I want to get something very important out of the way before I say anything else: fanservice is not a bad thing. It is not a derogatory statement and it does not mean that your production is void of all things that are good and pure and lovely and tasteful. Super Smash Bros. is fanservice. Every new Pokémon release is fanservice. Actually, just about everything that Nintendo, and Square Enix, and Capcom, and Kojima Productions, and almost every other major studio does includes fanservice. We clear? Good. On with the crunchinating.
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy is a playable soundtrack. If you were excited that Square Enix's GBA releases included an unlockable Sound Test mode – and then were even more excited when FINAL FANTASY IV added the ability to listen while in Sleep Mode – then you should probably go buy this game. If you really enjoyed Elite Beat Agents (or the original Ouendan! variants from overseas) and like chibi-fied spiky-haired protagonists, then you should probably go buy this game. If you've ever bought more than one copy of the same FINAL FANTASY game, you should buy this game. If you thinkFinal Fantasy is the best series ever, Square should probably buy this game for you.
Seriously, the game reeks of fanservice and FINAL FANTASY tropes:
The intro is nothing more than white, scrolling text over a castle backdrop.
Chaos is the enemy.
Crystals are special.
Behemoths are dangerous (albeit very cute in this version).
You need to grind for EXP.
Your first magic is Fire.
Scenes are in Japanese still.
The Chocobo Song will be stuck in your head all week.
It does all of this very well, mind you! It's like the designers had two criteria for anything that went into this game: (1) have we done it in a previous FINAL FANTASY game; and (2) does it induce nostalgic emotions. The only way this could be a downside is if you don't really like FINAL FANTASY. And if you haven't ever played a FINAL FANTASY then why are you even looking at this title? (Because the name Theatrhythm sounds about as appealing as quetzacoatlus.) The music samples are the best versions that ever appeared in a game release (though none of them are orchestrated renditions, sadly) and there's a good collection to accumulate. Speaking of collection, there are plenty of art pieces and cards and other trinkets to seek out, alongside various achievements and challenges to fulfill so you can keep coming back. The art is bright and colorful, opting for a fresh chibi-look that keeps everything fun and clean looking – and also avoids a clash between Amano and Nomura's character designs.
For each title, you're presented with a well-constructed montage of the original release (sorry, no DS versions of FFIII or FFIV to be found here, to my own disappointment). It does well to remind you of everything you've ever loved about FINAL FANTASY. I had to resist a very strong urge to start up FFVI again, especially after playing through "Terra's Theme."
Unfortunately, past this nostalgia threshold, there wasn't much else being offered up. After playing through my favorites from the franchise I didn't feel there was much left calling to me. Perhaps that's another part of the fanservice this thing was baked with: it's full of overdue Square Enix tendencies that are bound to lose anyone not already invested just because of the title. From the get-go you're blasted with tutorial pop-ups detailing stats and mechanics you've yet to encounter, the menus are odd and clunky, and the rhythm-game itself seems petty lack-luster compared to EBA. Additionally, the decision to keep all graphics, visuals, and UI elements on the top-screen, just so that they can be stacked in 3D, while user interaction actually happens on the bottom screen, is evidence that presentation means more to you than intuitive game play – which is the wrong answer.
Beyond roaring "yay FINAL FANTASY music!" there isn't much to report: nothing else stood out. Theatrhythm doesn't have a bad flavor, but it's more of an acquired taste to properly enjoy it.
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy was developed by indieszero and published by Square Enix. For this post, I played for about 2 hours on the Nintendo 3DS.