Sega might be known for their rhythm games, but they’ve produced a few here and there that have been rather enjoyable and have acquired a cult following in their time. The Space Channel 5 series and Samba de Amigo come to mind here, as the games were quite interesting for their time, and while they didn’t exactly light the world on fire popularity-wise, they’re still fairly well regarded by their fans. Well, Sega’s taking another crack at the genre with Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure, on the 3DS. The game, at first glance, has a vaguely Elite Beat Agents vibe to it, which is understandable given its genre and system of residence, as well as the appearance and style of the main character, though the core mechanics seem a good bit different. Well, with a demo having released on the E-Shop in anticipation of the game’s release, we decided to take a look at the demo to see what the final product might have to offer, and if it can hang with Sega’s prior efforts in the genre.
1.) The first thing you notice about Rhythm Thief is that the music is basically excellent. The soundtrack of the game is quite funky, featuring some awesome tracks that are just fun to listen to. The game showcases a soundtrack that’s one part showtunes-style flair and on part jazz with a bit of orchestral flair thrown in for good measure. The game also makes great use of this, as the gameplay follows the rhythm of the tunes shown here almost perfectly, and you’ll find that you can easily match the song tempo as you get into the experience because of how well everything is put together.
2.) The first stage you’ll take on shows off a more standard style of rhythm-based gameplay. Basically, Rhythm Thief (Raphael/Phantom R, but the demo doesn’t tell us his name, so) dances with what are presumed to be some of his associates atop the Arc de Triomphe and in front of the Eiffel Tower, which makes for an impressive visual if nothing else. Your two associates perform a move in time with the beat and you’re tasked to perform this move with the same timing. Movements are performed by drawing in a direction on the touch screen or drawing a circle, and the game is helpful enough to tell you which direction you need to perform at the appropriate time. As you’d expect, nailing the move with precision timing gets you the most points, with early and late attempts losing you score. The touch screen responds well to your motions here and it’s easy to get into the groove with the dance steps, and this is a cute enough mini-game that’s easy to play and fun.
3.) The second stage you’ll take on is a little more involved, and quite different from the first. In this case, our protagonist is racing through what is presumed to be the Louvre, and has to dodge the various security guards around the halls by striking a pose equivalent to the statues he passes along the way. This is done by tapping one of four colored panels that resides on the touch screen, each of which also displays the pose the statue you’ll pass will be making. Early sections will give you wide gaps between statues, allowing you plenty of time to adjust, while later sections group several statues together, giving you little time to react between poses. This section also feels fairly natural, and the basic scoring works identically to the prior stage so you’ll know how well you’re doing without much trouble. You can also see how it’d be easier to ramp up the difficulty here, by taking away the color coding or increasing the speed, though the difficulty in the demo is easy to work with and gives you a good idea of what to expect going forward.
4.) The third stage is the easiest, mechanically, of the lot, as it only requires one button and one direction to work with, but it makes up for this by increasing the pace a good bit. Basically, a large group of knights attacks our protagonist from the left and right, and to fight them off, you have to press A when they come from the right and a direction on the D-Pad (any one) when they come from the left. As with the previous stages, timing is key here, and you’ll want to press the button or direction at just the right time to get the best possible response when knocking out the enemies. There will also be the odd giant knight who jumps in to attack, which asks you to completely forget about timing and just wail on the A button and directions to smack the crap out of him, lest you take damage from his attack. This is the most fast-paced of the stages in the demo and you’ll find it’s also the least forgiving of the stages as a result, but it’s fairly easy to adjust to and very amusing to watch play out.
5.) In all of these sequences, the main indicator of success is the Groove Gauge, a gauge located at the top of the screen that indicates how well you’re doing… or not doing. Nailing movements with expert timing consecutively will keep the gauge high, while failing multiple movements in a row will drop the gauge quite a bit, and eventually, fail you out altogether. The closer you nail the action you need to perform to “Perfect”Â timing, the better it affects the Groove Gauge, but missing a move entirely hits the gauge harder than any successes you might make, so a couple of missteps can take you from winning to losing in a big hurry. The missions in the demo aren’t so challenging that this should be a significant concern, though it’s easy to see how, with some added difficulty, things could get hectic in a hurry. You can also turn off the timing guide if you want an added challenge here in the demo, which does make things a bit more difficult, though there’s no obvious incentive to do so, at least not in the demo, anyway.
6.) When you complete a stage you’re graded based on how many of each move type you made, between Perfect (as you’d expect), Great (almost perfect), Good (notably off) and Harsh (missed it entirely). The game also ranks your Combo, that is, how many prompts you successfully completed in a row, and adds that into the high score. You’re also assigned a rank, between A and E, with A being the best and E being the pits. Completing the stage also pays out Medals, which the demo doesn’t explain, though they’re presumably a reward that can be invested in some capacity or another, and replaying the stages allows you to earn more Medals (albeit less than you earned to begin with) and improve your high scores, which would presumably carry over to the main game.
7.) Rhythm Thief is certainly quite pretty, and makes good use of the capabilities of the 3DS. The character models, particularly that of the protagonist, are well animated and stylish, and the animations sync nicely to the music when needed. The game also makes great use of color and is very flashy and vibrant, in a way that isn’t tasteless or poorly handled in the least. Though the demo doesn’t show this off, the game also comes equipped with some fully animated cutscenes that look quite nice in the preview videos, though how they’ll hold up on the small screen is, as yet, undetermined. The game does make good use of its 3D, and this is apparent from the demo, as the characters are obviously on different planes and the 3D effects make that work effectively. It can be hard to adjust to using the guide with the 3D effects turned on, mind you, so you’ll need some time to adjust to the timing if you’re using the guide to help you get down the movement timing, but otherwise the effects are unobtrusive and work pretty well, so far.
8.) The demo doesn’t approach the plot in any fashion; while we’re shown Rhythm Thief/Raphael/Phantom R/whatever, no one is named in the demo and what’s here is meant to show off the rhythm mini-games above anything else. For those who are curious: our protagonist is an art thief who is looking for his father using a bracelet that matches a pattern on a coin his father left him before disappearing some years prior. He’s directly opposed by what is explained to be the reanimated Napoleon Bonaparte, who is searching for a relic dubbed the Dragon’s Crown, which will allow him to rule Paris. So, y’know, nothing terribly outlandish. It’s a shame more time isn’t given to show casing the plot in the demo because dancing thief versus reanimated Napoleon sounds awesome, but there you have it all the same.
9.) It’s also a shame that the demo doesn’t get into some of the more involved elements of the game, like the adventure game elements and such. Basically, the game seems to be one part rhythm mini-games and one part adventure game, with the latter requiring the player to navigate around Paris, asking for information from NPC’s and hunting for clues. The medals one collects also seem to indicate something more involved, unlockable content-wise, than the demo is showing, and the game also apparently supports two players wirelessly in some of the minigames that isn’t shown off here. Not that it’s not smart to hold back on some of your content in order to generate more interest, but the demo doesn’t even hint at any of this content, which is a shame, as a lot of it is just as interesting, if not more so, than the mini-games on display.
10.) Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure, taken on the merits of its demo alone, looks like a fun and amusing series of rhythm-based mini-games that might appeal immediately to fans of games like Elite Beat Agents or other comparable titles. However, what the game doesn’t show you seems just as interesting as what the game does show you, as the game also features multiplayer support, adventure game elements and some interesting plot concepts on top of its rhythm game elements. This one looks like one to keep an eye on, and hopefully we’ll have more to tell you when it’s released.