It’s a rare treat to get a rhythm game on a Nintendo handheld, so when two recently hit the 3DS, I was ecstatic. Even more amazing is that both games, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy and Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure, are actually good. Really good. The original DS only had two rhythm games worth mentioning in its entire library (Rhythm Heaven and Elite Beat Agents), so for the 3DS to get two such games this early in its life is a pleasant surprise. With such an unusual onslaught of music games, you may have to make the rare decision of choosing between rhythm games. So which one should you get?
Let’s start with Square Enix’s Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. This game is essentially a compilation of the best music that has appeared in all thirteen Final Fantasy games, with the tunes from spin-offs available as separate downloadable content. If you are worried that you may not enjoy the game because you haven’t played all or some of the Final Fantasy series, don’t be. I have never played a Final Fantasy game and I still found this title to be very addicting and fun, with catchy and well composed music. Although this really shouldn’t be a surprise since, you know, the game is dedicated to just that: the music.
So the music sounds great, but how about the gameplay? If you have ever played any music games involving scrolling shapes that must be hit to the beat (Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, etc.), then Theatrhythm should feel pretty familiar. There are three tracks per Final Fantasy game, totaling 39 tracks in all. The game is divided into three modes: Series, Challenge, and the Chaos Shrine. Series has you play through the full Final Fantasy series, going game by game from the first NES title all the way through Final Fantasy XIII. Challenge lets you play any track you want in one of three difficulties (which have to be unlocked by getting an A rank or better on that track). The Chaos Shrine is powered by StreetPass. Every person you pass creates a Chaos Shrine challenge, which is made up of two randomly picked tracks on a hard difficulty. Clearing each challenge will unlock one of many rewards, which includes videos, tracks for the game’s built-in music player, and more.
If you prefer a rhythm game that is not deeply rooted in RPG history, there’s always Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure from Sega. Unlike Theatrhythm, Rhythm Thief is a plot-driven rhythm game that is much easier to pick up and play. The game follows a young boy in France who uses his rhythm/music skills to solve puzzles and save the day from… Napoleon. Yes, that Napoleon. The story is very tongue-in-cheek, which is what makes it so charming. Adding to that charm are the traditionally animated cutscenes, which look stunning in 3D.
As the Rhythm Thief story progresses, the protagonist will encounter many different obstacles that can only be completed with a rhythm minigame. Whether you’re sneaking past guards, eluding the police, or even cooking a meal, it’s all done to a beat. The controls for each of these games vary greatly. You could be using the ‘A’ button alone, the touch screen, or even a combination of the 3DS’s accelerometer and buttons. Each rhythm game is only a minute or two long, never reaching the point of feeling like a drag. You will occasionally run into rhythm-based microgames as well, including “remember the musical pattern” and “hear the difference”.
Both Theatrhythm and Rhythm Thief are great experiences, but the one you’ll most enjoy depends on your gameplay preferences. If you are looking for just a rhythm game with nothing but the music, then Theatrhythm is for you. Fans of Elite Beat Agents will also really like this game thanks to its similar play style. If you are looking for a fresh take on the rhythm genre, then look no further than Rhythm Thief. People who enjoyed Rhythm Heaven can expect the same types of minigames, but with the added bonus of a Professor Layton-style story.
So what are you waiting for? Do you have any rhythm?