Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review: Passing the Bar
Updated: Jul 7
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the third non-arcade release in Square's rhythm game series centered on Final Fantasy music. It isn't a particularly radical departure from the last release, 2014's Curtain Call, although it does feature dramatically more songs and characters as well as extensive plans for expansion DLC. Other than some changes to the controls to remove the need for a touch screen and the addition of online play, everything here will be pretty recognizable to anyone who played either of the previous 3DS games. While that'd be a knock against a lot of sequels, the fact that we've gone nine years without a release and that everything about the game is so sharp makes it easy to accept that it's not a major reinvention of the series.
The core of the single player experience is "Series Quests", wherein you play through songs from a specific FF game in roughly the order they originally appeared and try to complete quests like beating a certain number of enemies or simply achieving some level of performance on the song. Combat happens automatically as you hit the notes in the song, but the amount of damage you do can change massively based on the characters, abilities, and summons you equipped. Characters can also level up and unlock new skills, so you're encouraged to shift your party around frequently in order to have more options when you need to build a very specific party for the most difficult quests. It's entirely possible to ignore the quests if they don't appeal to you, but I found that the extra goals provided fun targets to aim for in each song.
Outside of Series Quests, there's a freeplay mode to play any individual song without quests and an online multiplayer mode complete with ranked matchmaking. Neither of those interested me as much as the quests, but they're there. Freeplay seems to be the only way to access DLC and Deluxe Edition songs at the moment, also. I'd have preferred that those were integrated into Series Quests so that they have their own objectives, but it's not the end of the world that they ended up living in freeplay.
And that's about all there is to it. FBL doesn't pretend to have any kind of a story, the graphics are the same as they've always been, and the music is all either already familiar or is a remix. Outside of a few tracks from very obscure sources, it's not a game that's going to surprise you. But really, that's fine. Theatrhythm was already an excellent rhythm game and FF music was already some of the best around, so it's hard to find fault with a sequel that's just a lot more of the same. It'll take 20-25 hours to get through all the series quests without even repeating any songs, so the level of content puts most rhythm games to shame. If you're enough of a fan of both FF and rhythm games in general for playing that many songs to be appealing, there's almost nothing to complain about here. It's a great idea fully executed.
Time to beat: 20-25 hours to play everything once, quite a bit more to complete all quests.
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