|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Nintendo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 6, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
February 18, 2009 - It's no secret that the rhythm/music genre has exploded in the last few years, thanks in no small part to console heavyweights like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. However, while these games focused on playing instrument-shaped peripherals, a new game, Rhythm Heaven, will take a more creative approach to the rhythm/music genre. Instead of trying to "play" pre-existing songs, Rhythm Heaven for the DS will feature a collection of rhythm-inspired mini-games that are reminiscent of the Wario Ware series.
For instance, one of the featured mini-games in Rhythm Heaven features a choir with an unruly member. Your task will be to keep this member's mouth shut (by placing your stylus over her mouth) until the rhythm calls for her to sing, at which point you can lift up your stylus to let her open her mouth. Another mini-game has you mixing chemicals with a romantic scientist whose concoctions will only produce true love if you shake them to a certain beat. There are many more mini-games like these in Rhythm Heaven, and the kooky nature of the game definitely gives it an off-the-wall style, which should be refreshing for fans of the music genre - one which is quickly reaching over-saturation levels.
Although there will be plenty of different mini-games, Rhythm Heaven will have a very simplistic control structure. Each mini-game will involve one of three different actions: flick, tap, or slide. You play the game by holding the DS sideways (like in Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword) and will see the different mini-game situations on DS' top screen (which will be on the left or right, depending on your handedness). You will then use the DS' touchscreen to interact with the scene. Based on the context of the situation, you will have to decide whether you have to flick, tap, or slide the stylus to keep the rhythm in the scene.
The game's simplistic elements definitely give this title some casual appeal, but there is quite a bit of room for evolving gameplay. Progression in the game will depend upon your ability to master each of the mini-games with a high score, and new mini-games will be unlocked as old ones are cleared. Much like other mini-game collections, you are able to freely bounce between mini-games you have unlocked, and there will be extra "free play" modes that will allow you to play extended sessions with your favorites.
One big thing that will set Rhythm Heaven apart from other rhythm/music games is that it will use original music instead of familiar popular music tunes. Although this is definitely a little bit of a departure from the established "formula" set forth by other games in the genre, it allows Rhythm Heaven to focus more on creating music that fits around the gameplay, rather than gameplay that fits the music. The music in Rhythm Heaven is just as zany as the mini-games, and it is composed by Japanese music producer TSUNKU, who also helped direct the game.
In addition to the music being a little bit on the "different" side, the look of the game may also take some getting used to. The graphics are incredibly minimalistic and generally feature a hand-drawn style similar to Wario Ware: Touched. The look of the game certainly won't impress on a technical level, but the exaggerated characters and simplistic visuals give this game a charm all its own.
Although Rhythm Heaven is not your traditional music-based game, it looks like it will do a good job of being its own unique experience on the DS when it releases this spring. The current games market may be over-saturated with titles as it is, but Rhythm Heaven looks like it will be a great title for those who want something other than floating note bars from their music games. Rhythm Heaven is already one of the best-selling DS games of all time in Japan, and its quirky style will hopefully resonate with American audiences as well.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor