Review: Rhythm Party (Xbox 360)

Rhythm Party
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Genre: Rhythm – Motion dancing
Release Date: 02/01/2012

In the U.S., Konami has certainly seen its ups and downs in the rhythm game genre, with more recent times yielding far more results in the latter. Even though most of its DanceDanceRevolution titles remain solid (although the recent games’ music selections have some saying otherwise), releases such as Rock Revolution and Beat’n Groovy have been painting the company has nothing more than a music genre has-been.

This, of course, ignores the Japanese arm of the company, which has been feverishly launching brand new Bemani IPs as of late. The company’s Kinect title, Dance Masters, will be appearing in arcades as Dance Evolution this year, and, using the Kinect technology, the Japanese division formulated a spin-off titled Boom Boom Dance for Xbox LIVE Arcade.

The title did release in the U.S. as Rhythm Party, and I must admit, when I heard about it, it seemed nothing more than Konami repackaging Dance Masters and throwing it up as a download title. After some time with it, I can say, although it’s not perfect, Konami proved me wrong this time.

Konami simplified this $10 game to its core mechanics, so there really isn’t much to expect here. There is no story involved in the game and your options are to dance, dance or dance (or if you’re a buzzkill, you could technically just stand there and flail your arms to match the commands). Players will find a few options sprinkled in that change graphical effects and the game has a replay feature, but when these replays can’t be shared online, the feature doesn’t have much appeal.

When you boil it down, I suppose your “modes” come in the form of 10 selectable songs. As expected in Konami title, this means players have a combination of licensed songs U.S. gamers could possibly be familiar with and Konami original offerings from artists such as Naoki Maeda and Jun.

Each song comes pre-packaged with three difficulties, giving players 30 possibilities. For some odd reason, a “master” difficulty is featured in the game, but players need to download a now-available DLC pack to trigger the feature. Don’t sweat – the download is free, but it’s just odd the feature wasn’t included from the get-go. Also, as now required by music game law, there is also a marketplace option for those looking to expand their music catalog.

Overall, Rhythm Party‘s options are serviceable for a $10 game, just don’t expect anything more.

Rhythm Party‘s visuals take cues from the Universe series of DDR titles, which means it looks great while potentially being incredibly distracting. While the menus are fairly minimal, perhaps to aid in the motion-controlled navigation, during the game, the visuals really pop.

In fact, the game just looks crazy at times, with explosions flaring out when a player hits a marker, videos that have various woodland creatures popping up and running around the screen and one of the songs even slowly turns your onscreen portrayal into a robot. The backgrounds also feature a lot of great color and lighting.

The downside to this is the possible distractions the visuals may cause, but for anyone looking on, the game is certainly one of Konami’s more attractive titles.

The audio in Rhythm Party is spot-on, just as you would expect from a music title. The menu music creates a background without being annoying and each song rings through in great quality during gameplay.

As for what has been arranged for the game, Konami continues on its insistence of attracting as many people as possible to the game. This means the licensed music is a wide variety of styles and time frames. Players can bounce with Vanilla Ice, slow it down with Bobby Brown, pick it up with some modern Lady Gaga and then cut loose with some Eurobeat-style tracks from Konami. It’s a serviceable mix unless you’re dead-set on enjoying one or two particular genres of music.

Sure. The music featured in Rhythm Party has all been dragged over from existing DDR titles, but the new play mechanics make revisiting them worth the time.

The only downside to the audio that struck me was the sound effects that trigger when the player hits a marker. The effect changes based on the song, but I found a few to be somewhat grating and unnecessary when the music track should be the main focus. Still, I’ll take these effects over having the DDR X announcer any day of the century.

I’ve discussed my battles with the Kinect sensor a couple of times, as it seems some companies just can’t nail Kinect gameplay down. Firing up Rhythm Party, outside of a few menu navigation annoyances, I was really surprised at how fluid the camera recognition and gameplay is.

Taking Rhythm Party to its basic level, the game is sort of a marriage of Konami’s Para Para Paradise and SEGA’s Samba De Amigo (although Osu!/Elite Beat Agents has been mentioned as well). The title places the image the player, as captured by the Kinect sensor, on the screen and tasks players with placing a body part in the appropriate area in time to the music (Para). These markers are circles that flow into rings in high, middle and low positions (Samba), and in Konami fashion, each marker is given a rating based on the timing of the player.

Giving the title a couple of goes, the Kinect sensor works wonders, recognizing the player’s movement well enough to allow them to use their hands, arms, feet and even their head to burst the timing circles. However, the real charm in Rhythm Party isn’t just swatting circles.

Utilizing Kinect, the game actively rewards players continually moving. Shuffling your feet or swaying in time to the music is recognized by the game and gives the player bonus points and extensions of their multiplier. There are even rewards for posing, jumping and more, creating a rewarding freestyle experience that is missing from most of Konami’s rhythm games. The game comes with a list of skill tests, which challenges players to execute a certain number of maneuvers in a song, which can yield some crazy results.

The game does throw in a few different markers that require players to hold still in certain positions or start in a certain position and motion in an indicated direction. As players pump up the difficulty, the markers move at higher speeds and force multitasking such as holding one arm in a position while motioning with the other arm. I did experience a few hiccups with the motion-based markers as I felt I did what I needed to do, only to get a miss, but this only occurred a couple of times.

The game is fairly flexible with the Kinect sensor as I’ve even played at night in the dark and the game still picked up nearly every single action I did. This is one of those titles that just plain works with Kinect in a way that is natural to players, and, as I’ve already said, its quality really surprised me.

As a $10 download, the replayability banks on how willing a player is to go back and earn higher scores and ratings. Even at only 10 songs, if you download the master pack, this gives players 40 different scoring and ranking opportunities, which can really add up if the player enjoys the game.

The game also banks on DLC acting as catalyst for retention. Since the game’s release, two expansion packs have been released. To be fair, while you can only buy the songs in packs of three, the 240 Microsoft Point price tag puts each song at $1 a piece. Just note that these are all Konami originals at this point, which means if you don’t follow Bemani, you don’t really know what you’re spending your money on.

In this case, replayability is really a mixed bag. It’s a solid game, but I can only see it being taken in small doses. While I had fun, I had no feeling that I should keep playing for extended periods of time. With that in mind, since the game is so active, players should use caution as to not play until they collapse.

The difficulties in the title all scale appropriately and players will find plenty of easy songs, with expert songs to match. Much like the DLC, at $10 for Rhythm Party, you’re paying $1 a piece for each song in the game, which I think is appropriate enough. The songs also present a wide range of variety outside of the Konami originals performed by repeated artists.

I really can’t find anything major to complain about in regard to Rhythm Party‘s balance.

The focus on completely moving your body and freestyling gives Rhythm Party some bonus points in regard to originality, but it’s really the only true innovation when compared to Konami’s numerous other music game titles.

With Dance Central and Just Dance on the market, it’s easy to predict what the casual gamer will think about Rhythm Party‘s originality. In fact, Rhythm Party comes very close to carbon copying Sony’s Eye Toy Groove on the Playstation 2, which featured “freestyle sections,” but only at certain points in the song.

It’s also kind of hard to ignore Konami recycled the entire song library in the game. The title is hardly original in its premise, and even its execution, making it perhaps the biggest complaint about the game, as trivial as that may be.

At $10, Rhythm Party is certainly attractive when compared to the $30-40 titles on store shelves and with the motion dance genre at the peak of its popularity, the title could certainly be very appealing. The encouragement to cut loose with motions could easily make the title a party hit, especially if Konami can somehow line up some more licensed DLC for the title. With the title’s price, combined with its accessibility, Konami could actually gain quite a bit traction with casual players.

If you’re a Bemani diehard; however, your mileage may vary. I know many in the Bemani community that do not even own an Xbox 360, so that alone throws this title out the window. Still, being an Xbox LIVE Arcade title, there is a free demo available. If you remember the days of Konami taking a shot at ParaParaParadise and DanceManiax, you might still have some fun goofing around with Rhythm Party.

The Scores:
Graphics: GREAT
Control/gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: ABOVE AVERAGE
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: BELOW AVERAGE
Appeal Factor: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: GOOD

Short Attention Span Summary

While the review scoring might seem to be on the lower end, Rhythm Party hits between satisfactory and great on most of the categories that matter for a rhythm title. The most important factor is that the Kinect sensor works well with the title with little issue outside of a mildly-irritating menu navigation. The title is great in short burst for individual players and if Konami picks up on the DLC, it could also be a quick and cheaper alternative to the disc-based games on the market to cater to casual players. I didn’t expect much from Rhythm Party going into it, but it managed to surprise me. It’s not original at all, but some solid execution really saved this title from becoming yet another rhythm game flop.



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