Would you enjoy a sword fight with Napoleon while dancing in Paris?
Rhythm games are nothing new to Nintendo handheld platforms. Nintendo has produced a few internally and has seen great success with the likes of Ouendan, Elite Beat Agents, and Rhythm Heaven. According to producer Shun Nakamura, however, Rhythm Thief looks to engage players’ emotions on a level no other rhythm game has previously reached. After spending 15 hours with Rhythm Thief’s memorable characters and traversing their ludicrous world and story, I can honestly say that this is one game you should experience first-hand. Although English-speaking gamers will have to be painstakingly patient to see for themselves if Sega’s new title lives up to Shun Nakamura’s bold claims, I think it’s worth the wait.
Controls in Rhythm Thief are varied and done well. There are a few different options for input in the rhythm-based levels, including using the touch screen, traditional buttons, and even the system’s gyroscope. Within these categories of controls, there are differences that keep the gameplay fresh throughout the entire experience. For example, the touch segments sometimes have the touch screen divided up into four quadrants, each correlating to a stance that the main character, Ralph, will change into. In time with the beat, you touch one of the four areas to make Ralph do a pose, allowing him to hide behind statues as he sneaks through a museum. Even when some rhythm segments repeat later in the game, they always receive another layer of difficulty to keep the experience fresh.
Rhythm Thief’s sharp visuals really bring the whole product together. The cel-shaded graphics match the animated videos perfectly and help create a seamless experience throughout the entire adventure. This, coupled with great voice acting and a variety of musical styles ranging from classical orchestra to a jazzy Latino vibe (think Samba de Amigo) gives Rhythm Thief a well-rounded presentation. The game also puts the 3D effect to good use, enhancing the overall experience.
Rhythm Thief is unique in sense that it is not another routine rhythm game. Shun Nakamura and his crew created a cohesive adventure with a strong emphasis on musical elements. As much as I enjoy rhythm games, this game is a great change of pace from those I have played over the past decade. Where other games often just put you into the rhythm sequences with little or no indication of what’s going on, Rhythm Thief has you helping people out, searching for clues, interacting with the townsfolk, and more.
Outside of the main game, players can do quite a few other things. An Endless Game mode gives you the chance to play through one of four songs from the game to see how long you can last. There is also StreetPass and Download play support.
The generally spectacular Rhythm Thief experience comes with occasional flaws. The gyro-controlled rhythm segments, for example, generally control pretty well, but I had a laborious time with one in particular. Without spoiling the story, this segment has you controlling a hang glider flying through the skies above Paris. Using gyro controls, you are thrust into a rail shooter sequence where you use A to shoot soccer balls at incoming enemies. It is an odd choice for a rhythm sequence and sounds solid in theory. In practice, it did not work out so well. I constantly found myself wanting to mash the shoot button to mow down the incoming enemies but found quickly that it didn’t work this way. Being a rhythm game, shooting with the beat was imperative and I eventually used the rhythmical cues to trudge through the sequence.
Sega really went all out with Rhythm Thief. The visuals are spectacular, the music is fantastic, and the extras in the game, such as StreetPass functionality and various collectibles throughout the levels will keep players coming back for more. Skilled players should be able to get through the main story of the game within 8 to 10 hours but will have to put more time into the game if they want to access hidden songs or other in-game secrets. As both an adventure and rhythm game, Rhythm Thief is an excellent addition to the Nintendo 3DS library.