With the passing of a certain amount of time, and the release of numerous remarkable games, some companies and franchises acquire the right to bask under the light of their own glory for a little while. Sometimes it is done by the addition of retro content into new installments, like returning Mario Kart tracks; on other occasions it is achieved by remaking old classics, such as the recent Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time overhauls; and from time to time the magic is recreated by giving small nods to iconic characters and moments, like the exhilarating mine-cart stages reappearing on the Donkey Kong Country Returns titles.
Better yet, there are times when the self-gratification gets blown out of proportion in such a way that we end up with full games whose spirits are solely bent on commemorating an astonishing legacy. That case can clearly be exemplified by the Super Smash Bros series: a celebration of Nintendo’s greatest assets in the shape of a thrilling brawler.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call for the Nintendo 3DS is to Square Enix what the aforementioned fighter is to Nintendo. It is an opportunity to sit down, analyze what has been done in the past, and mold everything that is evaluated as being of the utmost quality under the same gameplay umbrella.
Little to no gaming sagas have been able to amass soundtracks that are comparable to what the greatest Final Fantasy games have offered. And when one takes into account that the mother of all RPG series has been doing so for nearly thirty years, one thing becomes obvious: there are a boatload of great songs sitting idly out there, so someone should put them to good use.
It is no surprise, then, that the grand ceremony to honor the franchise’s glorious past is Theatrhythm: a musical series that has reached its second and, by far, most complete effort with Curtain Call. The greatest, and smartest, thing about the game is that the form on which the songs and rhythmic challenges are presented gives plenty of room for the recognition of facets of the Final Fantasy games that extend beyond its music.
The motions that are, preferably, to be performed with the stylus float across a backdrop that displays either turn-based-style battles, trips through large scenarios, or – in a few restricted cases – full-blown cutscenes. Each of the three cases slightly alter the way on which the icons appear: on the first the cues rush across four lines towards the cursors standing over the party of characters, on the second there are unique movement prompts, and on the last one it is the cursor, not the icons, that move.
It is a division that gives the game’s 221 songs, coming from 27 games, a good deal of variety. But, most importantly than that, the three groups allow Square to bring to the spotlight different properties that have been key in the construction of the franchise. Battles highlight enemies, heroes, and their unique abilities; field trips carry locations to the forefront; and cutscenes remember the cinematographic aspect of the most recent outings.
Under that massive layer of content and musicality lies an RPG platform that makes Curtain Call, like its predecessor, stand out in relation to other games of their genre. Among a ridiculously vast selection of famous characters, players must put together a party in order to tackle the different challenges, and keeping each member’s stats and abilities in mind is very important given that the three styles of gameplay benefit different strengths and take advantage of certain weaknesses.
That RPG clutch becomes even more apparent on the game’s Quest Mode on which, instead of freely selecting tunes from a playlist, gamers must – with the aid of items to restore the party’s energy – navigate through an overworld composed of a series of songs that have to be cleared sequentially on the way to a final boss battle.
Despite those interesting role-playing quirks, Curtain Call is – at heart – a rhythm game, and a very good one at that. After all, it checks all prerequisites a game belonging to that niche needs to have: smooth controls, a large collection of great songs, many modes, and movement prompts that are nicely matched with the tunes.
In the end, that intended victory of rhythm over RPG plays right into the hands of the game, because it allows even those who are not Final Fantasy fans to enjoy it greatly. The followers of Square’s finest work will see it as a great experience that is also a gateway to joyful memories, while outsiders will perceive Curtain Call as a pure fun, engaging, and loaded musical game. And both sides are completely correct.