical score. And this title has been conceived by Tetsuya Nomura, so we went into it thinking that this would be the very last Theatrhythm tile that we were going to create. So this increased the number of Final Fantasy-related songs we wanted to include, and on top of that we thought that we would want to include songs from other Square Enix titles as well, just because this will be the very last one. So for other Square Enix title games this was going to be handled by the DLC.
What went into balancing the multiplayer mode given that players can create their own teams of characters that have unique abilities and roles in Theatrhythm?
Suzui: What the development team was looking into was really diving into the RPG elements of this rhythm action game. So it’s really intended to be a consumer game, not just a rhythm game, but we wanted to play on the RPG elements where players can raise and strengthen their characters as a gameplay element as well.
And as for the multiplayer aspect, there’s an interesting part in going into battle where you can get really strategic with how you approach it using the characters in your party. For example, you can strive for a maximum HP build and making sure that you’re never defeated, or you can focus on offense — attacking enemies, and launching summons. There are many different ways you can play, this includes defeating bosses.
So, keeping in mind the different character abilities, there are many different ways to strategize, which is the central concept of the game, especially for multiplayer.
Are there any songs from other Square Enix titles you would like to see added if another Theatrhythm game were to be released in the future?
Suzui: There are many things that we wanted to include, which include some songs from animes. But due to many differing opinions within the team, along with legal reasons, we started out with a masterlist, and chose and selected from there. There were definitely some strong personal opinions that loved certain songs, but there were a lot of discussions that went into determining the final list, along with input from players as well.
As for one song, there was a staff member that really wanted the songs from Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light included. This didn’t get realized until twelve years later, but now they’re finally included. And it’s been really exciting.
Are there any Final Fantasy characters the team would like to add in any future installments that didn’t make it into Final Bar Line?
Suzui: Yes, definitely. We can say the same for the characters as well, but we did decide that you would need a minimum of four characters from each of the numbered titles, being Final Fantasy I through Final Fantasy XV. For example, from Final Fantasy IV or VI that has a huge number of characters, there are many more that could be included, but due to many passionate discussions with the team, it became a final list of the characters that you see today.
What was the decision to add antagonists from the Final Fantasy series as party members?
Suzui: Hazama has been the producer for Dissidia, so coming from that background he really wanted the villains to be playable. That went into the decision of making the antagonists playable, also they’re strong characters so it could be a lot of fun to raise them and grow them in the game and that was his thinking behind the decision.
Depending on sales, is there a chance Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line will appear on PC or Microsoft platforms?
Ichiro Hazama: There are no current plans for PC release. Obviously, a PC release wouldn’t be ready for its February launch, but it’s something that we’ll take into consideration.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line releases on February 16, 2023 on the PS4 and Nintendo Switch, and DLC will appear in multiple season passes.