Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure (Nintendo 3DS) - Review by Andrew
Rhythm games are nothing new and titles such as Space Channel 5, Elite Beat Agents and even Samba de Amigo have demonstrated just how enjoyable these games can be to a universal audience. Some years ago, it was rhythm, which re-ignighted interest in arcades with teenagers (and drunken adults) jumping and tapping their way though the latest hits thanks to the introduction of the electronic dance mat. Rhythm Thief embraces the genre and takes the whole thing one step further by adding adventure and puzzle elements. The question is will this just be a chaotic mixture of miss-matched genres or have SEGA got some dance floor moves to impress those of us who have 'two left feet?'
Games have always appeared to feature lots of young people seemingly fending for themselves in the modern world and Rhythm Thief is no exception. Raphael is a young boy who lives on his own with his beloved dog, Fondue. At lest that's how it seems at first and Raphael is actually the mysterious Phantom R, an art thief who also happens to posses some incredible dance moves to boot. All of this sets up the plot nicely as The Phantom sets about exploring the city of Paris, attempting to discover his missing Father's whereabouts whilst also being relentlessly perused by the Law. There are a few other bizarre plot points thrown into the mix, but we don't want to spoil it for you.
The actual game takes place on a pictorial map of Paris with Raphael able to travel about from one location to another with ease. You do have to do a fair amount of walking here but you will always be told where to go so there's no mindless wandering around as with a standard adventure. It's important to mention here that rather than collecting items, instead you record sounds. There's 60 to collect in all and these can then be stored and used when you need to use one to distract or confuse a character. A ringing telephone, for example, will force an individual to wander away from their post in order to answer it. You'll also want to collect all the Medals (which can be used to purchase items in the shop and Phantom Notes (which unlock extra episodes) as you wander around the city.
Rhythm Thief is also packed full of Mini-Games and, you guessed it, Rhythm Games although they are of varying quality and most are repeated at one time or another. The ones we enjoyed most were the various Street based Dance Offs, sneaking past the guards in the museum, by hiding behind statues, and a rather wonderful Violin Games, which plays out much like a classical Guitar Hero. None of these are particularly complicated and there's little to stop you in your tracks. One game, which did though, is the Football Passing, which is played with a rather pesky young detective who is trying to track you down for your crimes. This took us hours to get through and, unlike other parts of the games here, can't be skipped as it's part of the storyline. The main problem here appears to be the way the games are scored. You begin with a low E Ranking with the object to get to A, or certainly not fall below E but each game appears to have it's own unique way of totting up the score which does seem a little unfair.
Once you've exhausted the main game there's still the Multiplayer and StreetPass Modes. This gives you the option of selecting one of the many dance competitions and attempt to gain the high score. SpreetPass allows other owners of the game to challenge your own scores with success earning you a 'fan' on your streets and the 'virtual' streets of Paris.
Each one of the mini-games here features very different controls and the developers have managed to utilise just about every feature the 3DS has to offer. It's all simple stuff though, relying on your skill and timing as opposed to anything that is going to tax the gray matter. Each of the games will also give you a run down of the inputs before you even begin and there's also the option of turing 'on screen' guides off making the whole experience a little more challenging.
Rhythm Thief is a visual delight from beginning to end and by the time you've completed this you're going to want to book a trip to the beautiful city of Paris itself. The cut scenes deserve a special mention though and it's a rare thing where you actually want to watch the FMV clips rather than simply skip them in order to get back to the more interesting game. Here, you'll desire more, and the ability to unlock these clips (should you amass enough coins) is a welcome addition.
The audio here is absolutely incredible both throughout the adventure and during the rhythm games themselves. It goes without saying that we'd all expect this, given that it is a title which relies on it's music, but it's even better than you'd imagine.
Because a lot of the rhythm games use the stylus you're going to want it to hand at all times and we found the games themselves to be very responsive, even if our timing wasn't as good as we thought it was. You'll also be forced to tap uncontrollably around each of the locations to collect sounds, coins and fragmented music sheets. Obviously this forces you to spend a little more time when you stop somewhere and so lengthens the overall playtime. Usually we'd just skip something like this but the various items you'll uncover are either essential to completing the game or, at the very least, useful.
We've already mentioned just how beautiful the design work is here and we can't recommend viewing the cut scenes in 3D enough. The attention to detail here is stunning. Away from the visuals the developers have also added the odd mini-game, which requires the internal Gyroscope. This hasn't been used a great deal to date and you'll need to pick your 3DS and shake it around for a handful of games here with the results questionable at best. These are generally avoidance challenges with you moving your console from side to side, up and down whilst in combat or because someone is throwing objects at you. The major problem here is that the gyroscope itself is not nearly as responsive as the other controls making these games more difficult (and frustrating) than they need be.
The production values are so incredibly high here, even if this game had been a bit of a dud, it still would have been a great example of just how 3DS titles should look and sound. Fortunately Rhythm Thief oozes charm, entertainment and bags of playability and we found it very difficult to put it down playing the entire game in just one weekend. It's not without it's problems though and some of the mini-games can be incredibly difficult which will grind your gaming experience to a complete halt. The scoring system here is a little inconsistent too and you will be forced to replay some sections through no fault of your own. If you can overlook all of this though (and you should) spending time with the Rhythm Thief in Paris is a worthy pastime and a unique take on both the adventure and rhythm game genre. Get yourself a copy now.
Pro: Looks and Sounds Incredible, Some Great Rhythm and Puzzle Games.
Con: The Odd Very Difficult and Frustrating Game
Final score: 8.6