The best new addition to Theatrythm: Final Bar Line isn’t the hundreds of new songs. It’s the addictive local co-op mode that makes Supreme songs conquerable for even the least experienced rhythm-game players.
The truth of the matter is: I can’t keep a rhythm. It was a problem in school. It was a problem in Donkey Konga. It was a problem in Guitar Hero.
But it’s not a problem in Theatrythm: Final Bar Line. Because my brother can.
I sell myself short (or so I tell myself). I perform well in Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line because it is fundamentally an easier rhythm game to play. The notes that slide across the screen come in very few varieties. I don’t have to press the right button. I just have to press a button. Any button. In any combination. When a ton of notes come at me at once, I can try swapping between L and R. A and B. X and Y. Heck, even L and A.
I don’t have to hold a guitar or balance some bongos. I don’t have to reach to make riffs or clap to get points. But it’s also not as simplified as Taiko no Tatsujin, which is distilled to the point that finding the notes in the beat is all that matters (my weakness, as we’ve established). Which means I can struggle through any song.
There are also arrows, in addition to the button notes, which require pushing the control stick in the right direction, or (rarely, in co-op) two sticks in opposite directions at the same time. If that complicates matters too much, you can of course try Simple mode, which leaves only the button presses.
You won’t have to, but it’s another alternative to dropping the difficulty from Supreme to Ultimate, to Extreme, to Basic.
Theatrhythm is also an RPG, which means you can rebuild your party of 4, using 104 options from the history of Final Fantasy, to conquer the various songs, quests, and endless worlds. Can’t make it through a difficult song? Equip a couple of tanks, a healer, and a dodge specialist, grind them to level 99, and complete any song, no matter how many bads or misses you stumble through.
In other words, Theatrhtyhm is giving enough that players of any skill level can complete the experience of playing through every song, with or without difficulty. But why go it alone, when you can bring a friend along for the ride?
Suddenly the Supreme songs aren’t absolutely bananas. The struggles aren’t as frustrating. The quests aren’t as questionable. Notes in Pair Mode aren’t split up: you play together. Sometimes that makes a section harder. When notes bounce between both players, it’s that much more difficult to hear what you’re supposed to be doing. If Player 2 hits a great, it can mess with Player 1’s critical timing.
But usually, it simplifies things. Breaks are built into most songs. Often you’ll get to see your partner hash out a hard part before it comes to you. When you can’t find the rhythm, they might have better luck, which will settle you into the proper speed. Whether you’re alternating parts or building classic Final Fantasy tunes together, playing Pair Mode elevates the experience and makes even Ardent Rhythm approachable.
Plus, it’s just fun to work with someone to strategize in team building so that you can beat some of the game’s absolutely insane side missions. We still haven’t dealt enough damage to FF1’s final boss, but I’m sure we’ll find a way eventually.
Sharing in triumphs, like getting SSS for the first time, or Perfect Chain, or All Critical on a challenging song, is the true hook of Pair Mode. There’s something to be said too of the smack-talking, when your partner is the one who gets the first great, or drops the first combo. And of the cheerleading, when you witness your partner’s masterful clearing of a section that you know for a FACT that you could never do yourself.
Not every song in the 500+ track list (if you get all the DLC) is a winner. The Nier packs are absolutely skippable if you haven’t played the games, and aren’t that fun even if you have (thanks to some questionable song selections). The Romancing titles fare better, and the Deluxe Edition’s additions are by-and-large the best of the downloadable bunch. FF XIV’s picks are too often as much noise as they are music, and there are never enough Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles songs. But there are 380+ in the base game, and 500+ in the complete set, so it doesn’t really matter how many duds there are when we have Bombing Run, The Chase, Harvest, Not Alone, Zero, and so many more absolute bangers in the Final Fantasy series.
If a co-op rhythm game sounds like fun, but you aren’t overly familiar with the Final Fantasy Series, then don’t write this one off. I’ve barely touched the main series, and I still found all my new favorites from games I know only by name.
We’re up to almost 60 hours now. We played through every song once, and are now working through them in chronological order. After that, we plan to do a Quest run, clearing the last 35% of missions. Then we’ll stick around for our favorites, All Criticaling the likes of Harvest, Battle at the Big Bridge, Exponential Entropy, and FFCCR: Today Comes To Be Tomorrow.
And after that, maybe we’ll even take a look at single-player Supremes. Who can say? There’s plenty of game here for two people, playable in small spurts or long marathons, making it easy to fit between two schedules. So if you’re on the hunt for a new co-op game in this co-op drought (which is finally coming to an end), then consider picking up Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line on Nintendo Switch or PS4.