Last month, Square Enix released an absolutely insane rhythm/touch game called Demons’ Score. It was tremendous fun to play, but it was marred by horrible acting, a ludicrous script, bad editing and animation, and what I called in my review “an absolutely horrendous in-app purchase scheme.”
How odd, then, that only a month later Square-Enix would release another rhythm game—from the same developer, even—that would correct every issue that plagued Demons’ Score, albeit with varying degrees of success.
What is it?
Symphonica takes place in Einsatz, a city that loves its music almost as much as Green Bay loves its football. At the center of town rises Concerto Tower, a building with multiple concert halls atop each other, to which aspiring musicians and conductors hope to rise. One such conductor is Takt, whose love for music propels him to take command of the Fayharmonic, an orchestra on edge of shutting down.
As Takt and the wonderfully engaging members of the Fayharmonic hone their skills, they’ll face rivalries, romance, betrayal, denial, self-discovery and ghost dolls…because classical music is nothing if not dynamic.
How does it work?
Each episode of Symphonica is broken into three musical segments, surround by narrative. The first two are always short practices. The last segment is the performance, where most of the gameplay happens.
A quick tutorial at the beginning teaches you how to conduct the orchestra for these performances, which always require a multitude of taps and swipes in time with the classical music. Circles slide across the screen, and you must execute the command they convey once they hit the marker. Tap, tap two fingers, tap and hold, swipe, flick, etc., all of which are easily identifiable by color and design. You can tap anywhere on the screen, so the game is more about musical precision than visual accuracy.
You’re graded at the end of each performance, allowing you to increase in level (and difficulty) as well as unlock the pieces for quick play outside of the story.
Is it contagious?
Most certainly, especially if you’re a fan of either rhythm games or classical music. The pieces chosen are wonderful and unpredictable; you can tell the developers are fans of classical music and didn’t just go for the obvious choices (indeed, they skipped a few you would’ve expected). No need to worry about not recognizing them, though. If you’ve watched any amount of Bugs Bunny Cartoons, you’ll be familiar with most of the pieces here. They’re also very well recorded, and as such are playable outside of the game for pure listening enjoyment.
It also helps the controls are incredibly accurate. Only a couple times did I feel like the game gave me a “miss” when I was quite certain I’d flicked in time. But no matter, the gameplay is tremendous rhythm-based fun.
The game’s greatest asset, however, may very well be the story. The story carries a sense of joy even through its melodramatic moments, and all of the musicians are quite endearing.
The ending is a bit abrupt and comes together far too cleanly, but certain elements of the plot are left open for a sequel or additional chapters, which I certainly hope we get because…
…the game’s not worth the full price of $14.99. Your free download gets you the prologue and chapters 1 through 3, but then you have to pay for individual episodes ($2.99), episode packs ($6.99) or the full game ($14.99). Those prices are too high for the amount of content here, as you could easily finish the game within a couple of hours. I would expect more episodes will be released, but I also expect we’ll have to pay for them.
Still, I will, because I had a great time playing Symphonica. There’s some replay value as you work to improve your scores, but I’m more interested in advancing the lives of these characters and their musical adventures, and I hope Square Enix gives us more soon.