Hands-on with Rhythm Thief: Find out why this should be on your radar

There’s no doubt about it; there are many games out there, all of them vying for your money and attention in a competitive marketplace. At a time when the industry’s favoring, by and large, a play-it-safe approach to development, it’s always a breath of fresh air when a game surfaces that feels like something truly unique. Judging by its latest demo (now available on the 3DS’ North American eShop) Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure is one such game.

The demo features three stages, each one centered around a different type of rhythm gameplay. The first, Showtime, plays out how you may be expecting it to, with main character Raphael and two others grooving to the music on a colorful dance floor. You use the stylus to follow prompts displayed on the top screen, being awarded bonus points for pulling off moves with perfect timing, points which can be chained together into combos. A gauge in the top-left corner of the screen depletes if you mess up, while successfully pulling off moves recharges it; the higher the combo, the more health you win back.

Upon completion of each series of dance moves, the characters then find themselves in a new location in what’s a (gorgeous) anime-inspired take on the city of Paris. This stage moves rather slowly, obviously one from very early in the game, but if nothing else, it gives you a sense of how inspired the visuals are and how energetic the music is.

The next stage available to you, Looting the Louvre, drops you into the middle of, where else? The Louvre Museum. What you’re doing in there remains a mystery to me, but the goal of this stage is to avoid discovery by the security guards. As Raphael runs through the hallways, color-coded statues inexplicably taking the form of dance poses provide the cover. As you near each one, you tap the corresponding color on the touch screen (at the right time) to have Raphael mimic the pose, therefore shielding him from the guard.

Everything about this game follows the rhythm of the music, and if it all sounds ridiculous, well, that’s because it is. But this ridiculousness is part of what makes the experience so entertaining. Though you only get a small taste of the storyline from the demo, what little I saw featured funny voice acting and a likable main character, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the final game.

The last stage you can try out actually takes the form of a boss fight, undoubtedly the toughest part of the demo. Raphael simply stands there as one baddie after another bounces towards him, yes, in rhythm with the music, only to find themselves stopped dead in their tracks by your open palm punches, pulled off by a mixture of the A-button and the D-pad. This stage suggests that the pacing will be quite hectic at times, though I was able to defeat the baddie on my second try.

Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure, from what I’ve played here, feels like a fresh take on the rhythm genre in a setting that I can only describe as pure magic. With a variety of play styles, no shortage of surprises, colorful graphics, and what looks to be a fun storyline, this is definitely a title rife with the SEGA quirkiness that we all know and love.

If you own a 3DS, what are you waiting for? Give the demo a try, and stay tuned to SEGAbits for more coverage on Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure as it nears its July 10th North American release date. The game’s already available in both Europe and Japan.


5 responses to “Hands-on with Rhythm Thief: Find out why this should be on your radar

  1. Amrith says:

    Don’t miss it SEGA fans.
    It has its flaws but it’s a very refreshing soft with an enjoyable anime-like story, pretty good music by Tomoya Ohtani and Naofumi Hataya and relevant references to SEGA older rhythm games. There’s a solid content too, with side quest, several modes and items to find. At the end, you’ll consider Raphael as a true member of SEGA family.

  2. Beat says:

    From what I’ve seen, the game truly is amazing. I’ve had it pre-ordered for quite some time now. Everyone needs to get this game. The producer has already expressed interest in a sequel; let’s make sure the first one sells!

  3. tenchibr says:

    My real name is Raphael. This game is already a must-buy for me.

  4. Metroidfan says:

    I have to wait 2 weeks for that to come in. I watch the Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure video on the nintendo eshop 10 times a day since the uses on my demo are gone.

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