Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review: "Tailor-made for Final Fantasy fans"

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review: "Tailor-made for Final Fantasy fans"
Images via Square Enix

Written by 

Harry Boulton


8th Mar 2023 14:36

While it could be argued that Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is catering to a rather specific audience, the third mainline entry into the series is aiming to be the ultimate musical destination for fans of the Final Fantasy series.

With the sheer number of tracks, you might be wondering if the game does enough to distinguish between them. Thankfully though, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line emerges as a worthy celebration of the vast and celebrated Final Fantasy musical collection, and it is very much a must-play if you hold any of the series' songs close to your heart.

Collection of dreams

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line review
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The single most impressive aspect of Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is how staggeringly comprehensive it is. You might think that including songs from all fifteen mainline Final Fantasy titles is more than enough, but Square Enix has gone above and beyond here.

There is at least one track from every single Final Fantasy game in here, including more acclaimed spin-off games like Final Fantasy Tactics, the most obscure mobile titles, and even Nobuo Uematsu's Final Fantasy cover band.

It is frankly quite overwhelming when you first start up the game, as you are asked to pick which game you want to start with, but Theatrhythm Final Bar Line does an excellent job of easing you into the full tracklist, while also giving you broader freedom of choice.

You'll start with one game, and then have to work your way through the stages until you get another stage key about halfway through. This always gives you something to work towards while keeping things relatively focused and streamlined, which is very much appreciated in a game with 385 total tracks.

Furthermore, there is a DLC track list nearly as large as the original game which is being progressively released over the next year or so, compiling the best songs from your other favourite Square Enix titles. While Theatrhythm as a series has been mostly Final Fantasy focused, it is great that they are giving space to other iconic scores like Chrono Trigger, Nier, and the SaGa series.

There are some personal favourites missing from the collection, but it is understandable that they cannot include every single track released within a Final Fantasy game. However, it was quite frustrating to see some of these tracks cut short compared to other songs from more popular titles like Final Fantasy VII. It is not the case that the FFVII songs should be cut too, but it was disappointing that personal favourites like Dust to Dust were restricted in length.

Move to the rhythm

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line review
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As a rhythm game, the core of Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is of course the songs themselves. Each track gives you three base note types that you will need to match, ranging from single and held button presses to directional inputs with the analogue stick.

You will also have to incorporate multi-button presses at times, and also move up and down as some of the held actions get a bit wavy. You're not only judged on your timing either, as there are various enemies and bosses that you can take down by perfecting your inputs - making each stage feel even more dramatic.

The game is also very flexible with its difficulty, allowing you to create an experience that suits what you want to get out of the game. The easiest difficulty settings perfectly serve those who want to just enjoy the music and relax with the game - giving you enough inputs to keep you engaged while not throwing too much at you.

On the flip side, if you're wanting a challenge then Theatrhythm Final Bar Line can certainly serve that to you. Stages on the harder difficulties can get incredibly fast and hectic, letting only those with the nimblest fingers succeed and reach the S ranks. You'll likely need to ramp up the difficulty if you're wanting to complete most of the quests and get all of the special items too, giving an extra layer of replayability that is very much welcome in a game like this.

One aspect that perhaps might turn some people off however is the lack of any real narrative or story structure, but that is generally not a problem in the slightest. Final Fantasy as a series is well known for its grand narratives, but the beauty of Theatrhythm lies within its simplicity.

I never felt as if I needed any motivation to move through all of the titles beyond my own love for the music, and a story might have simply got in the way of my actual enjoyment. You could perhaps propose that this makes the game less appealing for those who aren't Final Fantasy fans, but there is plenty to keep you engaged within the actual gameplay that this shouldn't matter.

Easy ride

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line review
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It is quite staggering how easy Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is to just keep playing. Following in the footsteps of games like Football Manager and Civilization, just one more turn shifts into just one more song, as each new stage is conveniently presented in front of you.

You think 'why not? It's only a few more minutes' and then suddenly you've been playing for a couple of hours and have made it through five whole Final Fantasy games. This is especially true for titles with an extended track list like Final Fantasy XIV, where it is so easy to continue your progression and see all of your favourite songs.

On the other hand, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line also serves as the perfect game to just pick up and play if you've only got a few minutes in between other things you need to do. The main game mode is great for extended sessions when you want to work through everything, but there is a quick play option if you want to just jump in and give your favourite tracks a go. The world would certainly be a better place if everyone was able to pop Serenity on in a stressful moment.

The Verdict

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line review
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Overall, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is simply essential if you're a Final Fantasy fan, as it serves as the perfect celebration of the hundreds of tracks that we hold so close to our hearts.

It hits that wonderful balance between challenge and relaxation that can be shifted further either way if you so wish. It is a game that I can see myself always returning to whenever I have some downtime, and with the arrival of the additional DLC tracks my love for the game will only grow.


Reviewed on PS5. Code provided by the publisher.