How did we pick which songs to include in THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE? Take an inside look at the selection process here!
By Yuichiro Takahashi

Hello everyone! My name is Yuichiro Takahashi, and I am a Planner at THEATRHYTHM developer indieszero! I was the overall sound planner for THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE and also worked on creating the music stage data.

  • Favourite FF game: FINAL FANTASY III and IV (In my previous job I worked on the DS remakes, so these two have a special place for me!)
  • Favourite FF music: Battle 2 from FINAL FANTASY IV (It really is THE definitive boss fight theme, in terms of both the tempo and the feeling of tension etc.)

In this article I’d like to talk about how we selected the tracks to use for the rhythm action game stages!

Our core policy was to keep all of the tracks that featured in previous THEATRHYTHM games, so I’ll explain into how we selected the new tracks to include in FINAL BAR LINE.

Songs in the base game

When deciding which songs to include, the first thing we did was to ask all our staff to propose the songs that they thought should go in. We set up a place where everyone, from the new hires to the development veterans, could easily write their suggestions.

We didn’t set any strict conditions on what these could be, and any song would be considered so as long as it was from a FINAL FANTASY, old or new. Different staff members had played different games and had their own unique memories of them, so we felt we couldn’t cover the whole series properly if we restricted suggestions to just a few specific team members.

At this stage, we had collected around 90 candidates for inclusion in the game, and the next step was to narrow them down. There were a few points we considered important in making the selection.

  • Would the song create a fun stage to play? - Above all, we were making a rhythm action game, so whether a song would make for a fun and entertaining music stage was a very important concern.

  • The song’s popularity and familiarity level - We also thoroughly investigated what the role of a track was in the original FINAL FANTASY game it featured in, as well as how well-known and popular it is.

  • Is the title the song is from currently popular? - As the more recently released games will be fresher in player’s memories, they were more likely to be included.

  • Ensuring there is not an imbalance in the different series represented - FINAL FANTASY games have fans that love them equally, so we took care to avoid over or under-representing specific entries.

  • Passion for specific songs - The passion of the team members towards the songs that they proposed was also important. Incidentally, it was me that pushed the music from FINAL FANTASY: THE 4 HEROES OF LIGHT that went into FINAL BAR LINE. I felt that I had to take responsibility as the person who proposed them and so I designed the music stages for those tracks myself!

There were other factors that we considered as well, but these were the main conditions we used when we got the team together to discuss the track selection in meetings.

At these meetings we listened through the whole of each song, one at a time, and exchanged our opinions on them to narrow down the candidates for final inclusion. Many of the staff on the team had worked on previous THEATRHYTHM games, so they were very used to this process and could usually imagine what the final music stage might look like from just listening along to the music itself.

There were still a huge number of candidates left in the running, so it didn’t end with just one meeting and we had to spend many days discussing and narrowing down before we had the final line-up!

(Strictly speaking, working out the final selection also involved us proposing the different candidates to Square Enix to get their approval or rejection, as well as people on the Square Enix side requesting certain songs themselves!)

Digital Deluxe Edition tracks

The tracks included with the Deluxe edition were all meant to be special ones, mainly focusing on the various game’s theme songs, and we collected around 50 candidates to go on the list.

We also looked at many of the different live concerts that Square Enix has put on and their arrangement albums.

There are loads of memorable live performance recordings and amazing arrangements that we felt would make for great rhythm game stages. We listened to pretty much every single arrangement album that Square Enix had released and pulled another 50 or so candidates from there too.

DLC Tracks

For FINAL BAR LINE, we’re also releasing music tracks from Square Enix games other than FINAL FANTASY as additional DLC.

When selecting which ones to include, we decided that we wanted at least one completely new track in each DLC pack, that had not been featured in CURTAIN CALL or the THEATRHYTHM arcade game before.

We managed to generate around 100 candidates for the whole DLC selection and the passionate following for the SaGa series among the development team meant that over 40 of those came from SaGa games.

Once we had these candidate lists for the Deluxe edition and DLC, we cut them down through the same cycle of meetings that we did for the tracks in the standard edition.

Hopefully you have some idea how we approached the track selection process for THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE. We tried to achieve a selection that would satisfy as broad a group of fans as possible, but there will always be people whose favourite song didn’t make it in - so I’m very sorry if that is you!

It was essential that we drew up such a large list of candidates in order to cover a good cross-section of the whole of the FF series, and every track on that list was an amazing song, so it was always going to be a heart-breaking process to cut it down. It was somewhat harrowing choosing which ones to discard, but ultimately, we managed to achieve the largest number of tracks in the series to date - a massive 502 in total!

We also paid special attention when creating the Music Player mode, so you can even use the game as a 502 track FINAL FANTASY soundtrack album!

I hope people can enjoy THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE in many different ways!

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