Making a game for fans is a tricky business. A developer needs to know what makes a particular brand special, pinpoint central values and themes that run through it, and reproduce them flawlessly for a passionate audience.
So when the company behind traditional JRPG series Final Fantasy makes a rhythm-action title based on the main 13 releases in the franchise, you can be forgiven for assuming that it'll be a disaster.
Thankfully, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a brilliant and respectful spin-off that highlights the fantastic compositions of Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, et al.Are you ready? 3, 2, 1... go!
In essence, it's Elite Beat Agents with RPG elements. You start the game by building a party of four characters. Those on offer generally consist of lead characters from Final Fantasy I through XIII - Cloud, Squall, Vaan, and so on.
There are different modes available to tackle the massive number of soundtracks on offer, but you'll want to start with Series mode. Choosing a Final Fantasy title to play a selection of its tunes, you're given five sections to work through. There's the intro and outro, a Battle Music stage, Field Music stage, and Event Music stage.
All interaction is handled with the stylus as symbols appear on the screen. Red circles require a tap, yellow arrows a swipe in the indicated direction, and green circles ask you to tap and hold.
No matter the mode, you can use any area of the touchscreen to initiate the input - the different stages simply determine how they're presented to you.
In the Event Music stage a video plays in the background and the note markers join to form a guide line that darts about the screen. The Battle Music stage, meanwhile, has four channels (much like in Rock Band) with notes appearing from the left.
It's simple but satisfying rhythm-action stuff, which all boils down to hitting the screen at the right time. You're judged how accurately you follow the tune and you're awarded points accordingly.Are you experienced?
These points translate to XP, which levels up your party members, unlocking new abilities with which to customise your team. These give you bonuses, such as the ability to miss more notes without failing a level or to increase your movement speed through the Field Music stage to find items.
You also gain Rhythmia points throughout your activities, granting access to more content and modes. This includes the Challenge mode, in which you re-attempt cleared songs for better scores, with additional difficulty levels for seasoned players.
Trading card-style CollectaCards, requirement-specific Trophies, and randomly generated challenges in the Chaos Shrine round out this generous package.
The release is unfortunately marred by a couple of notable omissions in track selection, but these gaps will hopefully be filled with upcoming DLC.
Capturing the often touching, often dramatic, always epic atmosphere of the series, Theatrhythm will be music to the ears of any Final Fantasy fan. More importantly, it's a fine rhythm-action game.