Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure

9 Overall Score

Catchy Tunes | Progressive Game-play | Quirky Fun

Motion Sensing doesn't work well | Boring world map

At a time when SEGA is suffering one of its worst financial quarters in the company’s history, it would be easy to dismiss Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure as just another rhythm game in a genre that’s already past its prime. And that would be a real shame, because Rhythm Thief is possibly one of the best puzzle & rhythm games available on the 3DS, joining the respected ranks of Professor Layton and Elite Beat Agents. Fans of both the series will find a lot to like here.

The plot is simple and silly, as you’d expect to find in a puzzle game. You play Raphael, a young lad in Paris, whose accent sounds anything but French and who, naturally has a night-time alter ego named “Phantom R.” Turns out Phantom R is also a spectacular art thief who dances his way through heists, along with his trusty sidekick pup, Fondue.

If that’s not enough to entice you, consider that the bizarre and quirky plot also includes elements like disco dancing, fist fights, mystical artifacts, and a nefarious plan to resurrect Napoleon Bonaparte (yes, that Napoleon Bonaparte). Now, just in case you felt guilty playing an art thief as the hero, it turns out Raphael has a good reason for his actions – he’s trying to follow a trail that he hopes will lead to his father, who vanished three years prior to the start of the game. And of course, he’ll meet plenty of unusual characters along the way…

Within the game, you’ll navigate along the streets of Paris, interacting with NPCs and completing various rhythm games along the way. There are 50 of these in all, though some modes repeat as you go along. The good part? Anything where you swipe, tap, or choose an icon to pose as you race along the halls of the Louvre. The bad? Anything using the 3DS’s motion controls, as you’ll need to be a split second early with any of your moves in order to make the grade.

With the rhythm games, the grading system is familiar, and it’s not all that difficult to achieve at least a ‘B’ score on the games. That said, if you fail a few key moves before the end of a song – even if you’ve done nearly perfectly so far – your score will fall drastically, which can be a little frustrating. Even so, the games are fun and it’s hard to get through each two to three minute song without bobbing your head in time with the music or at least a smile on your face.

And in case you think the whole set of challenges revolve around swiping and sliding the stylus to get through dance battles, think again! Before you know it, you’ll be hitting icons to pose as statues in the Lourve, fighting enemies on the rooftop in time with the music, or playing as Fondue in a rhythm-based biting level. Yeah, that happened!

Another excellent aspect of the game is the progressive nature of the challenges, both within each song and within the game itself. Difficulty increases over time as the songs get faster and more complex, and the games become more confident in presentation as you progress through the game. This allows for a reasonable and steady learning curve while you play, rather than becoming too frustrating early on, or too difficult too quickly (though there are difficult moments, so players who love a challenge won’t be disappointed).

One of the major testaments to a rhythm game’s playability and success is how many times you want to repeat the levels to get a better score – and most of that is based on the music. The score in the game is catchy, fun, upbeat, and varies from jazz to classical to rock and everything in between, showing that the developers put significant thought into their work on such a critical aspect of the game (and if you really love the music, it’ll be available on iTunes in North America mid-August).

Now, one of the not-quite-as-fun aspects of the game is the actual navigation within Paris. There are things to do – items to locate, hidden coins, etc. – but instead of presenting the player with much in the way of challenges, your interactions with NPCs and the tasks you have to do for them (ie. record a sound somewhere and bring it back to the NPC to get them to do something) are spelled out clearly, rather than allowing you to figure it out for yourself.

On the whole, Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure is an incredibly fun and upbeat addition to the 3DS catalogue, possibly poised to become the Professor Layton of music puzzle games (not-so-subtle subtitle, anyone?). There’s a lot here in terms of similarity, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if this game became a series – and for good reason! A few minor bumps along the way don’t spoil an otherwise enjoyable game.

Recommended for anyone with a passing interest in the game – either grab it on store shelves or give the demo a go (available in the eShop)!


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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