Theatrhythm Final Bar Line devs explain lack of touch controls
Posted on May 7, 2023 by Brian(@NE_Brian) in News, Switch
Previous Theatrhythm games allowed games to use touch controls, but Final Bar Line is all about buttons. This is in spite of the fact that Switch does have a touch screen. In a recent interview, series director Masanobu Suzui and producer Ichiro Hazama revealed that there was some consideration around supporting both methods, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Suzui, speaking with Dengeki Online, brought up one factor which is that Switch has a capacitance-type touchscreen while 3DS featured a pressure-type one. While there was talk about supporting button controls and touch controls for each song, he said that the team “already needed multiple copies of sheet music for each song to account for difficulty levels.”
Here’s our translation of the comments from Suzui and Hazama:
A lot of players may be used to using a stylus on the 3DS for previous Theatrhythm games, but for this game you’ve renewed the whole control system.
Suzui: If we take a look back over the control methods we’ve implemented so far, first in the 3DS Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, the game was only controlled by touch. For the iOS version, it was also controlled via touchscreen, and then for Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call and Theatrhythm Dragon Quest, both touch controls and button controls were available to use.
After that we had an arcade version and Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory that was only playable with buttons, which showed it could be enjoyed with only button controls.
Taking all the knowledge from these previous games, the staff had many discussions about how to make a control system that felt like a culmination of everything before. We were aware of the fact that those who had played Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call may have enjoyed using touch controls and at the start of this project we considered doing that.
However, in the time since that game we had implemented simultaneous trigger pushes and variations in the placement within music that we thought it may be better to specialize with button controls.
As it happens, the 3DS touch panel was a pressure-type, whereas the Switch is a capacitance-type, and creating a feeling of quick and accurate controls like those in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call was another factor in the decision.
Hazama: What was the difference again between pressure-type and capacitance-type?
Suzui: Wait, you’re asking that?! (laughs) Loosely speaking, smartphones have capacitance-type touchscreens, so the screens respond to even a slight touch. They are generally designed to be used with fingers.
Conversely, pressure-type touchscreens feel a little little harder and respond to being pushed. This type is a little better suited to distinguishing precise inputs. For example, capacitance screens may struggle a little to distinguish between touch triggers and slide triggers.
Hazama: Ah I see. At the time of the 3DS, the very act of making touch panels was also different.
So keeping that memory of playing like that we decided to redesign the game for button controls.
Suzui: To be clear, while playing with the Switch docked, button controls would of course be necessary, but while playing in handheld mode, if using the touchscreen with your fingers it could create problems of covering up the screen and blocking things, making precise perception difficult.
Furthermore, we also had the issue that it was difficult to prepare sheet music that was fun to play with both touch and button controls. Simply reusing that 3DS sheet music wasn’t going to work, as we have more specialized buttons now than we did at that time.
There was an idea to prepare music for both buttons and touch controls for each song, but we already needed multiple copies of sheet music for each song to account for difficulty levels…and we did have over 500 songs in the game. And then factoring in balancing, it simply would not have been practical to do, we ultimately headed in the direction of button only controls for each song.
Translation provided by Simon Griffin and SatsumaFS on behalf of Nintendo Everything.