The latest prospective entry Theatrhythm series, Final Bar Line looks to create a comprehensive experience for rhythm game players. Pulling from Square Enix’s extensive catalog of music, this title includes iconic tracks from the Final Fantasy series. While the demo provided a taste of what players can enjoy, the full release is almost perfect in every regard.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is an incredible example of just how varied the soundtracks in the Final Fantasy series actually are. Naturally, there are a few names that come to mind when thinking of stand-out composers for such a long lasting franchise. However, in Nobuo Uematsu’s case, you can feel the sheer breadth of his work playing through the mainline series he worked on and collaborated with other composers on. One of the greatest examples of this is going from the Final Fantasy X to Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack, which carries the same kind of melodies and composition style of Masashi Hamauzu, who assisted in creating the iconic score of the former.
Playing through spin-off titles only goes to show the kind of range that exists throughout the franchise. The music in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles feels wholly unique, despite it following the same kind of “high fantasy” elements as Final Fantasy IX, for example. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII has more of a “hard rock” spin of more notable tracks from Final Fantasy VII. This created a greater appreciation for the soundtracks and prevented me from getting bored as I meticulously unlocked various songs from each installment of the Final Fantasy series.
The process of unlocking songs is fairly simple. You only need to play up to four songs from whatever title you pick to obtain a key. This key can be used to unlock the tracklist from a series of your choosing. However, there are some stipulations when getting access to songs from specific games. For example, to gain access to songs from Final Fantasy XII, I had to finish one tracklist from one game. This wasn’t very hard, since you don’t need to one hundred percent complete anything to beat that specific tracklist. Even playing songs on Basic, which is the easiest difficulty, will still count towards rewards.
Concerning the difficulty, some songs will be harder than others. Though this could largely be said for entire OSTs altogether. Songs from Final Fantasy XV were comparatively much easier than songs from Final Fantasy X-2, for example. This was because of how fast or complex certain tracks could be. I’m not saying that Final Fantasy XV songs aren’t as musically complex as arrangements from X-2, but there is a veritable difference between the two, and it really shows as you go from Basic to Expert, and all the way up to Supreme when it allows.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line has a few different kinds of stages as well. These include your standard Field Music Stages, which has your characters, more or less traversing iconic Final Fantasy dungeons and environments, Event Music Stages, and Battle Music Stages. These can be accessed either through the game’s Series Quests or Music Stages options. Series quests are how you unlock more songs, with Music Stages allowing you to pick and choose songs without needing to dedicate yourself to quests. Music Stages are home to the unique Event Music Stages that do feature cinematics playing in the background as you play through songs. I didn’t have the opportunity to test out the multiplayer, so I can’t comment on that.
Along the way you will unlock a fairly large cast of characters, ranging from both heroes and villains from the Final Fantasy series. Each character has their own type, with some more straightforward than others. Characters like Gabranth and Auron are “Defense” style characters, which can help bolster your overall HP, but each do very different things. Gabranth is more concerned with keeping the party well defended, whereas Auron can decrease the attack of your enemies so they do less damage overall. Zack is a “Physical” character, but is still different than Squall based on the abilities they get. Additionally, each character has a unique skill, which can help out in a pinch. Ignis’ Regroup definitely saved my party on Ultimate difficulty songs, since it would lift me from a near-death state back to full health. Summons are also present and have their own abilities, and will drop with random passives. Certain characters can increase the drop in these Summonstones, and it’s worth farming some out if you feel like you need the extra help clearing bosses or killing enemies.
Overall, the game is pretty varied with a lot of ways to tackle certain songs and build up your party. But what impressed me most about Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the sheer amount of accessibility options. This includes being able to modify your trigger speed, various sound effects, background masking levels, background music timing mode for those playing on their TVs, which extends to handheld mode as well for Nintendo Switch users. The game played perfectly fine both docked and undocked, though I did spend a majority of my time playing the game in handheld mode. The ability to adjust timing mode came in super useful when using my capture card, since there was a bit of a delay initially with the feed from my Nintendo Switch dock to my PC.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is an exemplary rhythm title. It boasts some of the best music from the Final Fantasy series, along with tracks from other notable Square Enix games — more of which will be added through the season pass. Outside of needing to grind quite a bit to realize the full potential of its massive roster of characters, it balances everything fairly well and is a great game to pick up and put down. And while it may lack sorely missed touch controls, Final Bar Line is a worthy successor and end to what is a beloved rhythm game franchise.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line will release on February 16, 2023 for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch.