If you’re enjoying the musical mayhem of THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE, you may be wondering… how did it all begin? Series Director Masanobu Suzui explains.
By Masanobu Suzui

Hello there - my name is Masanobu Suzui and I am the THEATRHYTHM series director, including THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE. I’ve been involved in this project from the start and oversee the whole of the development and broad design.

  • Favourite FF games: FINAL FANTASY to FINAL FANTASY III (These were my initial experience of FF and left a deep impression)
  • Favourite FF music: “Let the Battles Begin!” from FINAL FANTASY VII (I love the chorus part that changes dramatically from the powerful tone)

Today I would like to talk about how THEATRHYTHM came about in the first place!

The origins of THEATRHYTHM

We started talking about plans for the first THEATRHYTHM game around 12 years ago. It all began with long-time series producer Ichiro Hazama coming to us, to discuss his ideas for making a rhythm game that used FINAL FANTASY music.

This image shows the initial proposal document that we wrote here at indieszero based on that theme.

The tentative title we came up with was the rather grand sounding “FINAL FANTASY is Music” (pained laugh).

Design document from the original THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY

The name “THEATRHYTHM” was proposed by Mr. Tetsuya Nomura during development on the first game. It’s a very unique and distinctive name, which sounds like nothing else out there, so I think it’s a great title for the series.

Incidentally, the subtitle for this latest game “Final Bar Line” was also decided upon in a conversation with Mr. Nomura.

The key words “final line/ double bar line” came to mind from the music related motifs used in the stave notation UI design, and that led on to the final title.

Character designs

I would now like to touch on the character designs a bit more.

From the very start, I wanted to use the same super-deformed art style that Monster Octopus had done for us on KINGDOM HEARTS Mobile.

We added texture gradations to the base designs to bring out the feel of the characters and monsters, and imagined a new visual style unique to Theatrhythm that would bring the battle and location backdrops from all the different FINAL FANTASY generations closer together.

There are many nostalgic scenes from across the FINAL FANTASY series that players remember when they hear the music, so we designed the game system in a way that would bring back memories of experiencing these adventures for the first time as you played THEATRHYTHM.

Design document from the original THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY

Defining the gameplay of THEATRHYTHM

As THEATRHYTHM was a game based on music from RPGs, the first thing we thought of was how to make different game structures based on exploration, battles and events. They could all be enjoyed in their own ways, rather than just having one set of mechanics for everything.

We paid attention to having the trends in a music track’s melodies differ for each type of scene and worked up different systems that fit with each one.

In addition to that, we didn’t just want for player skill to be the only factor in completing the game but strove to create a rhythm action system where it became easier to complete a stage by practicing, increasing your level and cleverly using items and abilities - just like in the FINAL FANTASY games that the music is taken from.

Design document from the original THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY

Extra thoughts

Finally, I would like to give everyone a glimpse at some of the other design documentation that I dug up from the time of the initial project discussions.

Design document from the original THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY

Before we put together the official project proposal, we drew out a rough image of how the game was going to play on white boards and notepads. It is quite crowded and messy, but you can just about see how the mechanics are supposed to work!

Design document from the original THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY

This document is from a meeting with Square Enix where we discussed how we wanted to describe the genre of the game when it was featured in magazines etc. and it contains an unnecessarily large number of suggestions that the team thought up (When I unearthed this, I smiled at the passion the team had back then and how they really did come up with way too many ideas).

Ultimately, we combined a number of these together to come up with “Theatre Rhythm Action”!

THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE is out now for PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Three editions are available:

  • Standard Edition: Available physically and digitally, this contains 385 songs from across the FINAL FANTASY series

  • Digital Deluxe Edition: Contains all songs from the standard edition, plus 27 additional tracks, and Season Pass 1.

  • Premium Digital Deluxe Edition: Contains all songs from the standard edition, plus 27 additional tracks, and Season Passes 1-3.

Click the links below to get the game:

You can also play a free demo available that lets you experience 30 tracks from the game, including beloved songs from FINAL FANTASY II, FINAL FANTASY V, FINAL FANTASY VII, FINAL FANTASY XIII, FINAL FANTASY XIV and FINAL FANTASY XV!

Your progress even carries over to the full game!

Join us next week as we give you more behind the scenes insight into the game!