© 2024 KOSU
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Theatrhythm Final Bar Line' Review: Reliving the best kind of nostalgia

Play along to the music from over three decades of <em>Final Fantasy </em>titles in <em>Theatrhythm Final Bar Line</em>.
Square Enix
Play along to the music from over three decades of Final Fantasy titles in Theatrhythm Final Bar Line.

Updated February 14, 2023 at 4:26 PM ET

If you were to ask me what game I was playing at any time over the past 25 years, odds are that Final Fantasy would be in the title. I love its stories, characters, and world-building, but the most endearing and memorable aspect of the series has always been its music.

The soundtracks still serve as the background score for my life. I have a meticulously curated Final Fantasy playlist on Spotify that I listen to so much it consistently lands at the top of my year in review list. I used to play Final Fantasy VI so often as a kid that it even got to my mom — she now relaxes to YouTube playlists of its soundtrack.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line breathes new life into songs that I've heard hundreds of times with its snappy action and whimsical presentation. It evokes the best kind of nostalgia and just made me feel good when playing it. Like, good in my soul.

Yes, Big Chocobo does make an appearance in<em> Theatrhythm Final Bar Line</em>.
/ Square Enix
Square Enix
Yes, Big Chocobo does make an appearance.

Rock Out

If you've played any rhythm game, Final Bar Line should be easy enough to pick up. Think Guitar Hero, but substitute the fretboard for a sequence of buttons to hit on your controller. There are a couple of distinct flourishes, like when you hold a button and follow notes using the joystick, which at times can almost feel like you're conducting an orchestra. I especially enjoyed this mechanic during sweeping overtures like the main theme from Final Fantasy VII.

The game features a broad catalog from the series' greatest composers; from Nobuo Uematsu to Masashi Hamauzu to Hitoshi Sakimoto. It boasts 385 tracks from mainline entries and the plethora of spin-offs and sequels — almost double that of its 2014 predecessor Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call.

Don't be fooled by the flat chibi art style; Theatrhythm Final Bar Line has impressive depth. During my playthrough, it felt like I was just scratching the surface. I mostly stayed at the Basic and Expert difficulties because I focused more on feeling the music rather than mastering the precision and speed required at higher difficulties. I only ventured into Supreme and Ultimate a couple of times before crashing and burning mere seconds after beginning.

Customize your party to beat difficult challenges.
/ Square Enix
Square Enix
Customize your party to beat difficult challenges.

Party On

There are also role-playing elements that add to the game's replayability. You create a party of four from an expansive roster of 100 characters that are unlocked as you play through each entry. I ended up with a mix of my favorite heroes from Final Fantasy VI, VII, and IV — which was a blast.

Customizing your party plays a key role in completing the quests that accompany each song. These quests range from finishing a perfect run to defeating a series of monsters during each track's runtime. In order to beat some of these challenges, you'll have to customize your party with different abilities that play to enemy weaknesses. The combat itself is automated, but setting up abilities ahead of battles is fun enough to give you a reason to return to your favorite songs.

If you appreciate the soundtracks of Final Fantasy and/or happiness, you should probably play this game. It celebrates 36 years of music from a franchise near and dear to the gaming community. Now, if you excuse me, I'm going to lounge in my favorite chair and relive some of my best childhood memories.

James Perkins Mastromarino contributed to this story. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andy Bickerton
Andy Bickerton contributes to NPR's gaming coverage and acts as digital strategy analyst for the newsroom. Data is his forte, video games are his passion. He's based in Anchorage, Alaska, and really doesn't mind freezing temperatures.
KOSU is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.