Square Enix's "Final Fantasy" video-game franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary. And while the series has stumbled a bit over the last decade, fans of role-playing adventures can all cite their favorite moments. From epic battles to romantic interludes, heroic sacrifices to shocking betrayals, the creators of "Final Fantasy" have sought unabashedly to yank the full range of reactions out of their players.
What makes those emotional moments so effective? No small credit is due to the series' lavish orchestral scores, which are so popular they've become the foundation for concert tours around the world. "Theatrhythm Final Fantasy" ($39.99, for the Nintendo 3DS) is Square's own tribute to a quarter-century of terrific game music.
The action will feel familiar if you've ever played a rhythm game on the DS. You respond to on-screen cues by tapping or sliding the stylus on the touchscreen. There are three slightly different types of stages, but the essence is always the same: If you miss too many notes, you fail.
"Theatrhythm" lets you mix characters from 13 "Final Fantasy" releases. Each time your characters survive a level they become stronger, so they're able to take more of a beating if you decide to hike the difficulty. The role-playing element here is thin, but the character growth - not to mention a huge assortment of collectible goodies - provides motivation to master all the game's 40-plus tunes. It's a great package for "FF" fans, and it will make you want to play any games in the series that you may have missed. Three stars out of four.