Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for the 3DS is a title that probably isn’t on the radar of many gamers, outside of the most die-hard fans of Final Fantasy. We can tell you that after our time with the game at PAX East 2012, we were very impressed. The controls are responsive and the game more than satisfies that nostalgic itch for classic Final Fantasy music.

The interest in orchestral renditions of popular video game music has been on the rise for the past year or more. Most notably with Tommy Tallarico’s Video Games Live tour and the 25th anniversary of the Zelda series last year. Final Fantasy has also had their share of concerts and Square Enix realized that they were long overdue to satisfy this niche market.

Naturally, there’s an RPG element to Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. To start, players choose four characters from various Final Fantasy titles to form a party. Players will then use this party for the game’s various modes. During the game, players can acquire crystals which then unlock other Final Fantasy characters. Choosing party members is just like any other RPG; each member has their own special attributes that will assist in completing challenges. We’ll talk more about these while discussing each of the modes.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy PAX East 2012 Characters

The main portion of the game is the Series Mode, which is basically the campaign, where players will take part in three main events: Field, Battle and Event. First, players will choose the Final Fantasy title whey want to play. For this demo I picked Final Fantasy 7 since it’s my favorite. Then the Series Mode begins with the opening theme for that game. Players have the option to skip the opening theme, but it serves as a small tutorial for the rest of the series. During the opening, all players have to do is tap on the crystal in the middle of the screen to feel the rhythm of the music to warm up and for the adventure ahead.

First up is the Field Mode with a grey circular mark on the right-hand of the screen. Notes move from left to right and it’s the player’s job to hit those notes when they reach the mark. There are notes that require only a tap and others that require the player to input a swipe in the direction indicated on the note. There are also segments requiring the player to hold the note. Sometimes these segments can end with a swiping motion, so it’s best to stay alert.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy PAX East 2012 Field Mode

In the background of the Field Mode, one of the party members can be seen walking – miss a note and they fall and a bit of health is taken away from an HP bar at the top. Another party member picks up where the last one left off. Fail enough times and the level is over. It’s in modes like this where it’s good to have a party member with a high speed attribute so they can make it through the level quicker.

Next up is the Battle Mode and those reading can probably already guess what this mode is all about. Hitting the required notes will unleash attacks on opposing enemies. Just like the Field Mode, having a party member that has a good attack stat will result in more damage on the enemy. Eventually, gamers will reach the boss of the battle mode and will move on to the final level, the Event Mode, after defeating him.

The Event Mode is similar to the Field Mode except the grey mark is on a track, and players have to hit the notes as this mark moves over notes on the mark. In the background there’s one ore more cinematic events playing from the Final Fantasy title chosen.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy PAX East 2012 Battle Mode

At the end of each mode the iconic Final Fantasy victory music plays and a ranking is given to the player, and experience is divided out to the party members. Players will also acquire CollectaCards that they can collect and trade with StreetPass.

As someone who wasn’t interested in Rock Band or Guitar Hero — I did enjoy DJ Hero though — before going to checkout Theatrhythm, the game was never on my radar even though I love Final Fantasy and its music. By the middle of the Battle Mode, I was hooked. The controls were responsive and didn’t require the precise timing like in Rhythm Heaven. The game is very accessible for beginners and can get pretty challenging for the more hardcore gamers.

3DS owners who love Final Fantasy will want to buy this game, and rhythm game enthusiasts will also enjoy it. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is the first rhythm game for the Final Fantasy franchise and will eventually support DLC and the upcoming Nintendo Network.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is due out on July 3, 2012 for the 3DS.

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