For the small set of people who like Final Fantasy and haven't heard of Theatrhythm yet (and no, i have no idea how one is supposed to pronounce it. The At Rhythm?) it is the Square Enix rhythm game for the 3DS featuring all Final Fantasy music that just came out a week or three ago.
I picked it up on thursday, got sucked in and spent three or so hours playing it that evening (when i should have been doing chores instead.) Enough to finish all the series sets in basic mode. A series set consists of the opening theme in pseudo-game format, three real games, one of event music, one of field music, and one of battle music, and finishing with the ending theme in pesudo-game format. The middle three occur in different orders depending on which game in the series it is. The game comes with such a set of five songs for the first thirteen Final Fantasy games.
The rhythm game part itself has been compared to Elite Beat Agents, which seems to be about right from what little i can remember of it. You have to use the touch screen to tap, hold, or slide notes as they appear. It's slightly different in that each of the three song types handles it a little differently. In Field mode (the easiest in my opinion) there's a single stream of notes sliding from left to right. In Battle mode there are four rows the notes can come in on. It doesn't matter where on the screen you touch so in theory it shouldn't be any different from the Field mode, but whether it's because it's harder to track the notes while they're jumping up and down the screen, or just that battle music tends to be faster and more energetic, i find this mode to be a bit harder. Event mode has a track that moves around the screen in various patterns, and notes appear on the track. For some reason i have a lot of trouble with this mode. Definitely part of it is that the cursor will often change speed on the track, and it will sometimes do little loop-de-loops that can make it difficult to tell which is the next note you're supposed to be playing.
In all three modes i frequently have difficulties with the slide notes. I'll be going along and do five or ten or more slide notes perfectly, and then it will tell me i missed one, even though i can't tell what i did differently. Very frustrating.
When you finish a set the middle three songs become available in Challenge mode. (Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a way to play the opening and ending themes by themselves.) As you play you collect "Rhythmia", and when you collect enough of it you unlock various bonus songs. At some point or another you also unlock the Chaos Shrine, in which you can collect "Dark Notes" which each consist of a random selection of two songs (one each of Field and Battle) from a set of twenty, some of which are eventually unlocked in the Challenge mode via Rhythmia, and some of which are never available outside of the Chaos Shrine.
And of course there is also DLC of additional songs you can buy for $1 each. I've picked up five so far.
Outside of the rhythm game itself, when you start you're asked to pick a party of four characters from a roster of thirteen, one from each game. Along with the global Rhythmia you'll also get Experience from each song you finish, which will level up your characters. The characters have stats and gradually unlock abilities that help them in different ways. Generally everything helps you either in Field mode or Battle mode. If you do well in Field and Battle mode you get more experience, as well as bonus items which you can equip, which help you do better in Field or Battle mode, wash rinse repeat.
You actually get a huge bonus of two million points if you unequip all abilities and items from everyone in the party, so if all you want to do is max out your scores in the songs you don't need to mess with the RPG elements at all. Although one has to wonder how many Final Fantasy fans there are who wouldn't want to mess with RPG elements given the option :)
There are a couple things that have disappointed me. The most trivial of course is that there are a number of songs i'd like to be able to play that aren't available. Of course there's always the chance that everything will come out as DLC later, so i can't complain too much about that yet. However there are two glaring omissions that i expect will never be dealt with. Neither Final Fantasy Tactics nor Final Fantasy 14 are represented amongst the music. The reason for Tactics is clear, it's not a numbered FF game. They really should have made an exception though since it had awesome music. (Note that although i didn't forsee these exact circumstances, this type of thing is one of the big reasons why i was pissed off that FF11 was FF11 and not FFMMO or FF Online. Forcing a non "real" FF game into the numbering sequence just reinforced the idea that FF Tactics wasn't a real FF game.) FF14's exclusion is a little less obvious. The most popular opinion seems to be that Squidix would kind of like to forget that FF14 exists given how "well" its launch went. In any case though it's a real shame, because the music was pretty much the only thing that _was_ good about FF14. They hired Nobuo Uematsu (who has his own studio now called "Smile Please") to do the music, so it was the first FF game with multiple new pieces of Uematsu music since FF11 (and for both FFX and FF11 other composers were helping to do a lot of the work.) I was one of the many people who grabbed a copy of the leaked soundtrack while FF14 was still in beta, and it had some really excellent stuff in it. In fact i was considering getting into the game just on the strength of the soundtrack. (But then of course the game was actually released and people started reviewing it.)
So in summation, i'm sure it won't happen, but i really wish they'd add some DLC for FFT and FF14.
More importantly, i'm a little sad with how the character selection was handled. Apparently this is game is considered to be some spin-off of Dissidia. I could care less, except apparently that has influenced the characters available. Specifically, Aerith is an unlockable character, BUT TIFA ISN'T!!! *FAN WANK OUTRAGE*
*cough* Er, but anyways, i'm rather annoyed that Tifa isn't available, and excusing it as fitting into the canon for an entirely unrelated game is just dumb. Theatrhythm has pretty much zero plot, so it's not like it needs the tie-in.
So originally i was thinking my party was going to be Rydia, Faris, Terra and Tifa. Pretty much my favorite characters from my favorite FF games. (Arguably i like FFX better than FF7, but i like Tifa a lot more than i like Yuna. Especially Advent Children Tifa =)
So obviously this plan ran aground on the shoals of reality immediately. After some consideration and examining the list of characters who are _acutally_ available i decided that maybe i'd swap in Sephiroth for Tifa.
Then my second disappointment was when i discovered they went with the blonde haired version of Terra. (It looks like maybe there's a tint of green in her hair, but nothing like in the original game itself.) MORE FAN WANK OUTRAGE!
Okay, that sucks, but i still like her, so i'll have Rydia, Faris, wrong-colored Terra, and Sephiroth.
Then i discover that there are awesome "Limit Break" abilities. Most of them trigger whenever a boss appears and do a significant amount of damage to that boss. Which means that if you're grinding Battle mode songs or Dark Notes for experience and/or items they're _hugely_ beneficial. The only problem is... only the original thirteen characters get Limit Breaks! None of the unlockable characters get them! Which means that the only one of my "ideal" party that has a limit break is Terra. Oh wait, and there's one more problem, out of the thirteen Limit Breaks, Terra has one of the four that _doesn't_ do massive damage to bosses. In fact out of the thirteen basic characters only three of them are female and two of those have crappy non-boss damaging Limit Breaks. At least Terra's increases her damage output in general, which is still useful, unlike the Limit Breaks for the FF1 and FF2 characters which either heal your or reduce your damage, which is useful if you're sucking at the song but not so good if you've got the song down and are trying to power-up your team.
So ideally i'd like to see DLC that will add Tifa as a character and will add Limit Breaks for all the unlockable characters so i can design my "perfect" team without feel like i'm, er, limiting their potential. But i'm almost as sure that that won't happen as i am that they're not going to give us Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy 14 songs.
Oh yeah, and last and very least, every so often the characters will spout random phrases, when you change their equipment, when you level up, etc. In particular every time you start a song each of your four party members will say a randomized part of a phrase, with all four strung together into a sentence... maybe? Which may or may not make any sense, and is occasionally hilarious. Unfortunately you don't seem to be able to pause the game and it automatically proceeds after a second or two, so you don't get much time to remember much less write down the cool ones. I'll grab the next couple that show up though...
Hurry up, / we pounce / faithfully / for man
At last / we'll run / ruthlessly / with reason
Come now, / we've come / immortally / for justice!
For starters, / we'll win / reservedly / with love!
Yes, so / we weep / lazily / to protect!
So now / we weep / strongly / in hope...
To start / we war / silently / against evil.
At last / we attack / easily / for... um...
One of my favorites though, that i didn't have time to write down at the time, was something like
Now we sleep [something] with friends! :)
Also, frequently when leveling up Cecil will say "...more war", which seems a little odd :)