Over the past three decades, the Final Fantasy series has delivered some of the most memorable soundtracks in video game history. Over the past decade Square Enix has put forward a new way to experience these tracks and that's through the Theatrhythm series, which are rhythm titles that focus entirely on Final Fantasy music. Square and in-house developer indieszero is looking to take this concept to its peak with the upcoming Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, which contains 385 total music tracks from the Final Fantasy series and beyond.
Shacknews was excited to learn more about how this latest entry in the series came to be, so Head of Video Greg Burke spoke remotely with some of the game's creators. Answers are provided via translator.
("Square Enix/indieszero" in this particular interview is represented by Producer Ichiro Hazama, Series Director Masanobu Suzui, and Director Tsukasa Okayasu.)
Shacknews: What was the development process like for this game? Did you change any of the formula for this development from previous Theatrhythm games, such as those for the 3DS?
Square Enix/indieszero: So it's been 11 years since the initial conception of Theatrhythm from the 3DS stages. As you know, it was created for the 3DS. Then we created the arcade version and then they worked on Kingdom Hearts: Memory of Melody, which they created using Unity. Using all of those as a foundation and a stepping stone to creating this title, this was developed.
Shacknews: Can you folks talk about how many tracks are included in the game's standard edition? And walk us through the process of what you decide, because there's so much music, how do you decide what tracks will be included in the game in general?
Square Enix/indieszero: Regarding the number of songs for the standard edition, this will be 385 songs total. If you're counting from Curtain Call, the last title, without the DLC, this will be 167 new songs that are added for this current title.
As for the actual selection process of how they chose these songs, Hazama-san just said that they conduct a ton of surveys, especially in Japan, asking consumers what their favorite Final Fantasy song is quite often. So they get data from surveys, as well as look into songs from the company that are used in TV commercials and ads that consumers and users may be familiar with. Using different data coming in from different venues, we determine the favorite songs of the players and these are some of the songs that have been selected for use in this title.
Shacknews: What sort of incentives come with purchasing the games Digital Deluxe edition over the standard edition? Can you go into detail about the DLC music packs that will be on offer?
Square Enix/indieszero: So for the Digital Deluxe edition, there will be 27 songs exclusive to the deluxe edition that will come with them. These are special songs that are only available for this edition. As for the DLC, they're going to be including songs from other Square Enix titles that are not Final Fantasy related, but are very popular among fans of our company.
Shacknews: How long are the song samples in the game? Are there any full length versions? And like adding to that, are there any new variations or remixes of versions of songs in this new game?
Square Enix/indieszero: As it is a rhythm action game, the music is formed [with] two minutes of focused gameplay, so there is an arrangement that is made. But this really varies and so, for songs where inclusion of a longer period of time is essential, they might go up to three to four minutes. And then there will be other songs where there is a singing part and, including the full chorus, that would be quite lengthy. They'll just keep it up to the first part of the song and whatnot, so it really varies according to the song.
As for the different kind of remixes and variations of the songs, there's different arrangements from the Square Enix sound team. They released an album of different remixes previously, so there are some songs that are selected from this album, as well as selections from the arcade version of the Theatrhythm game that have been selected for this console version.
Shacknews: I've heard there are over 100 different characters to choose from in your game. Can you talk about the process of putting your party together and what sort of characters players can look forward to partying up with?
Square Enix/indieszero: An example of how you would form a party to gain an advantage in completing the levels in the title... Noctis from Final Fantasy 15 is very good at doing damage to boss enemies. He would be really helpful to have as part of a party if you're playing a song where there's a ton of boss enemies, since his character is suited and has that kind of ability.
Likewise, in a song that has many enemies that are kind of weak against magic, you might form a party with a ton of characters that have magic abilities. And, for another level, if you're seeking a ton of Summon Stones that you want to acquire, you might have different characters that are good at gaining these Summon Stones in the game. These are just some of the strategies that you might take into when forming your party.
Shacknews: Can you talk more about the difference between like the battle music stages, the field music stages and the event music stages?
Square Enix/indieszero: To start off, the BMS (or the Battle Music Stages) use battle songs from the original titles. Likewise, FMS will use field songs directly from the original titles.
Certain event scenes (or EMS) will have actual movies or videos that were used in the original titles. It will be a rhythmic game with the video of the movie playing throughout the stage.
Shacknews: What sort of features in this game have you added to make it more approachable for newcomers and what features you think returning theater within players will enjoy the most?
Square Enix/indieszero: There is a replay feature where players can see their most recent gameplay that they can replay and just see what what they've done there. From there, you can kind of learn from your mistakes as well as you can practice specific parts of the song. There's also a feature where you can go back five seconds in your gameplay, so you can actually play that exact part that you keep messing up. So these are some friendly features for new players.
As for features that may be appealing for returning players, there are four different difficulty levels in this game. There is Basic Expert, Ultimate, and Supreme. Seasoned players of rhythm games may enjoy playing some of the Supreme modes, which are very difficult. As far as some of the RPG elements that are part of this music game, that makes it quite unique, there are some elemental abilities that are included, like fire and ice, and status elements that are also included, like Poison and Silence.
Shacknews: This game has a multiplayer component, as well. Can you talk about those elements like the four-player online matches and multi-battle?
Square Enix/indieszero: As for the multiplayer, up to four players can play for one song and, of course, for the multi-battle. There can be two players playing, as well as three-player play. It's very versatile.
There is also a setting where you can set it so that there are no duplicate Burst effects that are connected during the song. You can also create rooms where you can do battle with your friends with a password-protected room and if you want to play with friends, family, and people you know. And, there are rewards. Rewards that are given out for each kind of match. Everyone earns something, whether you win or lose, which makes it really fun and makes a repeat experience worthwhile.
Shacknews: Series Quests is a new mode in this game. Can you tell me more a little bit about that mode?
Square Enix/indieszero: It's a Series Quest starting from the very first Final Fantasy, then Final Fantasy II, and on forth. It's supposed to give a feeling of actually going through and playing each of the games. So it's structured in a way where there's the field, where people are kind of like traversing it, then you'll encounter a mid-boss, and then finally a last boss. You'll be kind of clearing through each of those stages just like you would in a [Final Fantasy] game, but for a rhythm game.
Within each of the stages as well, there's particular missions, such as defeating a specific enemy within the stage in order to clear that mission or defeating a specific number of enemies. That's kind of a more like RPG type element that's been incorporated into the title.
Shacknews: You have announced that the game will have season pass content. Can you give us a hint or tease how many season passes there are? What can we expect to find in the multiple season passes and the game at the present moment?
Square Enix/indieszero: There are a total of three season passes, each with seven to eight packs included, as published on our official website. And this will include games from other non-Final Fantasy Square Enix titles such as Romancing Saga, the Saga series, the Mana series, the NieR series, and Xenogears.
Another interesting feature to look out for is that there will be specific backgrounds that have been designed for each game title. This is something that fans of each of the game titles can look forward to.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is set to release on Thursday, February 16 on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Those who want a taste of what to expect can download the free demo, starting today. The demo will feature 30 songs from a handful of the full soundtrack. Progress will carry over to the full version of the game when it arrives.