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Review: Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's TreasureSega Xeen Nintendo 3DS rhythm music Phantom R review Rhythm Thief & The Emperors Treasure
Developer: Sega, Xeen
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: July 10, 2012 (out now)
ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older
Lurking in the shadows, just a week behind the more anticipated rhythm game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, lays a cunning thief… Rhythm Thief. Phantom R and his game almost became ghosts here in the states, too, with repeated delays and the Sega layoffs in March. It’s been a long, hard road, but Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure was finally able to make its grand debut. And how very grand the game itself is. This seemingly unassuming rhythm game is chock-full of old-school Sega charm, and will grab hold of your attention and heart.
Rhythm Thief takes place in the beautiful city of Paris, France. Our protagonist, Raphael, leads a double life as an art thief named Phantom R (his motives for stealing and later returning art are explained later on in the story). When pursuing his father, who left him when Raphael was a small child, he finds a bracelet with the same symbol as the coin that his father left him has. Soon enough, he becomes entangled with a girl named Marie, whose violin also carries that same symbol. The two young Parisians are then chased by a man claiming to be a resurrected Napoleon Bonaparte, who is seeking to rule Paris and the world with an artifact called the Dragon Crown. Raphael and his trusty canine sidekick, Fondue, work together to stop Napoleon and his cohorts; doing so to music and rhythm.
Obviously, with all of that, Rhythm Thief doesn’t focus completely on being a rhythm game. There’s plenty of adventuring and moving around maps. There are even puzzle elements, though they are very simplistic and could have definitely used some more attention. Not to mention, on top of all of this, an engrossing and in-depth story that is certain to grab those that are not familiar with the rhythm genre.
The game seems to take many notes from the Professor Layton series. The art style, animation, and poking around at every part of the screen for medals (instead of coins) make that very evident. Though, at the same time, Rhythm Thief puts its own spin on things and exudes a unique charm that doesn’t make it feel like a copy-cat.
In any case, let’s stop rambling and talk about the main part: the gameplay! Rhythm Thief is the most fun I’ve had with a rhythm game in a long time. Sega and Xeen really put a lot of effort to make use of the 3DS’s properties and create a unique rhythm game. It’s not just tapping the screen or pressing buttons the whole time. Most of the rhythm minigames are presented in varying manners and are different from each other. In a way, it feels like a Rhythm Heaven game.
Rhythm Thief even incorporates the 3DS’s gyroscope in order to make use of tilting and such in some of the rhythm minigames. It was completely unexpected when the first one that did make use of it popped up for me, but very fun (however, it could sometimes be unresponsive). Another one of my particular favorite set of minigames have you drag the stylus left and right to play Marie’s violin, presented in a way that feels similar to Guitar Hero.
For the minigames, there is much help offered to those who need it and this is completely optional. Such help includes a “guide” which is usually an icon on the screen that indicates when a button needs to be pressed or stylus needs to be swiped. You can also buy items with your medals to make things easier - or more challenging!. The instructions presented before a minigame (and some puzzles) is started can sometimes be unclear, however. There was one in particular where I had absolutely no idea what was going on or what to do (it’s R31; be wary!).
One of my favorite parts about Rhythm Thief is that some rhythm minigames are even themed around other Sega rhythm franchises like Space Channel 5 and Samba De Amigo. Playing a minigame that feels just like Space Channel 5, where you try to imitate the opponent’s moves, and seeing Phantom R go “chu, chu, chu!” is a real treat for those that are fans of the game.
Rhythm Thief also offers bonus chapters at the end of the game, depending on whether you qualify for them or not. Finishing the “Master Instrument” and finding all the Phantom Notes are two such side-quests that need to be done to open up these new story branches. Only the most masterful rhythm thief will be able to do this, though. A lot of the sounds needed for the Master Instrument and collecting some Phantom Notes can no longer be done if you happen to miss them at a certain place at a certain time. Perhaps the most difficult chapter to unlock, however, requires you to get an “A” rank in every rhythm minigame. All of this provides a great incentive for completionists and those looking for a challenge.
The gameplay of Rhythm Thief isn’t all that’s fantastic about it. The tracks used in and out of the rhythm minigames are pretty great, as they should be, and do a wonderful job of setting the mood. My absolute favorite piece of music from the game is titled “Moon Princess”. It’s incredibly emotional and memorable. As for voice-acting, it’s pretty nice aside from a few laughable French accents here and there. However, a noticeable problem throughout the game is that sometimes the written dialogue doesn’t match what is being audibly said. I wish a bit more attention had gone into that.
The animated cutscenes are gorgeous and surprisingly well done (especially in 3D). They certainly rival the ones present in the Professor Layton series, Rhythm Thief’s probable inspiration. The scenery of Paris and other parts of France come alive with vibrant colors and details in both the cutscenes and backgrounds throughout the game.
There’s just so much I love about Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure; I could go on and on about it all day. It’s an immense amount of fun and a fabulous new IP from Sega. You can tell how much love and care went into making it and I can only wish it was getting as much attention as Theatrhythm seems to be getting. Despite that, I hope it does well enough here in North America so there’s potential for a sequel (and the ending even hints towards one, too!). Rhythm Thief definitely deserves it.
by Jason Clement
Rhythm Thief caught my eye when it was initially announced and had been on my radar before it was released, but I admit I didn't expect for it to be anything more than an Elite Beat Agents clone with a story. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be much more than that, and also mixed with a bit of Professor Layton as well. The result is a game that's extremely clever in its rhythm game usage and has a charming story to boot.
What surprised me the most about Rhythm Thief was just how well each rhythm game adapts to each circumstance in the story; you'll fight off enemy goons to a beat in one game, run along and hide behind differently colored statues to avoid detection in another, and play a violin in yet another one of more than 50 different types of rhythm games. And if that isn't impressive enough, the music absolutely nails it as well, as the soundtrack is incredibly catchy and left me wanting a physical collection of all of the songs.
If there's anything that truly won me over though, it's the incredible quality of the animation during the cutscenes and throughout the story. Rhythm Thief has the best and most impressive animated cutscenes of any 3DS game to this point; there's no artifacting whatsoever and the frame-rate is seemless and never drops off. Add to that the wonderful cast of characters and a great story and Rhythm Thief has all of the makings of a great new potential franchise at hand. As Leah mentioned, let's hope this one sells well enough; it'll leave you hungering for that second installment by the end.
And unless you absolutely hate rhythm games or don't own a 3DS, Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure should absolutely be on your radar as it's one of the best examples of a game that was built from the ground-up for the 3DS and succeeds because of it.
+ Innovative and fun rhythm minigames that make full use of the features the 3DS has to offer, such as the gyroscope
+ Offers adventure and puzzle elements on top of the main rhythm portion of the game
+ Tributes to other Sega rhythm games like Space Channel 5 and Samba De Amigo
+ Animated cutscenes and soundtrack are absolutely gorgeous
- Directions before you start rhythm minigames are sometimes vague and unclear
- In many instances, written dialogue does not match what is being audibly said
Overall: 9 (out of 10)
Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure is a masterpiece of a rhythm game. For those that are fans of the genre and those having even a tiny bit of interest, you need to pick up a copy of this Sega title right away.
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