Review by MukiEX

"So much done right that their mis-steps are all the more glaring."

So first off that 4 encompasses a LOT of things, not merely the core mechanics. For that we're closer to an 8-10. Think Tekken on the 3DS.

So first off, I'm not sure I need to give you an overview, given that the core game is free and therefore pretty easy to try out. But here it goes anyway. Theatrhythm is a rhythm game based on the final fantasy series. The gameplay is pretty straightforward. You pick a song, the music starts playing, and marker notes will come across the screen. When they hit the shaded column on the right, you tap the screen. The marker notes will land on that column with the beat of the song, and your accuracy will determine your score. Missing a tap will result in a loss of "HP", and running outta that is a song failure. There's three types of notes: Taps (tap the screen as the note lands), holds (hold a press until the note's green bar ends), swipes (swipe in the direction shown on the gold note instead of tapping; hold notes can also end with swipes). Basically, if you enjoy any number of rhythm games (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Elite Beat Agents / Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, DDR, Beatmania, etc), you'll probably like this game. ALL of the music comes from Final Fantasy titles, as one might gather from the title.

It's 2012, if you need more info than that you can find it via Youtube or just downloading the game. Once again, it's free. Now, given my title, the rest of the review will break down into what they did right, and otherwise.

Graphics:

This game originally came out on the 3DS and it shows. Pretty much all the graphical assets were used as-is, which makes this a sharp pretty game on your iPhone/iPod and a slightly less sharp, slightly less pretty game on your iPad/iPad mini. The art style is simpified using that "2D Marionette" look (characters are all made up of pieces that rotate for animation).

The framerate was pretty nice and smooth on my 3rd gen iPad, though note that notifications WILL slow your game down, which can be frustrating during the harder songs. In addition, the iPad version seems to be running at non-"retina" resolution, so you'll see some notable pixelation for a game whose graphical fidelity don't really seem to warranty that choice.

However, the game has a pretty, simple, stylized art style, and graphics aren't particularly important. Just note that it's servicable, and if you already have it on 3DS, there's no surprises here. Which leads us to...

Gameplay:

The mechanics are as tight as you'd expect from Square. At no point in my last 10+ hours of play have I ever felt like the game didn't register a swipe or tap. If you're used to the 3DS version, the first thing you'll notice is that using your finger is more than viable, as the sensors on iOS devices are more than sensitive enough (look up "capacitive vs resistive" on Google if you want more info on this).

Of note for beginners: You don't actually have to tap any specific spot on the screen. Anywhere will do as long as you're on rhythm. That might initially seem confusing in battle segments, where the action goes across 4 different rows, but it doesn't matter. Just tap the screen anywhere you feel comfortable.

Structure:

So here we go into the meat and potatoes of this review.

Sigh.

There's a lot this game does right. I mean, the demo is the full game, and you can buy the content (songs, characters, etc.) individually through DLC. However, as you play, the clumsiness of the system becomes apparently right off. There's not much good here, and these points encompass the entirety of the marks I took off this review.

1. No iCloud saving. The game is a universal app, so if you own both an iPad and iPhone/iPod of some sort, downloading to one will probably send the game to your other device. Any music you buy is available on both devices (we'll get to that). However, any progress you make in the quest mode, and any scores you amass on the levels are stuck on the device you played it on. There's a "user name", but there's no way to make that a linked save between your devices. It's actually a little frustrating if you like playing on both, as the pads' bigger screens make for a beautiful presentation, but the pod/phone makes for a fun diversion in a pinch. Sadly, as of release in mid-December of 2012, that means your progress is going to be different on each one.

2. VERY clumsy DLC system. So first off, there's, max, about 15 Final Fantasy titles (FFI-XIII, XIII-2, X-2). Meaning there's as many covers. Meaning that this is ALL the game has to keep in memory, and the text that designates each song is NEGLIGIBLE, space-wise.

...

... So why Square decided to only show you about half a dozen songs, and make you click the "Show more" button at the bottom of the screen for every six songs further down the list, I will never understand. It makes giving them your money a very laborious process.

This wouldn't be so bad if not for how hard it is to sync that content between devices. As mentioned, all of the songs you buy on one are available on the other. However, there's no way to get a small list of all of your purchased songs, or even to just download them all at once. No, if you want to access stuff you've payed for, you'll have to:
- press the "See More" button in your section until you get to your purchased content
- click the content (which will say on it, "already bought")
- have Apple ask you to pay for it (not kidding)
- hit okay
- have Apple tell you that you've already payed for it.
- download your song/set/character.
You'll need to do this for EVERY purchase. To make matters worse, there is a button called "restore purchases" at the top of the screen. Don't worry, this button does NOTHING. The "already bought" designation will be on the song regardless of whether or not your hit that button. The button will not automatically download anything. Basically, it seems like a button that either did something in the past or will do something in the future, but right now, it's about as useful as the placebo "Door Close" button on some elevators.

3. Sad shell of a quest system. I haven't played through the 3DS build, but I'm guessing that the game's quest system allowed you to earn songs and characters in the game, as is typical on this type of console game. Because nearly all of that content is DLC in this release, this system doesn't really exist. The "quest" system present is a randomized playlist builder, in which you earn cards in an achivement-like way. Keep in mind that because it's a randomized song list, if you don't have a lot of music purchased, it will be frighteningly boring (as you'll bounce between the same two songs for every stage). The feeling of accomplishment isn't really there, which is a little disheartening.

4. Obscene load times. For the simplicity of the graphics, the fact that the songs can be streamed, and the fact that iOS devices run on pretty decent flash memory, the load times for this game are more than a little song. As I have the 3DS demo I could compare, and it loads quite a bit faster, made sadder by the fact that I have a pretty cheap SD card in my 3DS.

5. Game is still loads of fun. Keep in mind that, for all my gripes, I'm actually quite happy with this game. The mechanics are addictive, the presentation is nice, the music quality is great, and at the end of the day, I'll probably sync days' worth of time into this title. If you have fun playing the demo, I assure you, you'll love it with more songs.

Story:

There's essentially none. If the 3DS version had one, I can guarantee you that it's not here. Once again, due to their architecture (make everything purchasable), the quest system is essentially a random playlist builder. Yay.

Sound:

Music and sound effects seem to be a step up from the 3DS version, more than likely mostly due to the rather cheap audio hardware on the 3DS.

Replay Value:

If you like your rhythm games to be challenging, you'll have a blast here. On top of a truly challenging "ultimate" difficulty for songs, there also seems to be an option for user-made note lists, so replay value may very well be theoretically endless.

In closing, if you're looking to pick up this game, read the "structure" portion of this review. If the list of gripes I have aren't deal breakers, go ahead and pick it up. You'll probably love this game. Worst case, you'll know from playing the "demo" content if you will or not without having to spend a time.

Now I'm going back to play "Man with the Machine Gun" on ultimate 'til I beat that song >_<


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/12

Game Release: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (US, 12/13/12)


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