Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Rhythm Tengoku


With the release of Rhythm Heaven Fever! in North America on February 13th, many people will most likely look towards Rhythm Heaven to get themselves interested in the series (Rhythm Paradise in Europe and Rhythm Tengoku Gold in Japan). While my experience of Rhythm Heaven is limited, Rhythm Tengoku remains as not just one of my favourite rhythm games but one of the most creative video games Nintendo has made this past decade.


While the game play is fairly minimalistic, with only the A, B and occasionally the D-pad used in the game, it's the way the game refreshes the mechanics for each game and yet remains incredibly accessible for even the most inexperienced of gamers (This is helpful as the entire game is in Japanese!) The game was made by Nintendo SPD Group No.1 who are most famous for the Wario Ware series, and while this does have a similar format to the aforementioned series, Rhythm Tengoku provides it's intuitive design through a sense of rhythm that permeates each game uniquely rather than relying on adaptations to new scenarios that Wario Ware does so well.

The mini games come in sets of five. When a passing grade is achieved in each game you unlock another set of mini games as well as a remix mode. The remix mode is one of the games best features as while in Wario Ware the game play revolves around each mini game being a surprise to the player, remix mode already knows that you how to play each of the mini games and it masterfully strings them together to create a familiar, yet new experience. It does this through the rhythm that each game has, rather than being a sequential order of games patched together to create a longer game, the remix presents a piece of music and then places segments of the games together with the song, allowing you to add extra beats to create a new piece of music entirely. This feature separates it from other rhythm games that give the player no control of the outcome song (DDR is the best example of this) and rhythm games that have an incomplete song and require to player to fix it (Guitar Hero didn't start this trend but it did help continue it).



Having great music and controls would already fulfill the criteria for a fun rhythm game however what pushes Rhythm Tengoku to become truly great is the visual variety in the game. It helps that it has some of the best visuals and sound that the Game Boy Advance can offer but it's the way that Rhythm Tengoku weaves the two together that makes it special. As an example, the first mini game let's you play as a karate student, as soon as objects start flying towards your character it's almost instinctive to press A as soon as this happens and doing so causes the character to punch the object out of the way with a bizarre English pop song playing as you do so while the second game is a game where a pair of tweezers cycles an onion growing facial hair with the task being to pick the hairs out. This is followed by a game where you have to follows the orders of a general of your army while you and your cohorts obey (the general looks like Fassad from Mother 3 which isn't surprising as both these games came out in 2006), a baseball simulator the zooms in and out of the box your in orbiting space (on a side note, the Mode-7 effect that replicates what SNES games used to use such as Actraiser and Secret of Evermore to replicate perspective is pure genius) and a game where you play as a monkey in a group clapping to the rhythmic beat. These games are just the tip of the iceberg of the postmodern insanity that the game reaches.



The biggest problem with Rhythm Tengoku was its lack of a release outside Japan. It can hardly be blamed on poor sales figures as the game sold well enough to warrant two sequels and it's not as though the game was too "Japanese" for western audiences as the sequels were localised. The most likely reason was the slow death of the Game Boy Advance and possibly for the same reasons that were given for Mother 3 not being localised (The vocal tracks in the game were licenced by Nintendo themselves but this might not apply overseas). That being said the game is intuitive enough to be played without any knowledge of Japanese and along with the endless re playability of learning the rhythm of each game a bit better, there's challenges peppered throughout the game such as perfecting certain mini games in a given amount of tries that go away forever if they are not beaten and little playable toys that bear resemblance to the extras available in Wario Ware: Touched. Overall Rhythm Tengoku is not just one of the best Game Boy Advance games but also one of the best rhythm games ever made.

Find Rhythm Tengoku on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2003-08-03
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo SPD Group No. 1, J.P. Room

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