Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, is a game I was looking forward to more than most of the heavy hitters set to release in the first half of the year. I played a lot of the original Theatrhythm on 3DS and also its iOS version back in the day. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call was actually the first 3DS game I bought digitally at full price as well. I adore this series, and even imported Theatrhythm Dragon Quest from Japan. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line seemed like it might be the ultimate version of the series that not only covered all the usual suspects from Square Enix’s library, but also went above and beyond with its new additions and DLC. Having played Theatrhythm Final Bar Line’s full release on both platforms for most of the last week, I can safely say that this is one of the best music games I’ve ever played. If you’re curious about how Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is on PS4 vs Switch, I will also be covering that in this review.
If you’ve never played a Theatrhythm game before, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is a rhythm game that focuses on Final Fantasy, but also has a lot of other Square Enix properties involved. While earlier entries were quite content-packed already, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line raises the bar (of course I was going to do this) quite a bit with 385 songs included in the base release. There are more songs coming as paid DLC as well, with a Digital Deluxe Upgrade pack available from launch day. On paper, the DLC and pricing for this game might seem high, but it is absolutely worth it, at least when it comes to the base game and the upgrade which I cover later in this review.
The gameplay in Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is simple, but it seems more complex visually. Despite there being four lanes and button prompts appearing on each of them, you can press just about any button on your controller in time with the beat map. There are directional inputs that require moving the analog sticks individually or together as well. While the game starts out with easier songs, it quickly ramps up into songs involving holding a button while pressing another in time and flicking the analog sticks. Having enjoyed this series from the 3DS days, I was curious to see how I’d find the difficulty here. I actually found the basic difficulty harder than the expert setting because the latter actually felt like I was playing alongside the song. There are quite a few accessibility options to make things easier if you struggle with rhythm games as well.
A rhythm game lives and dies by its music and Theatrhythm Final Bar Line over delivers. It has a shockingly good amount of music covering obscure and popular games in the series with some spin-offs also represented well. The Final Fantasy XIV selection is definitely a highlight, and I thought the asking price for the game was worth it just for how well that game was represented here. I love how the Series Quests actually take you on a journey through the game and follow a similar path to the game’s story with enemies and bosses represented in the Theatrhythm aesthetic during stages.
Your aim in Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is to clear seven Series Quests. This requires you to pick different entries or series one by one and complete them all the way. Once you finish seven of these, you unlock a new Theatrhythm Series Quest that has harder arranged songs. I definitely struggled with the Big Bridge arrangement in this quest. Once you finish that, you unlock the Endless World. Endless World is an interesting take on survival and roguelite modes. You set a difficulty and go in hoping for the best as you take on whatever Theatrhythm Final Bar Line throws at you.
Speaking of stages, there are three types of stages in Theatrhythm Final Bar Line. Battle Music Stages focus on battles, and usually involve you taking on bosses during the song in question. Field Music Stages represent exploration in Final Fantasy, and they involve you moving from right to left with non-combat music playing usually. Event Music Stages are basically rewards for completing a title’s Series Quest. These usually have FMV video cut-scenes from the game playing as the notes move from the top of the screen to the bottom in the four row pattern.
I mentioned playing Theatrhythm Final Bar Line on both PS5 and Nintendo Switch, and the structure of the game actually makes it so that I’m not really replaying the same things. I focused on different titles per platform, but obviously completed Final Fantasy XIV and Final Fantasy IV on both platforms because I adore those soundtracks. Having to finish seven titles before the main Theatrhythm title songs unlock means you can go for spin-offs on one system and tackle mainline games on the other. You could also do Final Fantasy VII onwards on one system and tackle the earlier entries on the other. I was initially hoping for cross save, but this structure makes things a bit better at least.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line also has online multiplayer in its Multi Battle mode. I’m a bit conflicted on this one. It works amazing in practice, but the setup is annoying. You can create a room with or without a password, and then wait for people to join. That doesn’t sound bad, but there’s a timer ticking down while this is happening. I hope a future update can remove this timer restriction. Barring that, the multiplayer is like a mix of Theatrhythm and Mario Kart. It goes absolutely crazy later on, and I’ve had a ton of fun playing with randoms and a friend of mine over the last few days. It worked flawlessly on both PS5 and Nintendo Switch.
When it comes to the songs, my only complaints are with the fact that some of the vocal tracks included in the game and DLC only feature Japanese vocals. For a game aimed at pandering to your Final Fantasy nostalgia, this is disappointing. I would complain about the rare Final Fantasy soundtrack I don’t enjoy, like Final Fantasy XV, but the structure of the game meant I could safely ignore it on both PS4 and Nintendo Switch. I don’t mind a one off song appearing in Endless World, but I was afraid the game would force me through every single title.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line PS4 vs Switch
I had already pre-ordered the game on Switch, but was sent PS4 review code from Square Enix so I decided to compare both versions to help potential buyers decide which one is worth getting for them. You could always play the free demo and decide, but having spent a good amount of time in the game on both PS5 and Nintendo Switch, I can safely recommend both versions, but they could’ve been better. The PS4 version should’ve looked better on PS4 Pro and PS5, and the Switch version should’ve had touchscreen support. While the PS4 version on PS5 is still nicer than the Switch version, a native PS5 release would’ve helped with load times and Activity Cards would’ve allowed for directly jumping into modes from the dashboard. If you don’t care about portability at all, get Theatrhythm Final Bar Line on PS5. The load times are better and it is easier to capture and share videos of higher quality if that matters to you. I’ve been doing that a lot for my favorite songs.
If you are planning on buying Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, Square Enix allows upgrading to the Digital Deluxe Edition through an upgrade DLC pack. This pack is definitely worth it, and I’ve enjoyed some of the arrangements and songs here more than those in the base game. I was already planning on buying the edition with all songs and DLC, but it is great to see Square Enix actually allow upgrading later unlike other publishers that lock you out of content if you don’t buy the most expensive edition from the start.
If you are just here for the rhythm game and enjoying tons of Square Enix music, you can ignore the RPG mechanics included and just opt to automatically set skills before each song through the party menu. Note that you should pay attention to the requirements for quests in songs if you want to unlock more of the items in-game and complete said quests.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the ultimate version of one of Square Enix’s best franchises. It goes above and beyond with its fanservice, gameplay, and superlative selection of music from most of the publisher’s best games. While it isn’t flawless, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line gets my highest possible recommendation if you enjoy rhythm games and Final Fantasy. I’m looking forward to checking out all the DLC through the year. I’m glad that Square Enix gave this franchise another chance because Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is sublime.