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Joseph Rositano
16 Jun, 2009

Rhythm Heaven Review

DS Review | Scratch-o, hey!
Short mini-games, wacky scenarios and simple controls – those three elements were the very foundations which gamers fell in love with when the WarioWare series first appeared on the Game Boy Advance in 2003. The team responsible for the first two entries of the series then went on to develop the Japan-exclusive GBA title Rhythm Tengoku. As its title suggests, it was a rhythm game which used the same elements of WarioWare but instead of focusing on visual cues, players had to focus on the beat of the music. Having proved rather popular, Nintendo has released the sequel Rhythm Heaven (Rhythm Paradise in Europe) which will have you tapping and bopping to a variety of upbeat tunes.

Despite having a total of 50 mini-games, Rhythm Heaven has only a handful of control schemes. On the touch screen players must tap, hold, slide and flick the stylus to control the actions of their character on the other screen. The mini-games use different variations of these controls; some will only utilise the flicking action to, for example, rally a ping pong ball, while another might use the tap and hold action to have your character dive underwater and use the flick command to have them jump out. While it may seem a little redundant, it actually keeps the flow of the game consistent and allows players to get straight into the action.

  
... And two, and three, and stretch, and...

... And two, and three, and stretch, and...
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Unlike the WarioWare series, the focus of Rhythm Heaven is not quick, intense action, but rather for players to sync themselves to the rhythm. Each mini-game begins with a brief tutorial to help familiarise you with how they work. Some mini-games, for instance, require you to wait until a specific phrase is spoken and then perform a command in time with the beat. In the mini-game Blue Birds, when the phrase “peck your beak” is called out you have to make your character peck their beak three times by tapping on the touch screen. When the phrase “stretch out your neck” is called you have to pause briefly and let your character do the respective action on-screen, then tap and hold down the stylus to ram their beak into the ground and keep it there. To spring back into a neutral position, you’re then required to flick the stylus. It’s all implemented really well, and there are even times when the imagery won’t necessarily reflect when to perform an action. In the previously described rallying game, your partner will hit the ping pong ball at varying speeds. Quite often it’s difficult to determine the right moment when to hit it back on the visuals alone, so you have to focus on the sounds and timing of the bounces.

The developers need to be commended for implementing such wacky and unique ideas. One minute you might be performing a mating ceremony with a male lizard, and the next you might be a backup dancer for a pair of rock ‘n’ roll frogs. Some mini-games do have follow-ups which are designed to be more challenging, but other than those each one is completely original and fun. That said, there will be some you’ll hate and others you’ll love. It’s not so much to do with their playability, but rather the music they’re associated with. There’s enough to suit just about anyone’s taste – you have a nice blend of rock themes, jazz music and even a few pop and techno tunes. All music is also completely original, which is a nice change considering the genre is getting flooded with licensed tracks on a weekly basis.

At first glance Rhythm Heaven is presented in a very simplified way. There is no story or any particular thrills, as soon as you load your profile you’re taken to a menu which displays all the mini-games that are available to play. In order to unlock new ones, you have to play them and achieve a rank of Superb, Okay or Just Okay, signifying how well you performed. The lowest rank, Try Again, is self-explanatory, though if you attain this rank three times in a row you’ll have the option to skip the mini-game entirely and move on to the next. As it stands you could probably play through Rhythm Heaven in a couple of hours, but those who strive to achieve a Superb rank on each game will be rewarded with medals. Medals unlock a few bonuses including endless variations of established mini-games, and musical toys which range from a humble telephone to a deck of business cards.

  
Pictured mini-games: Love Lizards and Blue Birds.

Pictured mini-games: Love Lizards and Blue Birds.
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Occasionally, a game will be highlighted by an orange border which means you have the opportunity to achieve the elusive Perfect rank. The catch is, however, you’re only given three shots at clearing the mini-game without making any mistakes. If you manage to succeed you’re rewarded with some material including the option to play the game’s music in a sound test room, and text that gives you a little in-sight to some of the scenarios you encounter. It’s put together extremely well, and if you’re a completionist you’ll be kept busy for quite a while.

Visually the game is neatly presented and really colourful, however there’s nothing that really pushes the handheld. Of course chances are if you’re playing a rhythm game then you’re not looking for groundbreaking graphics, just some catchy tunes to keep your head bopping. In the sound department Rhythm Heaven gets top marks. Everything from the subtle sounds of machines clanking, to someone wildly strumming a guitar all add to the unique style the game presents.

Rhythm Heaven is one of those games that only comes around every few years. It doesn’t exactly do anything new, but it keeps things simple and has a lot of quirks which just make it a lot of fun to play. The fact it’s also part of Nintendo’s budget Touch Generation range means it should be picked up by every DS owner who wants to chill out to some catchy tunes while being entertained by wacky characters and scenarios.
The Score
Rhythm Heaven is a testament to how simple gameplay mechanics combined with ingenuous design can create a highly entertaining and immersive experience. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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10 Comments
4 years ago
fantastic! this just made it to my buy list!
4 years ago
I'll probably have to get this. My DS has been a bit neglected lately, considering the last three DS games I bought were... Pokemon Platinum, GTA: Chinatown Wars and... Pokemon Diamond.
4 years ago
It is a great game and is very fun and addictive but you can finish it in half a day and it then gets pretty repetitive.
4 years ago
I suppose!
4 years ago
Bought the Japanese version last year, I don't think it's as good as the GBA version. The touch screen controls added way too much room for error and frustration.

Can't say I'm a huge fan of the English version songs in this game either, the Japanese were much cuter. Ka~mone hey!
4 years ago
I have no beef with the localisation. That track you put up, Mr Waffles, sounds just as saccharine and grating in Japanese as it does in English. Though I am thankful they left DJ School untouched in all its Jap glory.

As an aside, that is a kinda disturbing clip. Look at all the people clapping their hands like sheep or...or monkeys. I'm glad we don't have any songs in Australia that are purely reliant on people mechanically flailing their limbs at the behest of an omniscient voice.

Oh wait...


EDIT: Proof that a good song can transcend languages:
Frog Hop(English) [gameplay]
Frog Hop (Japanese)
Frog Hop (French)
Frog Hop (German)
4 years ago
Yuppieville wrote
Look at all the people clapping their hands like sheep or...or monkeys.
That's the whole point. The 'fanclub' song was, in context, a lighthearted pisstake of jpop culture (the creator of the game, Tsunku, is a music producer), and the fans clearly get the joke made at their expense, and have fun going along with it. Key word being fun, which most music seems to be sorely lacking. (I'll pass on the 'sex sells to tweens' and 'millionaire emo rockers complaining about their lives' mainstream, thanks...)
4 years ago
Mr Waffle wrote
Yuppieville wrote
Look at all the people clapping their hands like sheep or...or monkeys.
That's the whole point. The 'fanclub' song was, in context, a lighthearted pisstake of jpop culture (the creator of the game, Tsunku, is a music producer), and the fans clearly get the joke made at their expense, and have fun going along with it. Key word being fun, which most music seems to be sorely lacking. (I'll pass on the 'sex sells to tweens' and 'millionaire emo rockers complaining about their lives' mainstream, thanks...)
It's a bit much to assume that everyone is in on the joke (case in point). I'm not arguing the fun factor, just saying that out of context (and even mildly in context) that clip is a bit curious to say the least.
4 years ago
I may have to double dip for this.

The Japanese import was one of my most played DS games. I've replayed that game more times than I can remember. I don't see myself getting bored with it any time soon either. This is well worth a purchase, if only for the singing frogs.
4 years ago
I have game
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  4/06/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Nintendo
Genre:
  Music
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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