The line was long, but it was wayyy worth it to get our hands on Theatrhythm Final Fantasy yesterday at Jump Festa.
The version we were given didn't have any songs from VII or XIII unlocked, but I did play:
"Main Theme" (Final Fantasy)
"Seymour's Theme" (Final Fantasy X)
"Over the Hill" (Final Fantasy IX)
You've probably seen a gameplay video by now, but just to recap, the game is controlled with the stylus. Players tap, hold, drag, and flick along to the beat of select songs from the numbered FF games. There appear to be three levels of difficulty, and I played mostly on medium with little trouble. Additionally, it's been revealed that there is a Challenge mode of missions to complete once you clear tracks in Series mode.
Each track has a "feature zone" (all your beats turn silver) and the effect of passing varies. In the field during "Over the Hill," my character turned into a Chocobo to run faster for a period of time. During "Seymour's Theme," completing the feature zone resulted in a successful summons, but since I only did passed so-so that time I ended up with Shiva instead of Ifrit or Odin.
Characters level up and acquire items when you beat songs, but it wasn't immediately clear just from the short demo how that affects the gameplay. The official website has been updated recently, though, with new information on summons (like how Bahamut can only be summoned if you have the correct item) and info about how collecting crystal shards unlocks new characters. It turns out there are quite a few abilities ranging from magic spells that deal damage to enemies during battle to upping your chance of finding items. All said, it's starting to look pretty deep, for a rhythm game.
What was immediately clear from my playtime is that Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is really fun. I caught myself smiling spontaneously not due to the nostalgic music (to be honest I haven't played enough FF games to fall squarely into the nostalgia wave audience), but just from the simple satisfaction of performing well and seeing the adorable characters advance during their journey or defeat the enemy.
My only real qualm is wondering if it ever gets grindy, since playing the same songs a zillion times for experience points would probably ruin the charm a bit. Barring that anxiety, from what I can tell, this is going to be an awesome game, and one that actually kind of makes sense given the popularity of the Final Fantasy soundtracks. Region-locking has me so sad that I'm almost considering picking up a Japanese 3DS, but hopefully we'll hear something soon about a North American release—wouldn't it be great if we could have it on Februrary 16th like Japan?