Considering Square Enix's recent foray into music rhythm games, I admit I was a bit surprised to see something as standard as Symphonica [Free / Free (HD)] hit the App Store. However, just because it conforms to genre norms doesn't make Symphonica necessarily bad. In fact, with its emphasis on classical music and easy controls I'd say this music game is pretty enjoyable, though a superfluous story and a somewhat lacking song selection are the biggest detractors holding Symphonica back.

Symphonica follows the story of a young conductor named Takt as he heads to Einsatz, the city of music. After arriving, he teams up with the Fayharmonic Orchestra on a journey to play at King Hall, a musical tradition that hasn't been accomplished since the time of the legendary conductor Carlos. Along the way, Takt encounters friends, enemies and ghosts of the past as he and the Fayharmonic rehearse and play music.

If it seems like I'm making too big a deal about the story, it's only because Symphonica consistently puts it in the limelight. In reality, Takt's tale is full of anime cliches, both in narrative and visuals. While the story does give motivation to the songs you play, I didn't find it particularly necessary (or desired). However, in order to unlock songs for the standard 'Concert' mode, you have to play through the corresponding story chapters. Thankfully, most chapters are fairly short, and you can fast forward through most of the narrative to the actual gameplay if desired.

As a music game, Symphonica is about as simple as it gets. Notes scroll across the screen from right to left on a single line and your goal is to tap the screen right when the notes hit the "staff" line. Taps are judged based on timing (Bravo, Good, OK, Miss), with performances ranked based on total score. Of course, the game throws other notes at you too, such as double notes (two-fingered tap), sustain notes (hold for certain amount of time), swipe notes (swipe in the direction given) and more. Symphonica doesn't feature 'hot-spots,' meaning that players can tap anywhere on the screen to register hits.

Other than one or two types of notes (such as the note that slowly requires you to hold and pinch), Symphonica's rhythm gameplay is nothing new. True, this makes the game pretty approachable for both veterans and newcomers alike, but in some regards it also makes it a bit lackluster. This is especially true during the initial story playthroughs as the rehearsals and full performances are originally played at the lowest difficulty with subsequent, harder attempts unlocked afterwards. Still, the gameplay and controls do little to detract from the experience. At this point, Symphonica's greatest strength is its song selection, which keeps the rest of the game together.

As its name implies, Symphonica's song selection is centered around classical orchestral tunes. While the App Store description touts 50 songs, in reality you're really only getting 20 'full performances' and some 30 rehearsal pieces (which are basically short clips). Thankfully, the full performances featured are great timeless pieces that really haven't been found in other music titles.

For me, there's something about playing Beethoven's 'Symphony No. 6, "Pastoral" that really makes the game. Meanwhile, other pieces like "Wedding March" and "Pomp and Circumstance" offer recognizable songs while hopefully teaching players that there's more to those selections than the snippets played ad nauseum in today's society. My biggest complaint regarding songs is the limited selection, but I suppose one can do far worse than 20 songs in an iOS music game.

If you're not certain whether a rhythm game based on classic music is up your alley, Symphonica allows you to play the first three story episodes for free. Subsequent episodes (and the songs associated with them) are available via a variety of in-store purchase options. In this regard, I'd recommend Symphonica for anyone even remotely interested. It's not the most innovative or engaging music game on the market, but the song selection is pretty unique and is well worth checking out on its own.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • http://www.facebook.com/oana.v.ionescu Oana Valeria Ionescu

    This game is AMAZING and just like any AMASING game TA will give a crappy review, probably they didin't play you for the review or something...ToucharPAID!

    • classicrockme

      #ignorant

    • ducksFANjason

      I honestly think I just lost 5 IQ points by reading your post...

    • Onikage725

      Did you even read the review? It was generally favorable towards the game, and ended by recommending anyone interested or on the fence dl and try out the free section. Get off your soapbox.

    • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

      I disagree with you, Oana. I personally think the game doesn't exceed 4 stars, and TA is pretty much spot on with the review. I like the game very much, but it *is* a short game and the story isn't really worth reading through a second time.

      I think Square missed the boat a bit as the story is simply a means to lengthen the time it takes to complete the game; I think they could have done a lot more viz a viz branching story lines and/or a performance-based story (where your performance on a song affects the outcome of the game). For example, in the early goings, you can get an SSS (top score) on a performance, but the Hallmaster says you failed the test. I think Square should have had some other branching story line in there.

      In addition, while I really enjoy the music, paying $14.99 for those 17 songs (you get the first 3 for free), is a about $8 too much, given the overall length of the game. Now, if Square makes more songs available *at no additional charge* for people that have shelled out the $14.99, then it is definitely more palatable.

      As it stands, I think TA is right, and we're splitting hairs on the score. I think it's a 4 star game, Eric Ford thinks it's 3.5 stars. Close enough, but I don't think this is a 5 star game.

      • Greyskull

        The best value per penny spent (regarding tracks in rhythm gamed) is probably Tonesphere. Cytus also gives a lot of tracks for a low cost.

    • 1Fcm

      Are you 12yo? You do realize that a review is simply one persons opinion? If you like it more than the reviewer then that's ok. Why do people get all riled up over someones opinion? Stating that they must get paid for positive reviews is just ignorant. If you truly believe that, then why are you even visiting this site?

  • db2

    Wasn't Takt the name of the main character in Mad Maestro? Is this related somehow?

  • philodygmn

    Crashes every time loading gameplay segments on my iPod Touch 4th gen. Will not play. Considering its limited visuals, that's quite an achievement by its coders >:-P

    • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

      You're holding it wrong.  ;-)

    • ImJPaul

      It's probably not supported. Square Enix hasn't been very keen on iPod touches as of late.

    • philodygm

      Turns out iOS 6 needs restarting every once in a while, by holding down the power button and powering the device completely off, then re-starting. It's the kind of thing I'd expect of PC's >:-P Plays OK after that *rolls eyes disgustedly*

    • philodygm

      Turns out iOS 6 needs restarting every once in a while, by holding down the power button and powering the device completely off, then re-starting. It's the kind of thing I'd expect of PC's >:-P Plays OK after that *rolls eyes disgustedly*

  • ImJPaul

    Okay. This game is mediocre, at best. Here's my thought process though. Last week I got Stacking, Costume Quest AND Iron Brigade, all Double Fine masterpieces for $20. For $20 I also just got Batman: Arkham City on the 360 Marketplace and to wrap it up for $15 you can get ALL the episodes of The Walking Dead on your iOS device. So here's where my point comes in...if I could get all that quality gaming for the same or $5 more then WHY WOULD YOU SPEND $15 on 2 hour long classical game with little to no redeeming qualities?! Call me crazy but I'd like to think I'm sane.

    • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

      Value is in the mind of the beholder. I bought it because I got hooked into the music and the tap/swipe mechanic. Could I have bought a number of other games for $14.99? Sure! But I spent my money on Symphonica, and I'm not too upset about it.  :-)

    • worldcitizen1919

      Entertainment is very subjective. I feel my Square Enix conductor game is worth 100 of your type of games so for me its not the $15 I paid or how much I save thats important here but how good I feel playing it and it does more for me than many $90 PC games so the true value of a game really depends on the end user. I love sweet and sour pork and would rather pay $50 for it than get 5 Big Macs, a bucket of Kentucky Fried. The best for YOU. Is what YOU like and enjoy most. For others it's what they like most. I love this game because it rocks me but you like different stuff so that's ok.

  • chinito77

    I wish they licensed and ported over a Nodame Cantabile game.  You have great music and a great story in one.

  • Wizard_Mike

    Finally a rhythm game with awesome music! I was sold the second it played The Moldau during the tutorial.

    Broke atm, but will definitely be doing the full IAP unlock ($15) as soon as I can.

    I know the gameplay itself isn't phenomenal, but the music is, and I feel the asking price is fine.

  • Zephram

    Perhaps I'm coordinationally challenged, but I thought the first full performance was a little too difficult.My hand even cramped up.The presentation,however,although simple,is aesthetically pleasing.

  • worldcitizen1919

    Absolutely LOVE IT!!! Awesome!! I give it 5 stars. I love classical music so buying t was a no brainier for me. It's a change from killing and casting spells and you need balance in your mental life too so I feel this game is just right or when you're in the mood for a classical gaming experience!! Music has made a lot of what Square Enix is and so its very appropriate that they would release musical games.

    • Zephram

      'Music has made a lot of what Square Enix is...'

      I agree, and square should thank it's lucky stars for the incredible compositions of Nobuo Uematsu, who was instrumental(pun intended) in putting Final Fantasy into gamers hearts,thus catapulting Square into the spotlight.

      Not to take away from the efforts of everyone else involved of course, but I can't imagine the otherworldly beauty of FF without that incredible music.

  • ginnygan

    Too much dialogue in episode. The worst is you can't ignore.... But the concert is good. 4 starts.

SYMPHONICA Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3.5