Content Continues Below

My favorite 3DS game was Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call. I figured it would be best to get that out of the way now. It was the title I spent the most time with on the system, aside from Animal Crossing: New Leaf. As a result of this extensive exposure, I was in two minds about a new entry as soon as it was announced. I was extremely excited to see the series head to consoles for the first time, absolutely, but also very cautious as I had always played the series with a stylus and touch screen.

Thankfully, my worries were unfounded, and Theatrhythm Final Bar Line might just become one of my favorite games on the Switch.

Final Bar Line, despite losing the “Fantasy” part of the name, is still a Final Fantasy rhythm game at its core. DLC is set to add many other Square Enix games to the library, but the base roster of songs is nothing but FF. Thankfully that’s no bad thing, as the series has always had an eclectic sense of style, leading to a wide range of genres being covered. There are the traditional orchestrations of the classic games, the ethereal vibes of the XIII trilogy, the rocking guitars of Crisis Core, the woodwinds of Crystal Chronicles… It’s very hard to get bored.

Mechanically Final Bar Line is split into three categories – Battle, Field, and Event music stages (BMS, FMS, and EMS). In battle stages you’ll have four lines to tap, flick, and hold to the beat on and they’re by far the most prevalent in the game. Field music stages, meanwhile, have a single lane for the most part but you’ll have to move the analog stick up and down to follow the track sometimes. This can take some time to get used to, especially if you previously played with a touch screen, but once you learn you can simply go all-out holding in whatever direction the line will go, you’ll have an easier time.

Event Music Stages are by far the rarest, being unlocked by Series Quests. These are functionally the same as BMS but with a vertical set-up as a movie depicting iconic scenes runs in the background. Naturally these are filled with spoilers, but thankfully unlike earlier Theatrhythm games these are optional.

The Series Quest mode is the core of Final Bar Line. Here, you choose a game or general category and go down a path that roughly follows said entries’ narrative in musical form. For example, picking Final Fantasy VII will start you at Opening: Bombing Mission and end with the ever-iconic One Winged Angel. Along the way you might get an option of multiple tunes to progress, but it’s encouraged to go back and complete them all, thanks to sidequests.

Each track in Series Quests has these extra objectives that’ll net you a variety of bonuses, from in-game items to collectible cards and even adorable cosmetic moogle outfits. These quests can be very easy, like having a specific character in your party, or quite tricky, like defeating a boss. This is where the metagame of Theatrhythm comes to the forefront and it’s what sets the series apart from all other rhythm games.

While changing characters in and out of your party might seem like nothing but an aesthetic decision, if you want to see everything Final Bar Line has to offer you’ll need to engage with Party Edit on a much deeper level. Characters fall into a variety of categories, like Attacker, Hunter, Healer, and each has their own pool of abilities unlocked by levelling up.

Say, for example, you need to defeat the Green Dragon on a certain stage. If you’re confident in your skill at the song in question, you might choose to forgo healers and go on an all-out offensive with max-level Attack characters. If the quest is to find treasure chests, meanwhile, swapping in a bunch of sneaky Hunters can make that a breeze. It is key to consider these decisions when you play the unlockable Endless World mode, where you’re given a randomised, endless series of quests to complete where three failures result in the end of your run.

Ultimately if you’re just here for the tunes then you can get by just fine by ignoring all of the RPG mechanics – the only things gated behind them are the CollectaCards, which themselves only affect the stats of characters. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy, though, you’ll want to snag as many as possible, especially with the Memory section featuring a wide selection of artworks, screenshots, and renders from the games.

Truly the level of fanservice in Final Bar Line is on another level. The characters still spout random quotes from their games, from the iconic (“let’s mosey”) to the more obscure, and perhaps the best surprise came when the game actively celebrated the birthdays of characters. What was once a minor footnote in the manual is now a game mechanic to look forward to, as you get some EXP boosting items with every big day. Each song also features unique album artwork often referencing iconic pieces of artwork or associated moments. The Warrior of Light burning his little toesies in the Mt. Gulg art is perfect.

The selection of games is truly comprehensive, too. While it’s telling as to how game development has changed in the past decade with the only new mainline entry since Curtain Call being Final Fantasy XV, the spin-offs are tapped cleverly. Last year’s Stranger of Paradise is present and correct for a few tunes, various mobile entries are naturally included, and even the obscure Bravely Default precursor Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light is here. That said, there are some strange omissions – only one World of Final Fantasy song?

The approach to downloadable content is also bound to frustrate some players. While it’s nowhere near as egregious as Curtain Call’s laborious piecemeal approach, the sequestering of some of the Final Fantasy series’ most iconic songs to the Deluxe edition is a bit baffling. “Eyes on Me” and “Melodies of Life” in particular being premium also means they can’t accompany the EMS videos for Final Fantasy VIII and IX, respectively. At least they were wise enough not to try that with Final Fantasy X’s “Suteki da Ne”.

Much like Curtain Call before it, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line will undoubtedly become a mainstay of my Nintendo Switch rotation. With its extremely compelling “just-one-more” gameplay loop, clever implementation of RPG mechanics, and love for all aspects of Final Fantasy, it’s an absolute gem.

Leave a Comment
  • Massive library of music
  • Solid gameplay
  • Very compelling RPG mechanics
  • So much content it’s hard to imagine completing it all
  • Deluxe DLC feels detrimental to overall experience

System: Nintendo Switch

Release Date: February 16, 2023

Categories: Rhythm, RPG

Publisher: Square Enix, indieszero

Developer: Square Enix

Written by Tom Brown

Whether it’s an exciting new entry in a series long established or a weird experiment meant only for the dedicated, Tom is eager to report on it. Rest assured, if Nintendo ever announces Elite Beat Agents 2, he’ll be there.