A Trigger is a gameplay element in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, designed to work with the touchscreen feature of the Nintendo 3DS. Triggers are the most crucial element of Theatrhythm's gameplay, since the trigger is the basis of the player's score and is required in order for the characters to undertake actions. Triggers affect the damage dealt in BMS scores, the speed the party leader runs at in FMS scores, and the success or failure of Feature Drives.
Triggers are colored circles displayed on the Nintendo 3DS top screen that correspond to actions to be performed with the stylus. There are three different types of Triggers: Touch Triggers, Slide Triggers, and Hold Triggers, each corresponding to a different action. In addition to the action to be performed, the timing of the Trigger's action relative to its position in the Mark is also important; the Trigger must be lined up very closely with the lane's circle at the end in order to get the best score on a trigger.
Five scores may be obtained on a trigger, depending on the accuracy of the action and its timing: A "CRITICAL!" requires precise timing, especially on Basic tracks; a "GREAT" is achieved if the player is only slightly off with timing; a "GOOD" is received if the player makes less subtle timing mistakes. A "BAD" is reserved for major mistakes, such as ending a Hold Trigger very early, sliding a Slide Trigger in the wrong direction, or triggering any Trigger very early or very late, and a "MISS" is only received if the player makes no attempt whatsoever to land the trigger. A "BAD" or a "MISS" on a Trigger will reduce the player's HP, and will reset any Chain the player has acquired.
The window of opportunity for landing a trigger varies based on the current speed of the Score; the faster a score is going, the more lenient the timing to obtain a "CRITICAL!" will be. This makes triggers more lenient in Expert and Ultimate scores than in Basic scores, but it also leads to severe variations in necessary timing with EMS, where the Mark's changing speed determines the leniency in timing for triggers.
Touch Triggers are triggers marked only with a red circle with a white dot in the center, and are the simplest triggers in that, as the name implies, the player need only touch the Nintendo 3DS's touchscreen in order to activate the trigger. Timing is the only important element in landing a touch trigger well, and so it is also crucial to landing the trigger correctly. Fire spells correspond to Touch Triggers, and should a character in the player's party have one equipped, it will be activated by successfully landing several Touch Triggers.
Touch Triggers will not penalise the player for sliding or holding, as only the initial touch matters. This can be a valuable property in some more difficult scores, adding leniency for performing an unnecessary action on a Touch Trigger, as well as meaning that players may treat Touch Triggers as Slide Triggers if that creates a pattern of stylus movements the player finds easier to regulate.
Slide Triggers are triggers marked with a yellow circle containing an arrow pointing in a certain direction. In order to successfully land the Slide Trigger, the player must press and quickly slide the stylus in the direction the arrow indicates. The touchscreen is fairly lenient when determining whether or not an arrow is slid in the correct direction, so long as the player slides it in the same general direction, but sliding in the wrong direction will always result in a "BAD" on a trigger, and flicking the stylus instead of pressing and sliding often has the same result. Both timing and direction are key to successfully landing Slide Triggers, so the player must keep both in mind when attempting to land a Slide Trigger. In addition to the ordinary Slide Triggers, Dark Notes of Nos. 90 and above may feature Slide Triggers that move in a circle instead of remaining stationary, which, added with the speed, makes it difficult to land these triggers successfully. Thunder spells correspond to Slide Triggers, and should a character in the player's party have one equipped, it will be activated by successfully landing several Slide Triggers.
Hold Triggers are triggers marked with two green circles connected to the other by a solid green line. Hold Triggers possess the most variety of any type of trigger, as the differences in length, differences between Scores, and differences in the action required to end a Hold Trigger mean a number of possible requirements to successfully land a Hold Trigger.
At its most basic, the player must hold a trigger when the first green circle reaches the center of the Mark, and then release the note when the second green circle reaches the Mark. However, in FMS scores, the player must move the stylus from its starting location up or down correspondingly with the way the green line moves; smaller green circles within the line serve as checkpoints to ensure the player is following the green line, and count as triggers for the purposes of Chains and score. Because the green line may move far up or down the lane, the player should take care to center their stylus vertically so that it may follow the path of the line; should a Hold Trigger end near the top or the bottom of the lane, the player should center their stylus near the top or bottom of the touchscreen for future Hold Triggers. While EMS scores also occasionally possess green circles within the line of the Hold Trigger, these have not been noticed to have any discernible effect on Chains or score, and appear to do nothing other than keep time.
In addition to the special quality FMS Hold Triggers possess, all Hold Triggers, even those in a FMS, may end with a Slide Trigger instead of a trigger requiring only the release of the stylus; in this case, three factors are combined to determine the score of the hold note: the timing that begins the Hold Trigger, the timing that ends the Hold Trigger, and the direction the Hold Trigger's slide is sent in. FMS scores offer a fourth factor, which is the accuracy of the Mark's movements respective to the Hold Trigger. Blizzard spells correspond to Hold Triggers, and should a character in the player's party have one equipped, it will be activated by successfully landing several Hold Triggers.