"I played Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for the first time today. Not too shabby! As I remembered various things from the past 20 years, I was reduced to tears. FF music fans should definitely play it. Won't you cry with me?"
— Nobuo Uematsu
An... out-of-nowhere entry in the running-gag-reflex-inducingly popularFinal Fantasy series, this game's premise is relatively simple: bringing the "conflict of the gods" plot of Dissidia: Final Fantasy to the Nintendo 3DS and later a port to iOS, but in the form of a Rhythm Game. In other words, it's Elite Beat AgentsmeetsFinal Fantasy.note (This moniker is surprisingly accurate; gameplay footage has revealed that the basic mechanics are lifted straight from Elite Beat Agents with a few new types of button to worry about.)Okay, time for a brief lesson in recent-gaming history for everyone: Dissidia: Final Fantasy, when first released, caused many fans to wet their pants in excitement just for the fact that a fighting game featuring representative heroes and villains from the Final Fantasy seriesnote (from the first installment right up until the latest released at the time) could only be justified with the words, Rule of Cool, on which the concept was basically built.Then, the sequel (Dissidia 012 [duodecim] - Final Fantasy) was released, but this time around, sadly, the rejoicing (with Lightning joining the fight, among others) was foiled by the rather disappointing announcement that the game in question would be the last in the series, or at least, the last appearing in Fighting Game form.Turns out, the next game in the Dissidia series is a Spin-Off for the Nintendo 3DS, a Rhythm Game featuring (as the logo above - a throwback to that of Dissidia itself - shows) the characters' avatar versions first seen in Kingdom Hearts Coded.The game follows the events of the gods Chaos and Cosmos, a similar plot to Dissidia Final Fantasy. The space between the two is called Rhythm, which gives birth to a crystal that controls music. Chaos causes the crystal to become disrupted, and the only way to return it to normal is to increase a music wave known as Rhythmia.The playable characters appearing in the game are the following:
The game also features enemies and bosses from the games ranging from the main villains like Chaos and Sephiroth, mid-bosses like Xande, Black Waltz #3, Gilgamesh, Ultros and the Elemental Archfiends, mainstay monsters like tonberry, bombs and behemoths and even common enemies unique to each game like PSICOM enforcers and bangaa thieves all redesigned to fit the game's unique art style.The game operates in three different styles of stages. Battle Music Stages have the players chosen party members occupying the right side of the screen like a classic Final Fantasy game. You score hits on the enemy by successfully hitting notes, and by getting higher combos you can unleash stronger attacks like Summon Magic. Event Music Stages feature video montages from Final Fantasy games, and the player has to tap the notes in rhythm while the cursor moves around the screen in various patterns. Field Music Stages are represented by a chosen playable character strolling though the scenery from different Final Fantasy Games. By scoring higher combos you can run faster, encounter Moogles, and even call a Chocobo to give you a ride.The game's success has earned it the right for a sequel, Threatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call for the 3DS, which released in Japan of April 24, 2014, with North America and Europe getting it Sep.16th and 19th of 2014 respectively. and It now has over 200 tracks (including some music from the SaGa franchise) with 60 playable characters, which seemingly includes characters from the iOS version of the game plus more. It also has a new Versus Mode to compete in rhythm battles against other players that can also be played online and the option to use the buttons the play the game instead of the touchscreen. Finally, it also has a new set of Event Music stages with the ones in the first game remaining exclusive to it, and Airship Stages that show the notes flying into the screen from the horizon.
This game contains examples of:
Absurdly High Level Cap: In Curtain Call, you have the ability to reset your characters' level back to 1 once it reaches 99 in order to increase their max CP. Assuming you don't use the Collectacard Crystarium, CP maxes out after resetting 10 times, at which point the character gets a nice big star next to their character portrait. (You can continue to reset the character's level after this, but there's no point) So technically, the level cap in this game is 990.
Adaptation Dye-Job: For the original 3DS release, Faris had brown eyes and blond hair, being based on her Yoshitaka Amano art. In the iOS version and continuing into Curtain Call, she has the green eyes and purple hair used for her sprites and other artwork pieces.
Firion's sprite has blue eyes, despite his eyes being brown in the original game and Dissidia.
Allegedly Free Game: The iOS version is "free"... but if you want any of the content, you'll have to pay up. It only comes with two songs.
American Kirby Is Hardcore: Played with in a hilarious fashion. The vast majority of the characters have very neutral "default" expressions, which can change depending on the situation. Benjamin, whose game in Japan is called "Final Fantasy USA", is the only character whose default expression is constantly angry.
Anti-Frustration Features: In the sequel, if you play FMS levels with button controls, you don't have to follow the hold triggers exactly like you have to with the stylus: just holding the circle pad in the direction the line is currently travelling causes the cursor to snap to it. Hitting the slide triggers at the end of said hold triggers with button controls takes some getting used to though.
There is no escaping this evil eye. Once you have met its fearsome gaze, you will never be alone again. Even now I feel the loathsome eye on me. Always it is on me. Where is it? Where is it!? Oh, sweet gods...!
Ascended Meme: A possible case. Before the iOS port introduced Ramza with the same ability, Aerith was the only character with the ability "Thoroughbred", which resulted in better chocobos during FMS sequences. A famous VG Cats comic◊ depicts Aerith attempting to breed a gold chocobo and explaining the breeding mechanics to do it to Cloud.
Badass Adorable: They may be chibi-fied, but that doesn't change the fact they're still Kain, Gilgamesh, Sephiroth, etc.
Black Mage: Shantotto, Rydia, Gunner Yuna and Vivi who focus the most on casting spells like Fire and Thundara. Useful in that spells are activated automatically, so mage characters can attack normally and have the spell kick in for extra damage.
Boss In Mooks Clothing: Some monsters that qualify as bosses in easier dark notes are just normal monsters in harder dark notes.
Clip Show: The videos in the backgrounds of the event stages are these for the games the song comes from.
Combat Medic: Minwu is this compared to the other White Mage characters: his HP caps at greater than 9K while the next best character's caps at around 6 thousand. Along with all the best healing spells, this makes him great for higher difficulty songs.
Continuity Porn: This game is full of references to the main games, ranging from obvious shout outs to subtle nods.
Critical Hit: The best rank for hitting a note correctly. Emphasized more in the sequel, where there are additional glowing critical triggers that allow the character to perform an extra-powerful hit in a BMS, give the character a burst of speed during a FMS and give an item during an EMS if you get a Critical on them.
Diagonal Cut: Odin, as usual. However, rather than slicing the enemy in two, he imposes the kanji 斬 zan, or "cut", over the enemy and cuts that in half.
Difficulty Spike: Basic Scores are the perfect introduction to the genre for a complete beginner. Expert Scores are more challenging, with a faster pace and more intricate patterns. Ultimate Scores are instruments of Satan that wish only to destroy you.
Do Well, But Not Perfect: If you're trying to farm items from Boss 1 or Boss 2 of any given Dark Note (but especially a low-level one) this is in effect. Do too well in the Field sequence, and Boss 1 will not appear in the Battle sequence, and getting Boss 2 to appear requires doing well in the Field sequence, but poorly in the Battle sequence, or vice versa.
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Square Enixthemselves summed it up as a"Theater Rhythm Game".note And that's about as close to a Title Drop as we might possibly get. The "theater" part relates to the action happening in the background as the player performs along the the "rhythm" (ie. Battle games have a standard FF ATB battle going on, Field games have your character running across scenery, and Movie games have sequences from the title in question). The second game is less subtle, as the title screen consists of stage curtains opening, and the cover shows the basic cast standing on a stage, in a curtain call position hence the title.
Excuse Plot: Perhaps notably, this game may have the least plot of any title in the Final Fantasy series. Asides from a "boss fight" against Chaos triggered once you accumulate a certain amount of Rhythmia, the only bits of plot come in two scrolling blurbs in a text box. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given the contortions gone through to make a plot for the original Dissidia spinoff, it's sort of hard to imagine any kind of sensible plot arising from the "... and then they became super-cute and used music to solve their problems" premise inherent to the rhythm game.
Early-Bird Cameo: Of a sort. Somnus from Final Fantasy XV is available as a DLC Field track in the first game, although it's credited as coming from Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
During EMS, a cursor follows a pre-determined path circling all over the screen and notes appear along that path. The cursor is prone to suddenly speeding up or slowing down, ruining your timing unless you listen carefully to the music and know the song so you can keep to the beat in spite of the cursor's speed.
On the highest level Dark Notes, some (but not all) yellow slash arrows will rotate as they cross the screen, completely ruining you on faster songs if you don't notice it in time.
Fire, Ice, Lightning: The standard spells return as abilities that activate when you combo certain kinds of notes. Also, the summons Ifrit, Shiva, and Ramuh.
Fragile Speedster: Tidus, Edge and Bartz are geared heavily to field stages with their superior agility, speed boosters and chocobo boosting abilities but lack more battle oriented abilities.
In the credits for the second game, at one point Cid balances on top of Ozma like a circus acrobat on top of a ball, rolling it across the ground.
Genius Programming: If you close the 3DS during the sound-test, the game will normally suspend as usual. However, if you close the 3DS during the sound-test while headphones or speakers are connected, it will not.
Glass Cannon: Kain, Edgar, Cloud, Tifa, Paine and Machina are built almost exclusively for physical combat in Battle Stages and have little to no magic or defensive abilities and despite having higher health than most they are usually boosted by skills like "Sacrifice" and "Darkness" which lowers defensive parameters and HP in exchange for more attack power. Although many characters can learn them, the most notable example is Kain: When you first unlock him, he starts at level one with Sacrifice equipped... however, since the HP Sacrifice takes away is greater than Kain's maximum HP at level one, he becomes a literal One-Hit-Point Wonder. Thank goodness Sacrifice can be taken off.
Gotta Catch 'Em All: Of an optional variety - over 25 characters and 80 CollectaCards to get in the first game, and over 60 characters and 160 cards in Curtain Call. There's a lot of stuff to collect.
Harder Than Hard: The difficulties in Challenge and Series mode are Basic, Expert, and Ultimate. Expert can be challenging, and Ultimate tracks range from incredibly hard to the stuff of nightmares. Dark Notes get even harder at higher levels, with potentially any song being not only very fast and difficult, but throwing spinning notes at you that will always trip you up until you learn their patterns after enough trial and error, and the enemies in Dark Notes BMSes can kill you in comparatively few hits. At that point the game goes from "Harder Than Hard" to "The Developers Actively Want You To Lose".
Many potential ones are averted; the % completion counts are based on how many songs you have unlocked, not the total number. The game will even give the player a crown for completing 100% of charts on a difficulty, only to take it away after a new song is unlocked. It seems to be played straight on the music player for total number of songs.
A player will undoubtedly receive Sephiroth's CollectaCard both before they receive Safer∙Sephiroth's card and before they unlock him as a playable character: the giveaway is that his base form's card faces to the left (as do the other playable characters) and is located in the 'playable' section of the binder.
Jack of All Stats: Onion Knight, Faris, Lightning, Noel, Benjamin and Ramza can be an asset on whichever kind of stage you want with their balanced stats but don’t particularly excel in any way either. Out of these, Ramza is probably the closest to a Ridiculously Average Guy: on lv99, all his stats are the exact same (except for his Spirit, which is a single point lower), and other than Cheer which has all 3 levels, Ultima which he can learn in an unique way in his native game and Mimic and Shout which have no levels, every single ability he learns is either a level 2 ability or a second-tier spell.
Killer Rabbit: Staple monsters like the Behemoth and Ahriman appear. They've never looked cuter, but considering they're among the series's famous Demonic Spiders...
Kung-Fu Wizard: Prishe is one true to her source material with stats focus both on dealing out damage with monk skills and regenerating health and protecting with White Magic.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: Several of the major plot points of every single Final Fantasy game represented flash in the background of the Event Stages and the Ending Tracks, including summaries of the endings.
Lethal Joke Character: Several characters, most prominently Cid and Princess Sarah. Both have pitiful stats and are limited to support abilities, but Cid has Libra Lv3 and Luck Up Lv3 making him invaluable in Dark Notesnote Each of the three bosses in a Dark Note has three random items to steal but you don't know what they are, Libra Lv3 reveals one boss's entire inventory when you receive a new Dark Note with Cid in the party, while Sarah eventually learns Soul Voice, doubling the power of her song abilities and thus affording the entire party large 40 point buffs to the stats of your choice, because she learns the songs for all four base stats, and others.
Lightning Bruiser: Of the thirteen characters you start the game with, at max level the only character with a natural star-rank in both Strength and Agility is Firion—plus he has the highest natural strength of said original lineup, outstripping even Cloud. In Curtain Call, Firion's stats are realigned to Stone Wall while Squall and Lilisette pick up the slack with stats that give them the best balance for transitioning from Field Music to Battle Music.
Limit Break: The 13 initially selectable characters will learn one when they reach level 40: most of them automatically deal massive amounts of damage to boss monsters, allowing you to kill them as soon as they appear which is extremely useful in Dark Notes, while others give various significant bonuses such as large stat boosts, large amounts of healing for every note if you chain enough in a row and huge damage multipliers for every spell cast. The sequel gives more characters a Limit Break but there are still the odd few who lack one.
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Curtain Call has a version of this. It came with a special 3DS pouch, 2 CDs with best of and remixed songs, and physical CollectaCards. First-run copies of the game came with a smaller version that came with just the remix CD.
Magic Music: The Song tree of abilities based on the Quirky Bard classes of the series which provide large status buffs to the entire party, Princess Sarah in particular learns all of the basic ones as well as the ability Soul Voice which doubles the effectiveness of the songs she sings.
Magikarp Power: Onion Knight; starting with some of the lowest stats, but some of the highest near the end. Also levels up faster in the early levels than pretty much everyone.
The 3DS version has Dancing Mad, clocking in at four minutes long with 350 notes. But it pales in comparison to...
Advent: One-Winged Angel from the iOS version. The song is six minutes long, two-to-three times the length of most other songs, on Easy there's 475 notes, and on Ultimate there's 973.
Me's a Crowd: In Curtain Call, the alternate versions of Tifa, Yuna, Lightning and later Cloud count as entirely separate characters and can be used in the same party as the originals.
Metal Slime: Magic Pots are the closest thing to one: they only seem to appear on specific backgrounds and do so rarely, and killing one is generally worth at least as much EXP as every other enemy you kill on average in a single song combined.
Mighty Glacier: The Warrior of Light, Seifer, Galuf, can slide to either tanks or physical damage dealers depending on the abilities you equip to them or provide a balance if you need it.
Minimalist Run: If you want a high score, the game rewards you for making it through a song with no abilities or items equipped with a Stoic bonus of 2,000,000 points. Thankfully removed in the sequel, where there's no artificial restrictions for higher ranks.
Min-Maxing: Depending on how hard a chart is for you, HP is either the Dump Stat or vitally important, along with Cure and Protect spells.
Mirror Match: Sephiroth is in the game as a party member. Safer Sephiroth is in the game as boss enemy. This trope will likely come up sooner or later.
Curtain Call does this several times over: Jecht is now a playable character, while Braska's Final Aeon is an enemy; Sephiroth returns as playable, Safer Sephiroth returns as an enemy, and the Imaginary Champion (Sephiroth's Manikin from Dissidia) appears as the resident Manikin; and Chaos is now a playable character, while both Chaos and Feral Chaos appear as enemies.
Mood Whiplash: Trying to target the Stoic Bonuses on EMS sequences deprive you from getting the extended versions of the cinemas that usually lead to the best moments of the game. Want to see how Aerith's Holy vaporizes Meteor? Too bad! You get her sinking in the water.
Other egregious examples include "Waltz for the Moon" ending with Rinoa sobbing over Squall's "dead" body and FFIX's "Beyond the Door" fading out just short of its triumphant final chords.
A more general, minor version of this are the descriptions of various CollectaCards: despite the cheery and cartoony aesthetics, most of them are noticeably gloomy regardless of subject, and the music that's playing when you're viewing them is a remix of Rose Of May.
Nintendo Hard: While it is rather easy on the Basic difficulty, it can get surprisingly hard on the later difficulty settings.
Nostalgia Level: The Event Music Stages are this if you're staring at the event more than you're paying attention to the notes. Warning: Repetitive tries on one of the thirteen events will eventually make you play the main games again for good measure.
The sequel takes it to its logical extreme with a medley comprising music from some of the main games, as well as visuals from all 14 main games. Even further extremes with now not just them, but the spin-off games represented such as Tactics, Crystal Chronicles, Mystic Quest, and even Advent Children (which wasn't even a game) now have them.
The Paladin: Cecil slides from a regular Magic Knight to this in the sequel, losing his attack magic in favor for exclusive defensive attributes and physical damage power.
Pinball Scoring: As is common in the genre, this game as 7-digit scores, and trophies are awarded for reaching milestones of billions of points.
Play Every Day: You get a small Rhythmia bonus for playing at least one song each day, which increases as you play consecutive days. Curtain Call also marks certain songs as top hits for the day, earning you a small Rhythmia bonus for playing them the first time that day.
Power-Up Letdown: Some of the abilities earned are useless by the time they're earned. For example, by the time Cecil learns the HP Plus level 3 ability, HP Plus level 2 will already put him at max hit points.
Quirky Bard: Princess Sarah who comes with low everything except Luck but has almost every stat boosting song ability as well as a skill that doubles their effectiveness.
Rainbow Motif: Present. Instead of out-and-out rainbows, though, the game favors color-changes that follow the rainbow 'cycle'.
Red Mage: Cecil, Terra, and Ashe vary in stats, but all can learn both attack and defensive/healing skills. Between the three, Terra leans more to attack magic with the "aga" Fire, Ice, Lightning spells, Cecil to defensive and healing magic with Curaga and Protect Lv 3, and Ashe fills in the middle with Cura, Protect Lv 3, Fira, Blizzara and Thundara. In Curtain Call Hope joins in on the action while Cecil loses his skill in Black Magic.
Characters have levels and stats, and gain exp after songs.
Enemies drop items, which you can use to help you clear stages.
Characters also have equipable abilities in two forms, auto-abilities (such as Strength Up and HP Up, which are Exactly What It Says on the Tin) and activated abilities (Such as Focus and Fire, which will deal extra physical or magical damage to opponents if you do well enough with the notes).
Curtain Call's "Quest Medley mode" likes to call itself an "RPG mode" despite it's the same basic gameplay, you just go through levels on a world map which branch into multiple paths. (With a few interesting world map features, like obtaining keys to open new paths, and airships to skip levels)
Self-Deprecation: Curtain Call's rare CollectaCard English passwords for the four Archfiends from FFIV make fun of the original translations for their names. Similarly, Benjamin's passwords, English and Japanese, stress his connection to the US (no mention of his Japanese name "Zash") and how unknown he is.
Content-wise, the sequel in this. The first game had, excluding DLC, over 70 playable songs. Curtain Call has, still excluding DLC, over 200. It helps that this time, the songs are also taken from spinoffs and a movie (Advent Children)
This also applies to the RPG elements of the second game: while everyone could only reach 255 in any given stat other than HP and a maximum of 50 CP in the first game, the second game allows you to go high as 999 in any non-HP stat via the Collecta Crystarium and respetive skills and up to 99 CP via either CC or cumulative character resets.
On the selection screen for choosing which mode to play, a character will walk onto the top screen and say something related to their own game. Zidane will say that you don't need a reason to help people, Bartz will mention Boko, Terra will muse about humans and espers being incompatible, and of course Squall will tell you not to get your hopes up, as you won't be disappointed, and to talk to a wall.
The passwords that you can use to unlock some CollectaCards (or level up the ones you already have) are also taken from their respective games, or something related to them : For example, one of the passwords that unlocks Tidus's cards is Zanarkand Abes, the blitzball team he was the star player of, and one of Shantotto's passwords is her trademark Noblewoman's Laugh.
Socialization Bonus: StreetPassing with other Theatrhythm players exchanges ProfiCards with them, and usually they come with a Dark Note/Chaos Map attached, which are excellent sources for the character-unlocking shards. Whatever information about stages or drops they uncover is passed on to you, so with some coordination you can quickly unlock the characters you want.
Support Party Member: Cid, Aerith, Vanille, Sarah and Cosmos primarily focus on providing the party Status Buff giving songs and defensive abilities while bearing minor skills in other areas such as attack or recovery abilites.
The Tetris Effect: You will start seeing colored dots and lines in your dreams, or hearing the chimes of correct notes whenever you hear the music outside of the game.
Timed Mission: In a way, the Chaos Shrine songs are essentially this—your goal in the Shrine is to get good items that randomly drop from bosses in the notes. All notes are made of two parts: A Field song, and a Battle song. The objective of the Field song is to get your character to reach a certain point in the field, designated by a sign, that will make the higher-tier boss spawn in the following Battle song—and of course, in the Battle song, you have to kill the boss (and, naturally, the preceding enemies) in order to get the drop. This turns into a timed mission because the songs are always the same length—the field sequence or battle will always end at the same time, meaning you need characters that are fast for the Field mission and offensively capable for the Battle part in order to actually get the rewards, since not even Perfect-Chaining the notes means you can get far enough or dish out hurt quickly enough.
The Unfavorite: In the original Theatrhythm, Final Fantasy XIV was this in a meta sense. The game had been out for a year and a half by the time TFF released in Japan. Nobody and nothing from FFXIV made it in, not even a reference, not even a single song, not even DLC. All due, likely, to the game's then-infamous reputation for being the worst game product ever released in the franchise. Happily, Curtain Call remedies this problem with a vengeance, to go along with A Realm Reborn's massive change of fortune for XIVnote to say nothing of the fact that there is simply too much good music in XIV for TFF to ignore at this point.
An even greater example of Curtain Call addressing this problem, though, has to be Benjamin from Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Curtain Call is the first time in twenty-two years that Benjamin, and content from FFMQ, has appeared in a new product.note If you don't count the Dissidia Moogle who was named after the character, anyway.
Curtain Call has a minor example of unfavoritism: In the first game, Somnus from Final Fantasy XV (back then known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII) was a DLC track, but did not return in Curtain Call unlike the other DLC tracks.
White Magic: White Mage type characters have abilities like Cure and Protect which heal you and reduce the damage you take from missed notes.
White Mage: Minwu, Yuna, Lenna, Garnet, Y’shtola, Eiko focus primarily on recovery of HP although some will branch out into defensive magic, the Holy Hand Grenade and summon boosters.
Wraparound Background: In the backgrounds of the field stages. It's easier to see in the ones for Final Fantasy VI (one greener one based on the World of Balance and a very similar but less green World of Ruin one), in which it is to be expected to pass Figaro Castle multiple times.
Producer Ichiro Hazama has entertained the thought of making Theatrhythm its own series by making installments based on other Square Enix-owned franchises, such as Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts, and even Tomb Raider.
Zero-Effort Boss: Gather 10000 Rhythmia and you're facing Chaos, to the epicness that isthe only original remix in the game: Chaos Shrine. Try as you might, armed with a level 99 Cloud, Terra, Onion Knight, and Lightning, equipped with Bahamut's Magictite, and you will not defeat him until the stage ends. On the other hand, you can give yourself four level one characters, play the shortest song in the game, and drop the 3DS. You will constantly be revived before your HP can even hit zero, and when the song ends, Chaos will simply be engulfed in a massive fireball of spontaneous combustion and perish. Either way, you may not pause the game; the only way out is to turn off the system (or head to the home menu and close suspended software) and reboot, in which case he will simply ambush you after the next fight.