There’s a certain bliss that can only be obtained from playing music-focused games. One of the best in the genre is the Rhythm Heaven series. The franchise began in 2006 as a Japan exclusive title called Rhythm Tengoku on the Game Boy Advance. Since then, the Rhythm Heaven series released globally on the Nintendo DS and Wii, meeting with considerable success for its simple, yet challenging, gameplay and its charming series of mini games based on the use of rhythm. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the game, the team at Nintendo released Rhythm Heaven Megamix for the Nintendo 3DS, which features mini games from all three previous entries.
Rhythm Heaven Megamix introduces newer features to the franchise, including an actual plot, street pass functionality, and multiplayer co-op. There are 106 rhythm games total in the latest entry, including 20 brand new ones. Judging by the ratio, it is clear that this game is meant to cater to fans of the game, with a heavier emphasis on familiar, fan favourite pieces. Additionally, for the first time, in North America, the game features dual audio tracks. This allows the game to feature both English and Japanese versions of every single mini game. This is important due to the fact that certain vocal tracks can only be heard by playing the mini game with the Japanese track.
The story focuses on Tibby, who has fallen from ‘Heaven World’. The player must team up with Tibby in order to help him return home. This is done by generating ‘Flow’, a power source that is created through the power of music and rhythm. The story is hardly profound, but the dialogue makes for some fun light-hearted laughs and genuine smiles.
In order to pass through the storyline, players have to pass all of the mini games. These short mini games are the crux of the gameplay experience and revolve around different rhythmic beats. For seasoned veterans, ‘passing’ will be very simple. New players will only need a few tries before they understand the mini game, which is one of the best things about the series. It is very accessible. However, for fans of the series, reaching gold and even perfect runs on mini games will be the main goal.
To further excel when it comes to accessibility, the game also includes a visual indicator on the touch screen, which helps players see how precise their timing is. Additionally, as an extra objective for every rhythm game, players can earn a Skill Star, which is a certain beat in the mini game that will reward players with an extra coin if they hit it perfectly. More often than not, this beat is during the climax of the rhythm game, and will be pointed out by a star forming on the touch screen.
Rhythm Heaven Megamix features a plethora of unlockable content, including items from each mini game, which gives the game more context; a free play soundtrack of the mini game to listen to whenever the player wants; and even more rhythm games that were not placed within the story. All of these extra mini games come from the three previous Rhythm Heaven games. While completing mini games provides coins to purchase either the items or the soundtrack, you can only purchase new mini games with Flow Balls. Flow Balls are only obtainable by perfecting mini games when the opportunity arises. This subsequently gives perfecting mini games a purpose, compared to previous games where perfecting them was just gave bragging rights.
As mentioned earlier, multiplayer is a big feature for the game. Players will have access to the “Challenge Train” which can either be attempted solo or with friends. Playing solo will cost 5 coins, while playing with friends is completely free. As an extra incentive, Rhythm Heaven Megamix features Shared Download Play, a feature that is often neglected on the 3DS. This allows multiple 3DS owners to play the game with at least one person who has a copy of the game.
Despite having a fairly simple control scheme, the series has always prided itself for being meticulous when it comes to rhythm. Because of this, the game has a very tangible learning curve. One of the first lessons is to not rely on visual cues, but rather the ability to feel the beat or follow intuition. For instance, there are mini games that throw players off by completely going silent after a steady rhythm is established. But that’s only one of the ways the game throws curve balls at players while progressing through the various levels. Much like in previous games, Rhythm Heaven Megamix features complex versions of several of the earlier basic games, which include new patterns or beats to shake things up.
Naturally, the biggest draw for this game is its soundtrack. The series is designed by Tsunku, an incredibly prestigious Japanese lyricist, which makes audio one of the most important aspects of the game. His talents are demonstrated by the remix songs, where he pulls different mini games together into one seamless compilation. This is such a powerful indication of the audio engineer’s talent, especially considering the fact that despite each mini game having different rhythms, they can be blended together in the right way in order to make a very clean transitional piece.
An even greater testament to that sound design, there is the fact that, like every entry in the series, the game can be played with your eyes shut. It’s a strange piece of praise, especially considering the obvious inability to enjoy the usual Rhythm Heaven art style this way. However, there’s something particularly intriguing by the fact that a game can be played with your eyes closed. Every mini game has audio cues for every single pattern or beat. Because they are distinct, it is quite easy to know what the beat is. In fact, closing out the peripheral stimulus actively helps with honing on these audio cues more easily without the distractions on screen. Personally, this is a fascinating feature for the game.
It is incredibly difficult to find fault with this game. With its charming art style, addictive rhythm based gameplay, and now its accessibility to new players to the series, Rhythm Heaven Megamix is a perfect game to jump into the series. Fortunately, due to the mini game choices and variations, it doesn’t mean that veteran players won’t also get a kick out of it. The ability to play with friends, the sheer amount of rhythm games, and the challenging goal to obtain perfection for all rhythm games, will keep players silently tapping their toes or nodding their heads to the beat for months to come.