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Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) artwork

Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) review

""As long as you have fun, that's the main thing.""

In video gaming culture, us players love championing games that are weird, asinine, and obscure, mainly because they strive to be different in the face of the atypical modern warfares and Maddens. Probably the most infamous console example in recent years has to be 2010's Deadly Premonition, an off-the-wall murder mystery starring an equally quirky protagonist; with low production values, goofy dialogue, a bizarre plot, and odd audio hiccups, the game is a very memorable experience for anyone that's played through to its insane conclusion. Whenever a game like this pops up, we just eat it up, regardless of quality. So, when Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven Fever was released for the Wii, the title swooned gamers with its silly presentation and surprisingly basic controls.

"This game is both fun and very basic to play."

As its name implies, this is a rhythm-based product, and all you do is press the A button on specific, varied cues. But there's a twist... sometimes you have to press both A and B buttons! Oooooooooh. Joking aside, RHF's catch is the unique way every stage is presented, with each one providing a distinct, often crazy, always lighthearted, approach to the gameplay. The first stage, Hole in One, does a wonderful job at introducing RHF's wacky atmosphere, where you're a golf player that constantly gets tossed balls, and you must hit them at the right beat of a vibrant tune in order to make hole in ones into a distant island. But you're not being aided by usual helpers, oh no. Standing to the left side of the screen is a monkey and a baboon, both tossing balls at different speeds, and you must depend on audio cues and specific notes in the music to get the rhythm right. It's a very relaxing stage, and is great at easing you into what's to come.

RHF gets more kooky from there, placing you in the role of a fork holder that catches food blobs being flicked from afar, and in one stage, you're playing badminton between planes against a cat, whose whimsical "BU-BUM-BUM-BUM!!" yells stay in your head due to its enthusiastic tone. Since this is a rhythm game, you really have to try your best to keep in sync with the music, as the clean, straight-forward visuals normally try to throw you off your groove. Exhibition Match, for example, is a stage where you need to hit baseballs being thrown in and out of a curtain. The practice round pretty much says you need to count the beat, and you conclude that you need to swing your bat after the fourth beat. Game, set, and match, right? Well, the deeper you get into the actual stage, the more visuals will start playing tricks, like suddenly zooming in, and in one instance, zoom away from an absurd angle! The stage even climaxes with the curtain rising, with the mystery behind it possibly screwing you in your final moments.

"As long as you have fun, that's the main thing."

Even before I got my hands on this Wii disc, I had a feeling this could be a very chill, laid back experience from some of the videos I've watched. So when I was going through the mandatory test sequence at the start of the game, somewhat fumbling through silent countdowns and blind button presses, I was still at ease when I heard comforting quotes from my three instructors. Then I made my way through RHF, and not even nine or ten stages in, it was surprising how frustrated I was getting: I was tripping over huge chunks of beats and failed to pass a stage for the first time at Remix 2 (Remixes are boss stages that meld the previous four stages together). It was here that I discovered how strict and inconsistent the timing sequences can be. Even with music and visual cues available, they don't coincide with how much lack of leeway the programming gives with the button presses.

I'm not exaggerating with the inconsistency of the button presses, as some stages have you press the button after a sequence is finished playing out, but with others, the rules fluctuate. One fine example is the stage called Love Rap, a Simon Says challenge where you're competing against another rapper. The irritating thing about the timing here is that you have to hit the button just when the person you're copying is almost done saying the last word in her rap. If you press even a millisecond after, your rival will shout over your words, and it doesn't help that there are segments where things are being said consecutively at a speedy rate, with "Fo' sho'!" being the easiest phrase to trip over. The Remixes are a pain in this department, too, because of the sudden scene changes between different visuals and tempos, sometimes switching to a new scene before you can input button presses at lightning speed.

I can imagine someone making the argument that RHF's mechanics are different from your usual video game, and that I just have to deal with it, when in fact this is far from the truth. Having to string together long combos over a period without goofing up, this game actually has a lot in common with third-person actionfests like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta whom also demand precise controlling. However, even though these games have humbly kicked my butt on several occasions in the past, I will give them credit for allowing a sense of freedom, even if it's small, when parrying attacks and putting together combos. The funny thing, too, is how those titles require a number of buttons working in unison to pull off these feats, whereas RHF simply wants you to hit one or two buttons.

"It's not important how well you did in the test."

This game just doesn't have a valid excuse to be this hard and stubborn, especially one that claims in the beginning that you should just enjoy yourself and not worry about messing up. The starting prep talk comes off hypocritical, especially when the game is often mean-spirited whenever you screw up a beat or fail a stage: stern looks from characters during gameplay and insults afterwards aplenty. And the rating system just absolutely blows my mind... I can't understand how it fully works. More so than not, the game will judge you based on how many beats you get right per different tempo instead of how many you get overall, which is jarring. However, there are times when it feels like the rating system just implodes, as I'll do decently in a stage, but still fail, yet when I replay the stage and do even worse, I get a passing grade! How can I aim to better myself when crazy stuff like this happens?

Unfortunately, RHF gave me flashbacks to my experience with Sega's Space Channel 5 over a decade ago on the Dreamcast, how both relied on audio cues to advance, and how the two stumbled because of their strictness. Hilariously, Space Channel 5 has an auto-play code, and that's actually the most joy I took away from the game. Sadly, that also triggered a connection I noticed among Rhythm Heaven Fever, Space Channel 5, and Deadly Premonition, three "unique" games: they're more entertaining to watch than play. Look, I don't mind when video games try something different in the face of products that play it safe or act too generic, but they also gotta throw me a bone and actually try to be genuinely playable and consistently fun; I champion creativity, but I'm not gonna cherish a flawed game (especially when its issues could easily be rectified), then moan and groan to others about it being an underrated masterpiece, because it's not. Not to mention I'll be wasting people's time and money when they could spend them elsewhere.

"Go have fun!"

With another game.


pickhut's avatar
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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 01, 2014:

Hmm... I actually didn't have any problem with the timing in my playthrough. In fact, RHF is the only rhythm game I've ever beaten. Then again, experiences can differ from one setup to the next.
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pickhut posted January 02, 2014:

My Wii was plugged directly into my TV, so there shouldn't have been any problems.

And are you sure you're not misremembering your experience with the timing? I just read your review to see your take on the game, and in the 8th paragraph, you mention that you had trouble with Donk-Donk, and how the visual cues weren't matching your button presses.

Thanks for reading, btw!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 03, 2014:

Perhaps you're correct. I do remember Donk Donk not responding correctly, though I don't recall having problems beyond that. [That is, I don't recall... I also have a terrible memory]. I agree with you on the game's mixed messages. Relax and have fun... while I totally screw with you!

I think the main reason I mentioned different setups was that I had an odd occurrence with the game Fire Pro Wrestling Returns. The FPW games are highly timing-based when grappling and executing maneuvers. I played that particular game on two different HDTVs, and both had slightly different timing. Since that experience, I've always second guessed my own reviews of timing-based games. I'm always afraid I'm going to say, "Yeah, the timing's great!" when it really isn't great for most people.
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pickhut posted January 04, 2014:

Ah, I see. 6 or so years ago, I had a complicated setup to where my game systems weren't directly connected to my TVs, and I would always notice a delay with really tight controlled-based games. It was pretty annoying.

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