“Curtain Call” Review: We Go Now–Bravely–In the Name of–Mog!

If there’s one thing that I wish Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call had that the original game did, it’s the cheesy, four-part battle-cries that preceded each song (that, and an easier title to work with). Fans of the first game know what I’m talking about. In Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (not Curtain Call), the player will receive a different rallying call depending on his/her party members. Not so with the sequel. Instead, the characters will make their way center stage and yell something related to their particular backstory. Not a bad replacement, and while I can understand why they opted for it instead, I miss the patchwork–usually nonsensical–pep shouts that are, to me, very endearing.

That’s not to say that Curtain Call has lost the charm of its predecessor. Far from it. From the lovable chibi versions of your favorite Final Fantasy characters, to the kweh-ing of baby chocobos, there’s so much for the Final Fantasy fan to like.

But even if you aren’t familiar with the sounds and sights of Final Fantasy, there’s still a lot to like in Curtain Call. You can tell that Square Enix has pushed the Nintendo 3DS to its limits here–not because the graphics are going to blow your mind (although the aesthetic here is beautifully polished and smoothly executed)–but because there’s just so much content.

With 221 songs (not including downloadable content) and 60 playable characters (up from the original title’s 38!) and multiple game modes, you get the depth of a console game, with all the rapidity and pick-me-up challenge of a handheld. It’s a masterful balance that Square Enix and developer indieszero have struck here, not only by “rhythm game” standards, but by any standard of any genre. I know, this sounds like high praise, but believe you me, it’s warranted. I’ve been playing (with small Destiny breaks) ever since I picked it up after class. This is my life now:

Among Curtain Calls new features is a VS mode, where the player can go head-to-head with a friend via internet or wireless. I haven’t yet tried out this mode for myself, but apparently you’re able to use moves called EX Bursts against each other, which–if I understand correctly–can really mess up your opponent. It sounds hectic, frustrating, and therefore perfect to play with someone you know and can harm bodily without being arrested.

Curtain Call also allows new play styles for the player to choose from. You can now use the buttons and the circle pad to play, instead of only the stylus. You can also use both in combination with each other (the game calls it “hybrid” style), OR you can play one-handed, using just the circle pad and the L button. Curtain Call describes this mode as for use by “pros,” and when you play a song one-handed–boy, do you feel like a badass. For the record, I have yet to feel like a badass. It’s harder than it sounds, especially if you ain’t no southpaw.

But far and away my favorite addition that Curtain Call brings to the table is how the player acquires new characters. Once you get enough crystals of a certain color, you get a new character. That’s how it worked the first game, and that’s how it works in this one–but with two differences. Firstly, the makers have reduced the number of crystals needed to obtain a new character: four, down from eight. Secondly, once you’ve acquired enough crystals, you’re given a choice of new character, from a group of four. This makes unlocking new characters much less time-consuming, and more tailored to the preferences of the player. (I don’t want you, Aerith Gainsborough. Go get hilariously stabbed by an overcompensating swordsman with serious mommy issues.)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. See ya, Scrappy.

Regarding the song selection: of course, most of the music here is composed by the one and only Uematsu Nobuo, but Sakimoto Hitoshi (Final Fantasy XII) and Hamauzu Masashi (XIII) shine nearly as bright. Themes by Soken Masayoshi are present in Curtain Call as well, bringing the sprawling, MMORPG essence of Final Fantasy XIV with it.

Rating: A refined sequel to an addictive rhythm game, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call delivers a great experience to Final Fantasy music lovers, and an even greater one to just plain-old music lovers. A-

According to producer Hazama Ichiro, Curtain Call will not have a sequel. Square Enix will continue to support it with DLC, but there won’t be a third game. Disappointing news to be sure, but surely this means they’re making a Theatrhythm Legend of Zelda, right? =)

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