An interactive celebration of a beloved part of the series.
"I first proposed the project when we had just finished Advent Children, actually."
Speaking with Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata in an edition of the “Iwata Asks” interview series, Ichiro Hazama, producer on Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, laid out the origin of the upcoming music-RPG hybrid.
Theatrhythm, he noted, which celebrates the series’ sprawling music history through rhythm-based gameplay, got its unique name from longtime Square character designer and “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children” (which Hazama also worked on) director Tetsuya Nomura, whose combination of “theatre” and “rhythm” would seem to encapsulate the game’s content.
"So you could say that your experience of working on a project that highlighted the importance of the sound and cinematics of the FF series led directly to the creation of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy?" Iwata asked.
"Yes," Hazama said, "I suppose you could. I originally planned to make it for Nintendo DS [in 2006, following “Advent Children”], but so many compromises needed to be made in terms of storage capacity and what we could do in terms of presentation that it never got beyond the planning stages. So when I saw Nintendo 3DS, my first thought was, ‘Yes! Now we can do it!'"
Theatrhythm takes one of the staples of the series—its well-known stable of music—and puts it in the shell of an Elite Beat Agents-style rhythm game. While it features dozens of playable cuts from the decades-long existence of the series, Theatrhythm also works in deeper RPG elements to the familiar tap/hold/slide gameplay.
To make this ambitious idea for a music-based Final Fantasy game a reality, Hazama sought out the talent of developer Indies Zero, whose past work includes Electroplankton, Personal Trainer: Cooking, and the Retro Game Challenge games.
As Hazama explained, he met Indies Zero President Masanobu Suzui while employed in the procurement department of Bandai, where Masanobu briefly worked under him.
"When I started working in merchandising [at Square]," Hazama noted, "I got him to produce an FF trading card game for us. That was back in the days of FFIX, but the genuine love he had for the series stayed with me, so when it came to this project, Indies Zero was the only choice, really."
Suzui, in an interview with Siliconera, commented on Indies Zero’s affinity for making portable games of a less traditional variety—a category Theatrhythm certainly belongs in.
"We at Indies Zero don’t get many requests for creating games like those that already exist; instead, we have many cases where we give the user something fresh and allow them to feel like they have something in their hands that is different from everything that already exists."
Hazama, speaking in an interview with IGN, noted that where Theatrhythm inherently differs from other Final Fantasy games is in its service to fans of the series, specifically the strong memories many have of certain FF games and their music—the song selection for the game, Hazama explained, was in part based on solicited community feedback. Hazama also commented on the decision to add RPG trappings to the rhythm game.
"Of course, it wasn’t easy. But when you look at Final Fantasy fans, they’re not necessarily big rhythm game fans. So to satisfy them and amuse them, you do have to have some RPG elements. They might be better at using abilities or items to clear the games easily. And then they might be able to enjoy a music game that much more. That was our idea."
"In a lot of ways,” Hazama explained to Iwata, "the FF games have become less and less the property of their creators as time has gone on. They belong to the fans now."