Rhythm Heaven, the sequel to the Game Boy Advances’ Rhythm Tengoku, will release in North America on April 5, at the same time as the Nintendo DSi. It was the sixth-best selling game in all of Japan in 2008, due to addicting yet simple gameplay elements that had people enthralled with tapping away at their touch screen.
The demo for this DS title recently released on the Nintendo Channel on Wii, meaning I wasted no time in downloading it to give it a try. At it’s core, Rhythm Heaven is a music game that has you use the stylus in different ways in order to keep pace with the tunes. In the demo, there were a few different ways to manipulate your object or character: you “flick” the stylus with a quick wrist movement to launch an object, press and release the stylus on the screen to make your character stop and start singing, or press down to make an object (such as pump in Fillbots) perform its task. There is a fourth control option, but it wasn’t tested because it is not in the demo. Control is simple enough, but timing is everything-this is a rhythm based game after all.
There are three levels of success with your stylus movements: correct, half-miss, or a complete miss. You can get by with half-misses, but in order to master the game, you will need to string together lots of correct taps and movements. Too many complete misses and you will fail to pass a level, and will need to try it again before you can move on to the next one.
The three levels available in the demo were “Built to Scale”, “Glee Club”, and “Fillbots”. For Built to Scale, you used the flick control type to launch a bar into two objects that were moving closer to each other slowly, according to the beat of the music. If you went too quickly, you would miss entirely; too late, and you just knock over the objects. Flick at just the right time though, and the bar connects, building the object for the assembly line in front of you. More of this can be seen in the video below; it’s simple, but difficult to hit every one just right, especially with quickly changing speeds and random off beats that change your expectations of the song’s progression. There was also one portion that occurred in the dark, and you could not see the pieces as they came closer, meaning you needed to rely entirely on the music and your own sense of rhythm.
Glee Club has you controlling one adorable little creature as he sings with two others. You must match their vocal tracks by pressing and releasing on the touch screen; you will know when you are messing up, as they will start to grimace and give you sideways glances. Occasionally, the conductor would yell out, “Together now!” and you would have to wail by using the flick motion. In extended pieces, this level type has a lot of potential, especially since you feel like you are much more part of the song than in something like Built to Scale.
Last, you have Fillbot, where you control a pump that is filling up robots. Though in the demo the same robot is built each time-meaning the beat is the same-you can see in the video that there are different robot sizes that require different fill times, meaning you need to pay attention to the changes in the music just like all of the other games. It’s simple to do once you get in a groove, but if you miss by going too early or too late, the robot will duck their head out of the way and avoid the pump. This can throw you off track, and I hope that there ends up being some quick robot production; that would mean a missed fill would wreak havoc on your assembly line of music.
While the demo was short, there was enough there to see that this could be one of the most charming and addictive titles on the system. Fans of rhythm and music games will want to pick this up when it makes its stateside debut. Given the fun I had with the demo as well as the appeal it continues to have over in Japan, you can color me intrigued by the game and concept as I await its release date. Be sure to check out the video below so you get a better idea of just what this title entails!