There's a new Final Fantasy game coming out tomorrow.
Don't get too excited: this isn't Final Fantasy XV. There are no next-gen graphics or melodramatic stories here. Instead, Square Enix will release Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a 3DS game that is best described as "Elite Beat Agents with Final Fantasy music," or "the game that makes everyone on the subway stare at you and think things like 'why is that asshole tapping so much?'"
I'll have a full review up on Kotaku tomorrow, but my initial reaction to this game is: why doesn't Square Enix turn it into a real RPG?
Here's the thing about Theatrhythm: this is a game designed to appeal to that part of your brain that fondly remembers running home from school to scarf down pasta and glue your eyes to the television for marathon sessions of Final Fantasy IV. You'll spend the bulk of your time tapping your 3DS's bottom screen to the beat of old-school tunes from every numbered Final Fantasy game before #14. There are a bunch of different modes of play, but they're presented in a menu hub that is more a collection of ten-minute-at-a-time mini-games than any sort of coherent, full-fledged narrative experience.
Yet games like Sequence have proven (quite well) that this Dance Dance Revolution-inspired tapping frenzy can work as part of a larger campaign too. Why not design some sort of an RPG that uses rhythm as its main combat mechanic?
See, what's great about Theatrhythm's tapping is that it feels like you're playing against your own limitations. Instead of facing off against some arbitrarily-difficult creation of some bored programmer in Osaka, you're fighting your body's lack of rhythm. And getting better requires practice, not level grinding.
What if there was a game that took that mechanic and added a full-fledged campaign? You'd explore a new world. You'd collect items and party members. You'd participate in a story. You'd defeat enemies by tapping along to increasingly tricky beats, some of which could be altered by your characters' equipment and skills.
We've yet to see a story-heavy, AAA game with this type of skill-centric combat system. I'd love to see Square Enix experiment with the idea. Why not? And, hey: I hear of a certain console coming out in the near future that might just be the perfect fit.