When a game series has been around for the better part of two decades you would expect there to be some standout entries amongst the spread of games. And, undoubtedly, whichever your favorite game is won’t be someone else’s favorite. Final Fantasy is no exception to this, with 14 numbered games in the series and dozens of spinoffs, re-releases, and games in Japan that we’ll never get the chance to play here in America. One of those spinoffs was 2012’s oddly titled Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a rhythm based game encompassing many of the series’ most iconic music tracks in a somewhat RPG-like experience on the 3DS. Though that game was remarkably fun (read my review and see why!), the sequel, Theatrhyhm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, literally makes the original game obsolete.
The original Theatrhythm featured over 70 songs ranging from the core Final Fantasy games. There were classics from Final Fantasy I to Final Fantasy XIII, as well as some songs I didn’t quite remember as fondly. Also, DLC expanded upon the game’s song arrangement, adding another 50+ songs to play through (even more if you played on the iOS). Curtain Call ups the ante by offering a staggering 221 songs right out of the box (though you’ll need to unlock some of them through playing enough songs), bringing nearly every single song an DLC song from the original offering and then some. On top of that there’s already over 50 songs available as DLC. No matter which was your favorite Final Fantasy game, you’re bound to find dozens of songs that bring back all kinds of memories in Curtain Call.
Speaking of games, Curtain Call of course lets you play through songs from Final Fantasy I through XIII, but it also adds a handful of new games to enjoy music from as well. Final Fantasy Tactics and Crystal Chronicles were great additions in my opinion, as well as games that just were released (Lightning Returns) and a title that’s not even out yet (Final Fantasy Type-O). I have to give a shoutout to Mystic Quest which even sees the game’s protagonist Benjamin join the cast as a playable character. I have to hand it to Square Enix: they really gave the fans what they wanted and offered plenty of new, loved games to Curtain Call’s soundtrack.
Gameplay remains the same in Curtain Call, with the exception of a couple small additions. Critical notes are a neat touch that give you a chance to deal extra damage to your foes. Every now and then a note on the track will be glowing with radiant light, and should you tap the note perfectly and score a “Critical” rating, you’ll deal extra damage to your enemy. Get anything less than perfect and you missed your chance. It’s a fun addition that makes the game a bit more intense while not adding too much depth. I found myself pretty furious whenever I miss those Critical notes, especially when battling a boss monster.
Also new to the game are “Quest Medley’s”, which essentially replace the “Dark Notes” from the original. Each Quest Medley has you going through a string of songs on an overworld map with only one continuous life bar. Between songs you can use items like Potions to restore HP or Gyshal Whistles to ensure you see a Fat Chocobo on your next song. Each Quest Medley has multiple paths to take, some locked doors you first need to find keys to get through, and plenty of boss monsters to battle to earn bigger rewards. It’s Curtain Call’s attempt to inject the classic Final Fantasy RPG formula into the rhythm game. It tries admirably to be something grand with all the items and paths, but ultimately you can play through each Quest Medley without any thought to your plan of attack, which is a far cry to some end-game Final Fantasy bosses. Still, it’s a nice addition, an improvement over the previous game’s mode, and the best way to unlock more characters to use!
Among the items you can garner from completing songs, you will also start to accrue items known as CollectaCards. In the game they are represented as collectible trading cards, each featuring a character or enemy from the game. They’re fun to look at and offer a bit of trivia on the backside, but they also serve a greater purpose. Always the series for creating ridiculous words, in the “CollectaCard Crystarium” you can select up to 8 of your earned cards to synthesize into permanent stat-boosting traits for a character. Each card has a different ability it can give, like raising HP or boosting overall agility. It’s a fun diversion to the “grinding” of the main game, but as stated before, Curtain Call doesn’t require you to ever need boosted stats to play, win, or otherwise enjoy the game. Regardless, there are tons of these cards, and each has three levels of rarity to collect, so enthusiasts will have their work cut out for them if they want to see them all.
Every game represented in Curtain Call via music also has a matching protagonist to put in your party. All the main stalwarts are there, as well as everyone from the previous game, but Curtain Call also adds over a dozen new characters to play. My personal favorite inclusions were Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics and Barret from Final Fantasy VII (he looks so cute with his gun hand!). Each character has stats reflective of their core FF game characteristics. For example, Vivi from Final Fantasy IX has a much higher magic stat than Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, who favors strength. Ultimately it won’t really come into effect, because the game is never so challenging that you need to stack your team with specific characters, which is really a shame. You do get rewarded with more Rhythmia, the game’s point system for unlocking additional content, if you use characters from the same game as the song you’re playing, but it’s not a worthwhile incentive to play as anyone other than your personal favorites.
As with it predecessor, Curtain Call sounds absolutely wonderful. The tracks included are perfect in quality and the range of song variety is astounding. I really noticed the vast differences in the soundtrack when playing a couple randomly selected songs and going from the joyous 8-bit bleeps of Final Fantasy II’s battle hymn, to the fully orchestrated representation of One-Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. In that moment I realized how great the music was, regardless of the system it was initially made. Pretty much every major and popular Final Fantasy song is included, although there are bound to be some fan-favorites missing from the bunch (Stolen Eyes from FFIX!!).
Visually the game uses cute, chibi-versions of everything. The almost doll-like apperance of each character is going to be hit or miss for a lot of gamers, but I personally found them endearing. Seeing little Firion with his funky hair and earrings next to an adorable version of Yuna is totally awesome! Better yet, the backgrounds for each stage always has some sort of corresponding connection to the title it’s originally from. For example, in Final Fantasy VIII’s Waltz for the Moon stage, you’ll see the SeeD ship in the background. If you’ve played the games you’ll notice these nods, and it makes it all the better. Returning are the “Event Music Stages”, which have you tapping in tune to the music over a beautifully rendered CGI cutscene from the game. These modes look gorgeous but are rather hard to play accurately because you’ll find yourself wanting to just watch the cutscene instead of play the game! Thankfully a Theater mode is unlocked after playing each song so you can enjoy them at your leisure.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, Curtain Call is above and beyond the better of the two Theatrhythm games. It adds a ton of new content to the original, while retaining everything that mode the first game so enjoyable and improving on literally everything that wasn’t up to standard. Over 200 songs is a game changer alone, but the addition of multiple new games to pull said songs from, new characters to play, tons of content to find and unlock, DLC to keep the game going longer (if all that stuff wasn’t enough for you already), and added Multiplayer and StreetPass support make Curtain Call the definitive version of the spinoff series.
Here’s hoping we’ll get another installment with 400 SONGS FROM EVERY GAME EVER TO BEAR THE FINAL FANTASY NAME. I’m holding out for some content from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.