Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call Review


I didn’t play the original Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. I absolutely love the idea of characters from different Final Fantasy games crossing over in some way or another. It’s the reason I adore the Kingdom Hearts series. But my main concern with Theatrhythm Final Fantasy and it’s sequel, Curtain Call, is that they’re rhythm games. For the rhythm game genre, so much banks on having a solid soundtrack to get you to want to keep playing.

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I know there are dozens of tracks in both the Guitar Hero and Dance Central series I would just loathe playing or skip entirely if I had the chance. I figured I would run into the same issues with Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. I’ve played several Final Fantasy games, but I missed a few of the older titles and many of the newer ones (I was right on board with the SNES, PS1 and PS2 entries, though). I had concerns my lack of emotional connection with so many soundtracks would mar my overall experience.

I was utterly wrong.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call has some vague plot regarding a ruined crystal and some essence called Rhythmia that’s used to restore it. You’ll naturally accrue Rhythmia by playing through all of the game modes. I really don’t have the foggiest idea what the narrative is all about, but it’s a serviceable platform for some addicting gameplay.

(Be aware, though, that not all modes are available at the start, so if you’re hoping to jump right into Versus Mode, you’re going to be disappointed. It doesn’t take too long to gain access to everything, however.)

You begin by selecting four characters. Experience points are split amongst the group each time you successfully complete a level, but the character you choose as the leader gains a little bit more than the rest. Unlike traditional RPGs, leveling up here is neither difficult nor a grind. It’s rare to not have at least one character level up after completing every few tracks, especially in the early going.

Leveling up yields class specific abilities, so someone like FFX-2’s Rikku will have access to Steal, while FFVII’s Tifa can implement Brawler. Each character can equip up to four abilities at a time and each party can hold one useable item.

I didn’t find much use for setting abilities or items until I tried my hand at Ultimate difficulty stages, but I’ll get back to that.

One of my favorite games of all time is Elite Beat Agents for the Nintendo DS. A stellar, varied soundtrack with equally compelling gameplay is a recipe for rhythm game success and Elite Beat Agents has that. For Curtain Call, the developers already had the quality library of soundtracks to cull from, so it really only had to create solid gameplay. Whether intentional or not, Curtain Call’s gameplay mimics Elite Beat Agents’ mechanics and, by improving upon that foundation, is all the better for it.

Each action, or trigger, your tasked to perform is color-coded, which is especially handy if you like to use your peripheral vision to mentally prep for your next move. Green triggers designate a hold. Yellow triggers indicate a directional input is required. Red triggers mean a tap.

In a bid to make the game more accessible than the previous Theatrhythm, Curtain Call allows you to play with either the stylus and the touchscreen, the circle pad and any face or shoulder buttons or a combination of both. You’re even free to play the game one-handed if you’re so inclined.

The structure of the game is split into three different types of musical stages. Battle Music Stages spread your party out in four lanes with triggers flying across the screen in rapid succession. Field Music Stages have the leader walking through some location while green hold triggers wind across the screen for you to follow. Event Music Stages ditch the left-to-right flow of triggers for more free-flowing patterns with full motion CGI videos playing in the background. As long as you understand the basic green, yellow and red fundamentals, each stage is straightforward.

Both touchscreen and button inputs are equally effective, though I prefer using the stylus during Field stages as I find it more intuitive to follow paths that way. As far as the game registering gestures and inputs goes, it’s very forgiving. That’s a very good thing, too.

Each track is split into three levels of difficulty: Basic, Expert and Ultimate. Basic is the obviously the easiest and offers a user-friendly way to get accustomed to the different triggers. Expert proved challenging to achieve ranks of SS and higher but none of the tracks are too difficult to complete in this setting. Ultimate, however, is called that for a reason.

Triggers come quickly and furiously and it’s very, very easy to let the track get away from you. Ultimate is the difficulty setting where you’re likely to practice multiple times beforehand in order to remember trigger patterns, but you will probably still need to restart several times over once you hop into the real thing. I’m still having trouble with them but that’s where those character abilities and items come in handy.

Some abilities make it so you don’t lose HP when you miss a trigger. Others allow you to gain HP if you do well. The wide variety of abilities and items are practically a necessity if you want to complete and rank highly on the Ultimate difficulty of each track. They’re also terribly helpful when you take on maps in Quest Medley Mode.

Quest Medley is probably where you’ll make the most progress in both leveling up your characters and unlocking new ones. You have a selection of increasingly lengthy maps to choose from, wherein your party travels from song stage to song stage. Each map, however, is a marathon. In between stages, your party’s HP doesn’t refill, so it requires more strategy and planning than one would expect from a rhythm game.

If you’ve somehow tired of plaything through each of the difficulties on all of the game’s whopping 217 tracks, you can take your considerable talents online in Versus Mode. You play a stage as you normally would, but the better you perform, the quicker your EX Burst Gauge fills. Once filled, you unleash a randomized attack on your opponent that makes their experience considerably more difficult.

The tempo changes, your HP gets swapped, your triggers are hidden until right before you need to input the correct move, etc. The randomization of the effects can make for some tense sessions, so you have the option of turning off the EX bar altogether (but where’s the fun in that?). Either way, the winner of the battle receives two collectible card items for you to peruse, while the loser gets one, ensuring that each battle proves fruitful.

The cards can then be viewed in the Museum section. Each of the hundreds of cards offers some backstory to the characters while also showing off animations and design models. If you haven’t noticed by now, Curtain Call’s presentation is absurdly charming.

Each famous Final Fantasy character is rendered in a cute, animal-like, super-deformed-yet-still-recognizable manner. My favorite element – and it’s a really small thing – is the random quotes the characters say post-victory and while on the main menu select screen. With just a few words, dozens of characters are injected with a small but substantial sense of personality.

And I think that’s what’s so compelling about a game like Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. I may not have had any emotional connection to several Final Fantasy entries, but this was a perfect way to get a glimpse of each of those title’s characters and soundtracks. This game makes me want to play the ones I missed out on and replay the ones I already I have.


If you’ve played the original Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, there’s way more than enough here to take the plunge again. If you haven’t, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call shouldn’t be missed. It’s a love letter to any and all Final Fantasy fans and is easily one of the finest, most feature-packed, endlessly playable rhythm games available.

(A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review.)