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Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure - Nintendo 3DS Review

Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure


Paris, France.

Jumping from rooftops, fighting madmen with swords, and breaking into dance routines! All in a day's work.
Jumping from rooftops, fighting madmen with swords, and breaking into dance routines! All in a day's work.
Jazz hands, tiny dogs and mysteries to unravel!

A city of romance.

A city of culture.

A city of lights, intrigue and...thieves dancing in the streets like Hudson Hawk and thugs running around dressed like Gatchaman villains?

I've only visited the city once, but I have to say that one comes as a surprise to me.
But such is just one of the bizarre sightings one will see during Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure, Sega's latest rhythm game outing for the Nintendo 3DS. And the game is an interesting little gem.

Chances are likely you're probably not familiar with Rhythm Thief, mostly because it has been delayed more than once, but also because another rhythm game for the Nintendo 3DS with a much larger fan base came out in the US a week before. But the truth of the matter is while I was originally excited for both games, I've come to the personal conclusion that this was a better fit for me. Not a perfect game by any stretch, but perhaps perfect for me.

What sets Rhythm Thief apart from your average Rock Band, DDR or EBA is the story involved. True, other rhythm games have had some sort of story component before, but certainly not like this.

Rhythm Thief follows the exploits of a young Robin Hood type named Raphael (or as he's known by the police, Phantom R) and his little dog too (named Fondue) as they run around the streets of Paris stealing items in an attempt to find his father. Along the way, they meet a young violinist named Marie. And aside from romantic tensions that flair, the trio become involved in a mystery that involves criminal organizations, ancient empires and of course, Napoleon Bonaparte.

It's a strange, quirky sort of tale. One filled with more than one cliché and questionable voice acting. But I also found myself not only sucked in, but generally charmed by the tale of Phantom R. The characters and story are fun and likable with Paris serving as a wonderful backdrop. And between the cel shaded style and the anime cut scenes, the story unfolds in a wonderfully fantastic way.

But what makes the game even more enjoyable are the rhythm games. Similar to Nintendo's own Rhythm Heaven, the game places you in a variety of situations where you will have to tap the stylus, buttons or move the 3DS in tandem with each mini-game's rhythm. Most of the songs are unbelievably catchy and just plain good. And the fact that I snuck into the Louvre, ducking behind statues, in tune with the game's rhythm, sold me from the get-go. Additional nods to other Sega rhythm games help that sale. To make things even more unique, you can even buy items that will help you out during the rhythm game.

Players who tried the demo might feel that the game was either too easy or offered too little diversity in its rhythm games. I can assure that's not the case. There's a few repeats, but most of the games are interesting and unique. And the difficulty curve is reasonable too. But for those of you seeking some extra challenge (or are the masochistic type), you can buy an item that makes it so that any failure during a rhythm game session results in an automatic loss.

Tying all of these elements together is the adventure game aspect. Similar to Nintendo's Professor Layton series, the game's other main component has players wandering around Paris, talking with its colorful denizens and searching every nook and cranny for the game's medals. And there are puzzles to solve as well, which often need to be solved before you can go any further.

But there lies the crux of the situation.

As much as I love the game, it has its fair share of glaring flaws. Starting with the adventure aspects.

Whereas the Professor Layton games offer complex and challenging puzzles and give the player a sense of depth while searching its painted landscapes, Rhythm Thief feels more static and by the numbers. I often only found myself tapping around each location to find medals and unlockables, but caring little for anything else. And the puzzles rarely offer any sort of legitimate challenge. They feel stapled onto the final product and serve as a hindrance from the game's main appeal, it's rhythm sections.

But even those are tragically flawed. Most of the game's are fun and catchy, but there's a few stinkers mixed in. The ones that fall the hardest are the games that take advantage of the 3DS' internal gyro-sensor. I've failed more than once on these due to the game completely misreading my commands.

Getting to the rhythm mini-games can also be sporadic. Sometimes they're one after the other, while other times you have to trek through the game's story for long stretches at a time before getting to the next one. Ultimately, all the rhythm games can be played in a free-mode after you've completed them, but even so.

But when I weigh the bad against the good, for me at least this game still has more good than bad. It certainly stumbled in its delivery at times, but Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure is a fun little "pick up and play" game with a unique twist. Nintendo 3DS owners who looking to get a little groove on and try something new need not look any further.


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