3DS

North America

Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure

by Alex Culafi - July 21, 2012, 3:45 pm PDT
Total comments: 27

6.5

It's a rhythm game that's good at everything... except being a rhythm game.

For a while now, Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure has been seen as the 3DS answer to Elite Beat Agents, with quirky settings, fantastic style, and great gameplay. Unfortunately, only two of those assertions proved to be correct.

Rhythm Thief is a Sega published-and-developed rhythm game that takes place in a relatively modern Paris, France. The story follows Raphael, an adolescent who steals objects of rarity as the mysterious Phantom R with his dog Fondue. As the story develops, Raphael meets a mysterious girl Marie, faces off against the local police force, and tries to stop a man who claims to be the resurrected Napoleon Bonaparte. The story and presentation are both absolutely excellent, complete with great pacing despite a short length of six hours.

Like the Layton series, anime cut scenes are frequently used to push the story forward, and likewise, the animation is stunning. Furthermore, Raphael progresses across Paris using in an almost-identical static screen format as Professor Layton, all the way down to "tap everything to find secrets" trope. There are also some non-rhythm puzzles to keep the story sections fresh, and they are really cool (despite a total lack of difficulty).

With that said, the gameplay is not nearly as refined as the presentation. Rhythm Thief features 50 rhythm games, ranging from "swipe the touch screen in a direction to do an action to the rhythm" to "press buttons to take out enemies." Of course, the game features plenty of diversity, like a one-off Samba De Amigo inspired game and a very competent sword-fighting affair, but the games still generally fall into those two camps.

This in itself isn't problematic, as the game still has a ton of diversity, but it's apparent that, in coming up with so much variety, almost none of the games feel fully developed. The fun and polished ones are overly simplified affairs of tapping the touch screen to a beat, while an equal number of games (specifically the gyro-controlled ones) feel so clunky that I was actually upset when the game required them to progress the story. This is only assisted by a horribly broken grading system, where slipping up for a moment can immediately bring you from a perfect score to a near-fail. Even at its best, the games in Rhythm Thief don't feel fun enough to warrant replay, and likely won't even be the parts you remember when all is said and done.

Despite this, the music throughout is outstanding, featuring hip-hop, folk, classical, upbeat jazz, and more. With so much diversity and excellence, I was especially surprised that I could barely remember any of the specific songs after I turned the game off. The music is good, but it’s not memorable.

Outside of the story, there are tons of collectibles. Two major side quests task you with finding paper scraps and sound clips throughout the game, and collecting all of either unlocks a bonus chapter that further fleshes out a relationship in the game. There are also songs and movies to collect, StreetPassing to accomplish, an incentive for clearing every song with a high grade, and a competent multiplayer component featuring both local and download play. Even if the gameplay doesn't necessarily inspire replay value, the urge to replay for bonus chapters and a complete collection of stuff is clearly prevalent.

While I had a good experience with Rhythm Thief, it is not a fantastic game. With the lavish presentation, the intriguing story, and the assortment of collectibles, it is so disheartening to see gameplay that ranges from "kind of okay" to "pretty broken." And though I recommend that everyone experiences Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure, the whole package is disappointing and not worth rushing out to get.

Summary

Pros
  • Excellent story and presentation
  • Good music
Cons
  • Poor gameplay

Talkback

PhilPhillip Stortzum, July 22, 2012

That's a shame. I have the game coming to me in the mail, so I hope I like it better than you did.

pololmejorJuly 22, 2012

If ot only had some nice gameplay I'd give it a chance. What a shame, that those outstanding cel-shaded animations and that teriffic music just don't do enough without gameplay :/. Does anyone know if there's a relation with an artist or composer with games like the Layton series?

Wow, I do not agree. I'm a stone's throw away from reaching the end of Rhythm Thief, and with the exception of the ones with clunky motion control, I have found all the rhythm games to be both well-executed and fun to play. If you're knocking some of them for being too simple because their only control input is tapping and stroking the touch screen, then I would like to ask whether you enjoy any other rhythm titles on DS or 3DS, because that's pretty much how they all play. In my opinion, the simplicity works in its favour - if there were a dozen inputs for every game, it'd devolve into a convoluted mess.

If you didn't like the gameplay, Alex, that's a shame, but I would still recommend to anyone who has had more than a passing interest in Rhythm Thief to give it a shot. In fact, there's probably still a demo on the eShop; see what you think of that. I personally found the game a lot more satisfying than Theatrhythm (though my lack of familiarity with Final Fantasy may have played a role there.)

acccJuly 22, 2012

Wha... huh? The rhythm minigames were the best part of the game by far! They controlled perfectly (yes, even the gyro-controlled games if you know what you're doing), and had tons of diversity along with great, catchy music, which made them a blast to replay. Clearly this reviewer is missing something.

NintendoFan4LifeJuly 22, 2012

I'm only on rhythm game 10 and I'm having tons of fun.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusJuly 22, 2012

Thumbs down to this review, and one of the most disappointing reviews I ever read from NWR. This is one of the most original music games ever released since the Rhythm Heaven series. The fusion of a music game with an original narrative, along with some elements of Professor Layton and Minigames make this game a must own on 3DS.

C-OlimarJuly 23, 2012

It worries me how everyone is taking this review as absolute fact. I respect the reviewer's opinion, even if I don't agree with it, but you shouldn't take one review as the be-all and end-all assessment of a game's quality.

Keep in mind we have a Japanese import review that gives the game a 9.0. That's likely more in line with some of the review naysayers' feelings.

I'm not terribly far into it, but I see where Alex is coming from. I think I'll end up in between Alex's somewhat negative feelings and most other's glowing recommendations.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusJuly 23, 2012

There's one big thing I don't understand about this review. Where is the author's backup of the games not feeling fully developed?  If you're going to say something, back up your statement with facts and not keep it baseless.


I'm not sure if this reviewer lacks experience in the music or rhythm game genre, but there's nothing broken about the scoring system in Rhythm Theif, in the beginning portions of the songs, the penalties are much minor while towards the end of the song are much severe especially if you mess up a rather big combo.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorJuly 23, 2012

Quote from: Flames_of_chaos

There's one big thing I don't understand about this review. Where is the author's backup of the games not feeling fully developed?  If you're going to say something, back up your statement with facts and not keep it baseless.

It's a review.  By nature, reviews are opinions.  Opinions aren't about "facts".

"almost none of the games feel fully developed"

He didn't say they weren't fully developed, he said they feel like they're not fully developed.  There's a big difference there...

Quote from: C-Olimar

It worries me how everyone is taking this review as absolute fact. I respect the reviewer's opinion, even if I don't agree with it, but you shouldn't take one review as the be-all and end-all assessment of a game's quality.

You are my favorite person in this thread, C-Olimar.

I'm sure Alex could come up with a specific example of a rhythm game that doesn't feel fully developed. Instead, I will.

There's an early game where you're dodging some cops, and the way the game was first presented, I was expecting a Bit.Trip Runner-style mini-game. Instead, it was a very simplified "press one button or the other button" rhythm game. That didn't feel fully developed to me. (I hope there is a later mini-game that improves upon the concept, but I can't vouch for that right now.)


EDIT: Also, the scoring system is bullshit. "You were perfect for the entire song and then missed the last two notes. You now have a B!"

C-OlimarJuly 23, 2012

The scoring system takes the mick, but it's the same in other great rhythm games - Elite Beat Agents and Rhythm Paradise both employ the same system, which is frustrating to say the least.

CericJuly 23, 2012

Quote from: NWR_Neal

I'm sure Alex could come up with a specific example of a rhythm game that doesn't feel fully developed. Instead, I will.

There's an early game where you're dodging some cops, and the way the game was first presented, I was expecting a Bit.Trip Runner-style mini-game. Instead, it was a very simplified "press one button or the other button" rhythm game. That didn't feel fully developed to me. (I hope there is a later mini-game that improves upon the concept, but I can't vouch for that right now.)


EDIT: Also, the scoring system is bullshit. "You were perfect for the entire song and then missed the last two notes. You now have a B!"

I lot of rhythm games do that.  Where the ranking is based off of how much is in each buckets and getting a miss instantly knocks you down to a B and getting a bad knocks you to an A.

I know other rhythm games do that, but I still don't think it's a good practice.

CericJuly 23, 2012

Quote from: NWR_Neal

I know other rhythm games do that, but I still don't think it's a good practice.

I can see why.  I Sed an Expert Course in Theaterhythm last night after my wife had distracted me at the start of the song so I missed the first 6 or so notes and I didn't chain all the rest of them.  Ended with over 10 misses.  DDR that would have never happened.

TenserJuly 24, 2012

Quote from: UncleBob

It's a review.  By nature, reviews are opinions.  Opinions aren't about "facts".

Which is why most reviews are of little worth.


Nothing against Alex but I honestly don't care if he likes or doesn't like a game. I'm interested in whether I will like a game or not. For a review to be actually helpful to potential purchasers they need to be based on facts instead of personal opinions so I can make my own informed opinion.

TJ SpykeJuly 24, 2012

A review is, by its very definition, that persons opinion of the game. This is true of any review: video game, movie, TV show, book, etc. They talk about what they liked and didn't like, a little about it, etc. I don't think you want a review, sounds like you just want a basic fact sheet telling you about the game. You read a review to get that persons opinion of the game.

CericJuly 24, 2012

Layton w/ Rhythm Games and not as precise controls as it really needs.
Fact Sheet Done.

The more I get into this game, the more I don't really like it that much. The style isn't winning me over enough to want to play the rhythm games, and I feel like every other rhythm game is annoying and frustrating. Then I'll find a good rhythm game, play it and do well on it, and have no reason to play it again. Maybe that will change? I don't know, but I don't think I'll ever find out if it does.

I guess my conclusion of my personal stance on rhythm games is that I like a basic mechanic that gets repeated through different songs. I got very into Rock Band/Guitar Hero, Theatrhythm, and EBA, but Rhythm Heaven was always something I played through once and never touched again.

CericJuly 24, 2012

Quote from: NWR_Neal

The more I get into this game, the more I don't really like it that much. The style isn't winning me over enough to want to play the rhythm games, and I feel like every other rhythm game is annoying and frustrating. Then I'll find a good rhythm game, play it and do well on it, and have no reason to play it again. Maybe that will change? I don't know, but I don't think I'll ever find out if it does.

I guess my conclusion of my personal stance on rhythm games is that I like a basic mechanic that gets repeated through different songs. I got very into Rock Band/Guitar Hero, Theatrhythm, and EBA, but Rhythm Heaven was always something I played through once and never touched again.

I'm fairly sure I touch on this in NFR but, a rhythm game needs very precise controls because, unlike other game types they are going to demand you use them.  Rhythm Thief has the potential to be an excellent game but, Sega should have made sure that all the controls for each game were dead on.  Its a real shame.

Agreed. It also doesn't help that because it changes so much, each game requires an adjustment period of sorts.

It's not a terrible game, but I find myself more in line with Alex's review than I thought I would be.

TenserJuly 24, 2012

A review does not need to be a critique by definition. It can also be a general or detailed survey or account but that's a discussion of semantics.

Also I don't think the reader is served well with just a general fact sheet, especially one as sarcastic as Ceric's. (Great to be on the internet where attempting a discussion is often bombarded by snide little remarks, isn't it?)

I guess I'm trying to say is that it would benefit more readers (in my own experience of course) if reviews were more in-depth and descriptive about the actual content being reviewed and less about the reviewer's own personal perspective of the content.

To clarify, even though I disagree with Alex's opinion of Rhythm Thief I understand it. I found his article thought out and well written (like most of his articles) and I certainly could not do any better. This is not some tirade against this specific review but merely me venting some frustrations at the review process in general.

I must stop now before I begin ranting on about how flawed the concept of "review scores" is.

CericJuly 24, 2012

*shrug* listen to NFR.  I pretty much say the exact same thing.  If I'm going to describe the game to someone that is almost exactly what I'll tell them. 

Though on your other point on this site there has been historically a lot of different talks about what makes a good review and on more than one occassion discussions of just ditching the whole rating system.

It's the age-old debate of critique versus product review.

To that end, I ask you: Would you review a game like you would a printer? If so, then yes, go do some product reviews in that vein. Be matter-of-fact in your reviewing "The graphics are technically sound."

I'd rather see reviews be treated as more critique than product review. Since I'm in a position where I guide the editorial direction of this site, then that's how it will be. I'm sorry. I'd rather have people describing their experiences with the game than soullessly saying 'The gameplay is fundamentally good." Of course, there is some wiggle room for a fusion between the two concepts. That's sort of what I strive for. Although, if you want basic details about a game, go read a preview or some PR-prepared fact sheet. It can be more in-depth than Ceric's, but if that's what you want, then go find it. You can find stuff like that on our site. You won't find that in our reviews.

And on the subject of scores: Unfortunately, scores bring the hits/ad revenue. They are a necessary evil of the business side of games press.

TJ SpykeJuly 24, 2012

Scores are also a quick reference. If I see a game with a 2.5/10 score, I will likely just skim the review.

KhushrenadaJuly 24, 2012

I'd rather this thread was a further discussion of the game instead of a topic of what reviews should be but I guess that's the direction this thread has gone.

Personally, I have nothing against this review and thought it was just what a review should be. The review stated what the reviewer liked about this game and worked in favor of his enjoyment of said title and what what he didn't like and worked against his enjoyment. I understood his reasons for them and that's the best you can ask for in a review.

I, personally, like to read a lot of film/tv review and criticism but there's a lot more than can be found in such reviews. They can point out subtext that I might have missed in a viewing, pointing out acting techniques, other technical aspects, background information that can enhance one's veiwing of a film/show. They can break down into details about a character and their motivations and actions.

I don't think you can really do that about games. Games are about an experience. You are given a challenge whether it be to get from one end of a stage to the next, get first place in a race or win enough microgames in a row to move on to another stage. Maybe it is an interactive like Phoenix Wright or Hotel Dusk. But basically, you have a goal and whatever tools the game supplies to help you reach that goal and overcome the obstacles it puts in place of that goal. Obviously, there are various ways it can dress up those challenges and the gameplay whether it be making story based like an RPG or building on the info you have to make more challenging puzzles like Picross.

The point I'm trying to make is that in the end a game review mainly has the technical merits to focus on to critique which keeps them from being that interesting. Sure there are cases where story and characters can have an effect on the review. I think of Metroid Prime vs Metroid: Other M and the effect a story can have on people's opinion of a game. But in the end, it's mainly about the experience and as long as the reviewer can communicate what their experience was like and why, what caused them to be positive/negative, then they've done their job.

A good review can be negative or positive but as long as ther reader understands why the reviewer took the stance they did, then even if they disagree with the review, hopefully they can still understand whether they would feel the same way with such an experience. And I think this review did that.

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Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure Box Art

Genre Rhythm
Developer Sega

Worldwide Releases

na: Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure
Release Jul 10, 2012
PublisherSega
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Rhythm Kaitou R: Koutei Napoleon no Isan
Release Jan 19, 2012
PublisherSega
Rating12+
eu: Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure
Release Apr 05, 2012
PublisherNintendo
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