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For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

Well in tune

Product: Symphonica | Developer: iNiS | Publisher: Square Enix | Format: iPhone | Genre: Music/ Rhythm | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1.0.3
Symphonica iPhone, thumbnail 1
Square Enix has been on a bit of a rhythm game kick lately. Over the summer it released the adorably fun Theatrhythm for 3DS, and more recently it dropped the exorbitantly fun Demons' Score onto the App Store.

And now there's Symphonica - yet another rhythm game, this time developed by the team responsible for Elite Beat Agents, and using the pay-per-episode pricing model used in other recent Square Enix games.

Classical music, classic gameplay

Symphonica is a rhythm game built around the a compelling and familiar story of an androgynous youth overcoming adversity to claim his destiny. Inevitably, he also has to do battle with his brother.

The story is familiar to fans of Final Fantasy games, but what sets the protagonist - Takt - and his plucky band of anime stereotypes - The Fayharmonic - apart from the casts of Final Fantasies II-XIII is that Takt is a talented composer. He does his battling in the symphony hall.

As such, there are no spells, items, or pieces of armour to worry about. The game's challenge comes solely from a truly excellent rhythm game component. If you do well, you advance the storyline and learn more about the characters.

Tuning up

There are two criteria against which to judge a rhythm game: the music and the trigger mechanics.

The music is usually what a company will build the game around so that it will appeal to a certain demographic (Miku Flick 02 is a great example of this) so it's usually both contemporary and popular.

In Symphonica, however, Square Enix takes the unusual step of using standard arrangements of well-known classical music pieces pulled from the annals of public domain.

There are no trashy dubstep remixes or chiptune versions of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik here, either. When you're asked to perform the piece, the arrangement is about as orchestral as it could be, and it works perfectly in terms of the game's setting.

Even if you're not a fan of classical music, the songs will probably be familiar by melody if not by name, as they're among the most well-known pieces of music of the past 500 years. 

Happily, they also present a fun challenge to even the most dedicated of rhythm game fans.

Building to a crescendo

The rhythm triggers are pretty good, too.

With nine different types of touch and slide triggers to negotiate (many requiring the use of two fingers simultaneously), you'll never get bored of Symphonica.

Both the music and the triggers combine to create a game that is strangely compelling given the limited number of players who can actually identify with the main character. Symphonica does its absolute best to make you think that you're actually the one conducting an orchestra.

Each song begins when you tap twice on the virtual music stand in front of you (emulating a conductor calling an orchestra to order), and the triggers often involve sliding your fingers to pantomime the motion of a conductor waving his arms to queue a section of the orchestra.

First chair

The end result is a game that's well worth its full asking price of £10.49 / $14.99.

The rhythm mechanic is as solid, well-executed, and challenging as any available on the App Store or console. Furthermore, Symphonica's storyline is filled with enough humour and character development to keep fans of more in-depth role-playing games interested.

Some may be turned off by the fact that Symphonica sources all of its music from public domain classical composers like Beethoven, Dvorak, and Bizet. While this is an admittedly odd approach for a modern game to take, it's a welcome change from the frantic and sometimes jarring riffs of more established rhythm games.

Ultimately, the experience of Symphonica is every bit as lush and masterful as the music which made its way into the game.

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Reviewer photo
Matthew Diener | 24 October 2012
An excellent rhythm game that features responsive controls, plenty of challenge, and a cute storyline. Symphonica doesn't hit a single sour note
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