THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE Director Tsukasa Okayasu explains how the team developed the series’ RPG mechanics, and how they took the most recent game to another level of depth.
By Tsukasa Okayasu

Hello, my name is Tsukasa Okayasu and I’m the Director of THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE.

  • Favourite FF game: FINAL FANTASY V (It was the first RPG I ever played)

  • Favourite FF music: Zanarkand from FINAL FANTASY X (An absolute classic that leaves a deep impression!)

I’ve been involved in the THEATRHYTHM series from the very first game and for the latest title, I worked mainly on tying the various battle and other gameplay elements together. I spent a lot of time making sure that THEATRHYTHM has a strong RPG feel, so I’d like to talk about that aspect today.

How the RPG elements in the game came about

When we started development of the first THEATRHYTHM game, we set out with the goal of combining a rhythm game and RPG. There was a tremendous amount of trial and error during the early stages as we worked out the best way to blend these two genres.

I remember that the proposals for different abilities were a lot wider in scope than what ultimately went into the game. Some of the ideas we came up with were:

  • Abilities that made input detection for the triggers more forgiving
  • Abilities that increased the player’s score
  • Abilities that aligned the direction of the slide triggers

This was when we decided on the overall direction of the game - making it purely the player’s skill at playing the rhythm game that determines their score. That idea is still at the core of the series today.

On the surface, this split might look like the opposite of combining rhythm game and RPG elements. However, I feel that making this decision was important to set the direction for the series. It ensured that players could enjoy the game in multiple ways - challenging themselves to get high scores through pure rhythm game skill and engaging in RPG style gameplay where they can level up and strategize to take down powerful enemies… even if they’re not a super skilled rhythm game player.

Further enhancements to the RPG elements in FINAL BAR LINE

For THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE, we piled on more new elements to make the gameplay feel even more like playing an RPG.

Firstly, we changed it so the damage inflicted on enemies and the total damage inflicted during a song is shown to the player.

We’d done several experiments along the same lines for previous titles in the series, but were unable to find a satisfying format until now. FINAL BAR LINE lets you feel that you are directly levelling up your characters more intuitively than any of the previous games did and you can see the differences in power between different abilities more clearly.

We did encounter the issue of players concentrating fully on the rhythm game prompts and not having the time to read all the numbers on screen, but introducing a “replay” function solved that nicely.

We also added in the concept of different elemental affinities for abilities, such as fire or ice. Monsters all have their own weaknesses and resistances towards different elements, so this increases the variation when choosing parties and allows for more strategic planning.

You now encounter enemies in the Field Music Stages too, which gives you even more opportunities to use battle abilities. The familiar “status ailments” from the FINAL FANTASY series also appear - Monsters will use attacks that inflict negative statuses on you too, so make sure you’re prepared to deal with them.

A cornucopia of characters

In the first THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY there were 32 different characters available to use. For CURTAIN CALL we upped this to 64 characters. In FINAL BAR LINE, we’ve added even more, for a grand total of 104!

As well as having more characters to choose from, we’ve also enhanced the party mechanics in many different ways to allow you to enjoy trying them all out! The party selection screen has been tweaked so you can change characters, set all of their abilities and tweak other relevant settings form the same place.

We also reduced the number of abilities that each character can equip from 4 to 3 and abandoned the CP system from the previous games, while keeping the same level of tactical depth. The new party selection mechanics make it quick and easy to change your team and even though there are fewer elements, it offers much greater variation in the different parties you can create.

You can save up to 5 different parties to switch between at any time, letting you have a dedicated “magic using party”, a “fire element party”, a “multiplayer optimised party”, an “item gathering party” or whatever you want to create.

For players who are uncertain which characters to pick, we put a single line explanation about each character in their profiles. This lets you know what kind of situations the character will perform best in and is a useful hint when deciding who to take.

FINAL BAR LINE features powerful bosses to get your teeth into and an Endless World mode aimed at skilled players, so why not take on these challenges once you have levelled up your characters sufficiently?

Our passion for the game led us to create loads of other fun systems and features as well, so please enjoy everything that THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE has to offer as you strive to grow the strongest party you can!

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.

The game is available now:

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!

For news and updates about THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE, be sure to follow FINAL FANTASY on social media: