Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line review: A celebration of incredible music

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Title: Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line
Developer: Indies zero Co.,Ltd
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms:  Nintendo Switch (reviewed on), PlayStation 4
Release Date: February 16, 2023

Full disclosure, I am a massive Theatrhythm fan. I’ve played almost all of them, even importing a copy of Theatrhythm: Dragon Quest which only launched in Japan because I needed more. My only lament is I never got to play the awesome-looking arcade version, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: All-Star Carnival, which looked insane.

So when I was approached to ask if I was interested in covering the new Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, I almost went through the roof. It was written on my calendar, I had been staring at it, reminding myself when it was releasing since the new 2023 calendar went up in my house.

Now that I’ve played it, I have to say, it’s fantastic.

At the beginning of the game, you’re given a choice of which Final Fantasy “world” you want to unlock. Each world is essentially one of the various games.

In the beginning, they let you pick from six and there is absolutely no shame in admitting that out of the six, you were basic and went with Final Fantasy 7. Honestly, the soundtrack is iconic and makes it easier to learn the game if it’s all music you’re super familiar with. I won’t tell anyone you’re the Final Fantasy equivalent of Ugg Boots.

When you pick a world you’re given a small handful of characters to play as from that game to help make up your team of four. Unlocking Final Fantasy 7 gives you Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Yuffie, Red XIII, Aerith, and Vincent. It’s honestly a great one to start with just because it gives you such a wide variety of characters straight out of the gate. Some worlds might only give you one or two (spoiler, the six you get to pick from at the beginning all give you at LEAST six).

You’ll want to carefully pick who’s on your team because they all have special abilities. There are healers, attackers, defensive characters, support characters, thieves, and more. Making up your team of four to best suit your needs can help make the game a lot more survivable. For example, as you make mistakes you lose health, but if you have a high-level Aerith on your team she can heal you can get some of that health back. It’s important to make your team up of character types that best suit your needs. If you’re confident in your playing ability and want to tear through some of the more powerful enemies, you could put two or three attackers on your team. Things like that. Honestly, though, it’s really hard not to throw that all out the window in your desire to have a team made up of characters you like. Like, I get that the collectible cards aren’t all that useful, but I’ll be damned if my team doesn’t have Final Fantasy X-2’s Rikku in it. Deal with it.

The worlds are made of travel stages and battle stages and sometimes you have the option to pick between the two on your way through the world, hearing a small sample of what song you’ll be playing if you can’t remember the names of all 300+ songs in the game. They’re not all as simply named as Final Fantasy III’s final boss music which is fantastically titled “This is the Last Battle”.

Travel stages are homages to the long stretches of landscape that span the distance between point A and point B in many Final Fantasy games. These consist of your characters moving across the screen and feature a single input point. The key thing about these is that they feature long bendy green lines that work like “hold notes” in most rhythm games. But while you’re holding down a button you also need to move the joystick up and down to make sure your circle stays on the line.

New to this version of the game are enemy encounters. Just like in other Final Fantasy games, now you can actually encounter enemies while traversing. It doesn’t change how the game is played but if your team manages to beat enemies they get a treasure chest which will give you a random item after the stage is over. These tend to feature more chill and upbeat songs like the Chocobo theme or “To Zanarkand”.

The battle stages are, as the name implies, based on battling enemies and bosses in the various FF games. The better you do in these, the more enemies you defeat and the greater your reward when you complete the stage.

Battle stages are made differently by the fact that there are several dots on the side of your screen, each representing a different character in your party. As the notes pass over the dots, hitting the buttons will cause them to attack or take other actions. Hitting a double note, for example, might see both characters jump into the air and do a dive attack straight out of Chrono Trigger. These stages feature the more frantic and hard-hitting songs like “One-Winged Angel” and the aforementioned “This is the Last Battle”.

Below is just a small sample of songs so you can see what the game looks like in action.

Outside of this mode, there’s a regular quick play mode where you can just play any song you want. You still gain EXP and items, but this is if you just want to hop in and play a specific song. It’s also where all the DLC music lives.

And there is DLC. I got the Premium Digital Deluxe version (which retails for $99.99) and it basically gives you all the DLC as it becomes available which, if you’re a huge Square Enix fan, I recommend as it covers many games that aren’t Final Fantasy. If you’re not, you can also just pick and choose what DLC you might want if any which can save you money.

The games featured in the DLC are: The Romancing Saga series, the Saga Frontier series, the Trials of Mana series, Secret of Mana, Legend of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, The World Ends with You, Nier, Nier: Automata, Octopath Traveler, Live a Live, the Xenogears series, and several unnamed games for DLC down the road that’s yet to be announced. There is a LOT. 15 packs so far.

Also in this game mode are special video songs that play out in a more top-to-bottom setup like Guitar Hero while a video plays in the background. For example, when you play Aerith’s Theme from the original Final Fantasy VII you’re treated to a background video showing a highlight of blocky Aerith’s greatest moments.

All in all, this game is an absolute celebration of almost 40 years of absolutely incredible video game music from the modern orchestral hits of games like Final Fantasy XV all the way down to the chiptune midis of the first Final Fantasy from 1987. This game knows the soundtrack it’s dealing with and gives it the utmost respect while also making it a super fun game.

They even added multiplayer which, honestly is kinda weird for a game like this, but it’s fun if you got a fellow Square head in the house. If you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game and caught yourself randomly humming the tunes in your head for years later, if you’ve ever had the Final Fantasy fanfare as a ringtone, this might be the game for you. I know it was for me.

While missing the previous title’s ability to put together a track list of stages and share it with friends (which was something I loved to do) this game features more than enough joy to make up for it.

Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line (Nintendo Switch) Score: 9.5/10

Beautiful art design, wonderfully remastered songs, and over 300+ timeless gems from the Final Fantasy universe, with DLC promising even more from other games like Chrono Trigger, give Square fans more than enough to love here. Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line promised a celebration of its huge library of games and 100% delivered. With new gameplay mechanics, even those who have played the previous games can find something new to enjoy.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.