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Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure (3DS) artwork

Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure (3DS) review

"While Rhythm Thief is an obvious collection of musical mini-games, the game is also part point-and-click. While going around Paris, you get treated to a decent bit of recent French history, some of it coming into play as the game's story runs itself out. Phantom R's nightly occupations, stealing unique items from museums and the likes that are actually forgeries created by his missing father, and replacing them with the real thing, sets off the first batch of rhythm mini-games."

With the small renaissance following a dearth of rhythm-based and music games, it should not be surprising that Sega, creators of Samba de Amigo and Space Channel 5, would eventually find themselves back into the field. The result, Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure, or just Rhythm Thief for short, is a plot-based adventure that takes place in modern-day Paris.

As the titular Rhythm Thief, known in-game as 'Phantom R', civilian identity Raphael, you can travel around to 40 different locations in the French capital, such as the Louvre, the Tuileries Garden, and Notre Dame Cathedral. When coming to each destination, you get a static-screen background rendered in anime-style graphics on the lower touch screen. By tapping points on the background, you can locate hidden goodies such as Medals that can be spent at a shop, musical trinkets and other odds and ends.

Traveling back and forth between multiple places and tapping the background to find and discover things also makes Rhythm Thief part point-and-click. While going around Paris, you get treated to a decent bit of recent French history, some of it coming into play as the game's story runs itself out. Phantom R's nightly occupations, stealing unique items from museums and the likes that are actually forgeries created by his missing father, and replacing them with the real thing, sets off the first batch of mini-games. Along the way, acquiring antagonists, the rest of the story comes together fairly well (unfortunately, the developers set up a cliffhanger, one which it appears will remain unresolved with the company's recent business directions).

Although there are some occasions of annoying backtracking or having to tap everything to locate something in an area, the point-and-click action does a surprisingly decent job of filling the interim between the real meat-and-potatoes of the game: the rhythm-based mini-games.

About every mini-game in Rhythm Thief, of which there are 50, include following along to a rhythm of some sorts, some more blatant, others more to the background. Many of these are incredibly easy to play with on-screen visual cues to assist, such as an early game where Phantom R infiltrates the Louvre. Here, he must run past a long corridor, stopping in front of statues to hide from security that would throw out the interloper. Each statue has a specific colour, and you must tap a touch-screen button of the same colour in sync with when Phantom R dodges behind the sculpture.

Even the 3DS' barely-used, in-built gyroscope gets some use in the 3DS title. Another title involves throwing pieces of meat at Fondue, Raphael's unironically named 'Alsatian Cheesehund' dog. By tilting your 3DS straight up, angled to the left or to the right, you can control Fondue's positioning in order to catch meat, or dodge pieces of junk.

Frustratingly enough, multiple mini-games are later repeated. As a good condolence, while many of these trials are repeated, it is rare that you will flat-out see the defining element of a mini-game taken and used for an entirely different one (off the top of the reviewer's heads, only the 'running past security through a corridor' is reused for an entirely new mini-game).

Reuse aside, there exists a large variety of mini-games, such as one where, fending off the talented child of a Paris police Inspector, the two of you kick, lob and smash a soccer ball back between each other, trying to knock the other player out so Phantom R may escape pursuit. Later on, Phantom R gets to ward off a horde of the Diaboliques, the faceless foot-soldiers of the sinister organisation behind the scenes. The Knights come one, two, or more at a time, and you need to press either the A or B button as a guide-ring shrinks around the Phantom.

The mini-games get a lot more intense towards the end of the game. One involves a personal duel with the mastermind of the game's plot, and you must tap coloured buttons corresponding to the shrinking of a circle while fending off sword strikes that can come two and three at a time, before repeatedly tapping a single button to gain the advantage when Phantom R and his nemesis lock swords and try overwhelming one another. Shortly thereafter, Phantom R must escape the collapsing fortress his enemies raised, hopping across a wall with collapsing blocks along with his dog, Fondue, watching out for trick steps and making several long jumps.

Unfortunately, one thing drags the game down significantly: the scoring system. By getting actions correctly during a rhythm game, you can build up both your score and your letter grade, from E to A. It takes many, many straight moves to build your letter up from E to A, but only a couple of incorrect actions in a row can quickly drop you down from A to E.

Making this set-up more maddening is that there exists a seperate numerical score that you get. Your score increases with the more straight moves that you receive, so if you had 100 moves in a mini-game, you can get a higher score with 99 straight moves and then an error at the end, as opposed to 49 straight moves, an error, and then another 50 straight moves. For those with a completionist mindset, this can be frustrating - in the latter case, you would have an A-rank at the end but a lower score, but it would not displace the B-rank from the former case because you had a higher score. And all A-Ranks are required to unlock one of the hidden mini-games and a brief bit of extra storyline.

Certain mini-games also can be extremely difficult. A couple of these are due to the gyroscope being imprecise when precise controls are required, and a few other involves extremely difficult, unintuitive timing. Most of these are, fortunately, optional mini-games that you can locate by traveling through Paris when you have free time and talking to everybody, but this review is not ashamed to mention that he had to pause-scum (repeatedly pause the game, which merely darkens the screen instead of kicking you to a menu, so that he could see what the next action to be taken was on-screen and how much time he had left beforeit needed to be done) to get through a few difficult, mandatory segments.

Disappointments at the score balancing aside and twitchy gyroscope controls, which would hopefully be fixed if the foreshadowed sequel ever did appear, this reviewer did find the game to be overall fun, and the music especially well-done. As is a rule with all rhythm-based games, the tracks MUST be good, and Rhythm Thief does not disappoint. It even pays a tribute to some of the company's past games, the most obvious being Samba de Amigo, with a pair of mini-games being obvious renditions of that game's play style (and the first game even being called 'Samba de Amigo').

Being out both as a retail release and for the eShop, the reviewer recommends fans of rhythm-based games pick Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure up in some format, especially as with its full-length storyline and many different kinds of mini-games. Just understand that unless you are a savant, the game will kick your rear end at times (just like how Fondue, who deserves to go on a list of gaming's greatest dogs, bites the rear ends of security guards in another mini-game to allow Phantom R to infiltrate an opulent mansion).

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Community review by darkstarripclaw (October 05, 2013)

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Linkamoto posted November 03, 2013:

I rather liked this review on the whole, as you explained the gameplay styles nicely, and gave me a good understanding of the different change-ups present throughout. I did, however, find your conclusion to be rather truncated (perhaps the awkward parentheses to end it lent to this as well), and also thought the "this reviewer believes this..." tactic didn't really flow well. All in all, you pretty well made me feel like I played the game myself, which speaks volumes about the thoroughness of the review. Nice work.

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