Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a rhythm game series with an interesting history that began in 2012 with its first iteration for Nintendo 3DS and iOS. Following the release of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a number of sequels were seen including Curtain Call in 2014 and a Dragon Quest spin-off in 2015, along with an arcade title called All-Star Carnival in 2016.
Since then, the series has sat on Square Enix’s digital shelf gathering dust (metaphorically speaking) until the surprise announcement of Theatrhythm Final Bar Line back in 2022. Not only does Theatrhythm Final Bar Line take what its predecessors did in offering a smorgasbord of Final Fantasy music accompanied by approachable rhythm mechanics, it adds to it exponentially.
The end result of this culmination of Theatrhythm greatness is a comprehensive, top tier title that comes packed with a surprising amount of content for both Final Fantasy and rhythm game fans alike. Regardless of whether you’re a Theatrhyhm fan, Final Fantasy fan, or rhythm game fanatic, there’s a lot to love in Final Bar Line.
Practice makes perfect
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is divided up into three main sections including: Series Quests where you’ll relive classic titles by playing through an assortment of songs from those games, Music Stages where you’re free to replay songs you’ve unlocked as much as you like, and Multi Battle which adds a fun multiplayer component to the game.
Of these, Series Quests is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. With Series Quests, you can select from a surprisingly lengthy list of Final Fantasy titles with an equally sizable assortment of music samples on offer for each game. In total, the standard edition of Final Bar Line includes 385 playable songs.
For those who’ve played previous Theatrhythm titles and are wondering whether any of these are new, the answer is yes, quite a few of them are. More specifically, counting Curtain Call (without the DLC), Final Bar Line has 167 brand new songs as confirmed by its producers in a previous interview with Shacknews. By playing through each of these songs, you’ll be able to do things like unlock tracks to replay in the aforementioned Music Stages section, and unlock collectible items like CollectaCards to view in the game’s digital Museum.
One of the many things I appreciated in terms of how Final Bar Line is set up is that you aren’t required to work through each Final Fantasy title in any set order (i.e. from oldest to newest). Instead, you can do things like bounce around between your favorites however you please as you progress. As an example, once I completed all of the songs on offer for Final Fantasy II, I decided to skip forward and play through Final Fantasy VII.
The rhythm mechanics in Final Bar Line are wonderfully approachable, especially if you opt to run through each song on the game’s easiest difficulty setting, Basic. That said, you can increase the difficulty from Basic to Expert if you find yourself looking for more of a challenge. You can dial up the difficulty even further as well to the undeniably trickier Ultimate and Supreme settings.
If you’re still having trouble getting comfortable with Final Bar Line even when sticking with the game’s Basic difficulty, the Settings menu is pretty generous with players having the ability to adjust a variety of things from input timing to how special effects (SFX) are handled. For example, if you find the SFX are too flashy and too much of a distraction, you can dial them down a bit.
Similarly, you can adjust background mask level to tweak how prominent the game’s background imagery is, along with things like BGM timing to help you tune things to your play style even further, especially if you’re finding your input timing is often coming in too early or too late.
Inputs, referred to in the game as “triggers,” range from pressing a single button, to moving the one of the thumbsticks in a particular direction like up or down, to holding one or two notes at once, and even holding a note and sliding the thumbstick up and down. I played on PS5 using the DualSense controller and found the trigger inputs to not only be comfortable to execute, but also have a natural sort of feeling in relation to the songs both speed and pattern wise.
Interestingly, the goal of Final Bar Line isn’t just to clear songs in Series Quests and unlock them for further play in Music Stages, but also (as its name suggests) to try and complete the unique Quests attached to each track. Quests can vary wildly from earning 6,000,000 points to defeating three or more MP enemies, to simpler things like playing with a certain character present in your party or successfully defeating a boss.
Speaking of having characters present in your party, the party system is one of the many areas in Final Bar Line where the game shines as it incorporates elements of Final Fantasy-style battle mechanics with a wealth of unlockable characters that can be grouped together in a party of four however the player chooses.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with Final Fantasy as a series, you’ll quickly figure out what character combinations work for you and which don’t through the tried and true method of trial and error. What’s nice is this process never feels frustrating in Final Bar Line as an inefficient party, at its worst, will only make it harder to meet Quest requirements. It won’t impede you from completing a song or earning something like a Perfect Clear.
Given that song samples in Final Bar Line are often kept on the shorter end of things (with some feeling noticeably shorter than others), you can quickly adjust your party as needed in the Options menu, then replay a song and compare your performance.
As with everything else, Final Bar Line gives you a plethora of performance details after a song has been completed, with the game not only giving you a rank like S or SSS but also showing you your longest chain, your hits from Critical to Great to Bad or Miss, a Critical Chart, and more.
As characters in your party join you in completing songs, they’ll gradually earn experience and level up as well which helps unlock abilities for these characters that further help you meet Quest challenge requirements. For example, dealing specific damage to foes like lightning or physical.
In addition to having a party of four characters, with each character having their own type like Physical or Support and stats like varying starting levels of HP and Strength, there’s also a section to add a Summonstone with options like Odin or Bahamut, with these summons offering bonuses like 15 percent increase to physical ability damage or an increase in the drop rate of CollectaCards.
Furthermore, there are customizations less impactful for performance but still fun to play around with like Airships with options sure to delight Final Fantasy fans like Ragnarok or Regalia, along with Moogle Style with adorable options like Blue Polka Dots or Tan Puppy. Fans of customization are spoiled further with the ability to customize their own ProfiCard which can be exchanged with other players in Final Bar Line, typically through the game’s multiplayer element, Multi Battle.
With Multi Battle, you and up to three other players can tackle a Battle Music Stage (BMS), with only BMS songs playable in Multi Battle. If you don’t have three friends to join you in a room you create, you can also search and join someone else’s room and it’s here that ProfiCards come in handy the most.
Regardless of what you’re hoping to get out of the game though from a way to revisit some of the best music the Final Fantasy series has to offer, to creating the perfect party to complete Quests, to showing your skills off to your friends or total strangers through Multi Battle, Final Bar Line really does pack in a lot and is sure to keep you busy for quite some time.
Play it on repeat
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Theatrhythm Final Bar Line. Right from the start, I was quickly sucked in by the game’s charming, visually delightful levels and stunning SFX, along with its clever incorporation of battle mechanics and expansive party system. The game is cleanly polished from top to bottom, and as a result, there aren’t any glaring (or subtle) issues present to detract from its many strengths.
Of these, the rhythm mechanics are definitely a standout, feeling wholly unique while also surprisingly free of unnecessarily complex or frustrating elements like being overly demanding of perfection. Despite never feeling punishing for the sake of being punishing, there’s plenty of challenge to be had in Final Bar Line as well for rhythm fans, especially as you dial up the difficulty for each track.
The only negative that really stands out to me is if you want access to absolutely everything song wise you may find yourself compelled to spend a bit more money on things like the game’s Digital Deluxe edition as it has 27 exclusive songs. That said, the standard version should still have more than enough content to satiate most Theatrhyhm, Final Fantasy, and rhythm game fans.
This review is based on a digital code for PlayStation 4 as provided by the publisher. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line will be available on Thursday, February 16 for platforms including PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line
- Surprising amount of content on offer (music, characters)
- Clever incorporation of party system and FF battle mechanics
- Solid variety of modes and options to choose from
- Approachable rhythm game mechanics for beginners
- Plenty of challenge for seasoned rhythm game pros
- Visually stunning backgrounds and SFX
- 27 songs require you to purchase the Digital Deluxe edition
- Some of the songs feel noticeably shorter than others