Theatrhythm Final Bar Line looks like a perfectly tuned Final Fantasy celebration

Image: Square Enix

The curtain is open, the stage is ready. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line marks the return of the Final Fantasy rhythm series to the Nintendo console after a 10-year hiatus. We had a chance to check out the upcoming demo of the game, which will be available on February 1st, and if the early events continue, this sequel promises to be as much of a blast as the 3DS records.

In the demo, we were able to try out two modes – Series Quests, which is open from the very beginning, and Music Stages, which you unlock after completing your first song in Series Quests. The music scenes are pretty much the same as in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call: once you unlock the song, you can play it at any time on any difficulty. In the demo, you can unlock 30 songs, 30 characters, and level up your cute character collection to level 30 – and you can carry over your progress to the full game.

So we immediately jumped into the Quest Series, a brand new mode for the Theatrhythm series. Expanding on the series mode from the first game and taking note from Curtain Call’s Quest Medley, Series Quests lets you play to the music of a specific game (or category). But first you need to get the key to unlock the new Series Quest. Using the key in the game unlocks this quest and also gives you some characters to play from that particular entry and you get more keys by playing these quests.

In the demo, we were only able to unlock songs and characters from the six main games – Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIVand Final Fantasy XV. All unlockable songs return from previous Theatrhythm games, including an arcade exclusive All Star Carnival. All of the party building mechanics in Curtain Call return with the ability to create five separate parties of four and very fast character leveling – you’ll get a party of four to level 30 in less than a few hours if you stick with them.

In Series Quests, you need to “play” your chosen Final Fantasy game in musical form. So if you choose Final Fantasy II first, for example, your first port of call is the game’s combat theme – a nod to how NES recording starts. Or, in Final Fantasy XIV, you can choose from three opening songs, each representing one of the three main regions from which you can start your MMORPG adventure. The demo only lets you play the first few songs in each quest in the series – somewhere between three and six of them – but it was the perfect starter for a mode where we see ourselves having a lot of fun.

However, what’s most interesting about the Final Bar Line is the controls. Final Bar Line, unlike the two 3DS games, doesn’t have touch controls at all – at least not in the demo. Instead, notes can be activated using any button on the Switch, including the side buttons and the left and right sticks. All the same notes – for example, simple red presses and green notes when you need to hold the button and then release at the right time – return, but there are notes where you need to use both joysticks and press them differently (or in the same ) direction, and sometimes you will need to hold two buttons at the same time for a certain period of time, but release one of them before the other. Luckily, there are several control schemes you can play with, including a mode that only requires button presses (so no analog sticks are required).

We have stylus controls built into our musical brains, so it took us a while to get used to the buttons. However, in previous games, you could always only use the buttons, so depending on your preferred play style, it may take you more (or less) time to get used to this new play style. However, even in the demo, you have access to some accessibility options that can help you adjust the timing of triggers if you keep pressing them too soon or too late. You can also play each song on one of four difficulty settings, and practice makes perfect, so you don’t have to go from basic to expert until you’re ready for it.

The demo is the perfect overture to what should be a loving homage to the musical heritage of Final Fantasy (and Square Enix in general).

Otherwise, this is the same Theatrical Rhythm that you all know and love. Minutes after the demo, when we were playing FFV’s Four Hearts, we had a goofy big grin on our face as cute cardboard cutout characters ran across the field attacking monsters while we strummed notes to the music. . And we played a lot of the songs from Fight On! to “Rebel Army” several times, chasing the elusive Perfect Chain result and trying to get as many Rainbow Criticals points as possible. It’s the addictive arcade gameplay that we enjoyed back on the 3DS, only on the big screen.

The quest series features additional challenges that unlock items, maps, and more. This requires you to do more than just complete a stage – sometimes you need to use a certain number of abilities, and other times you need to find a treasure chest. This encourages you to come back and play the same quests over and over again, sometimes on a higher difficulty, and even with the 30 songs we have at the moment, we can’t help but keep getting rewards and points until we get the best one. numbers.

Both docked and undocked, the demo ran perfectly smoothly, but we actually preferred to play it without docking. The smaller screen allowed us to focus on the notes, especially with the much busier Final Bar Line background. Again, this is another feature you can tweak by dimming the background, and both TV and handheld mode have separate trigger input settings so you can try everything before launching the game.

If you are considering purchasing Theatrhtyhm Final Bar Line, there is no reason not to download the demo beforehand. All collectible cards, up to 2000 Rhythmia (points that act as currency), summons and airships that you purchase can be transferred to the full game so you can stock up and be ready to go. The demo is the perfect overture to what should be a loving homage to the musical heritage of Final Fantasy (and Square Enix in general) – as long as we can get the hang of those controls.

The game releases on February 16, 2023 and there are 385 songs in the base game. The Digital Deluxe Edition has all of this plus an additional 27 songs and Season Pass 1, while the Premium Digital Deluxe Edition has all of the above along with all three Season Passes. You will also be able to purchase all songs and DLC packs separately.

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