Also available on: N/A
Genre: Rhythm action
Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure is Sega's latest attempt to get us tapping our feet and clicking our fingers, following the success of past musical offerings such as Space Channel 5 and Samba de Amigo. But Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure isn't your average rhythm action title, it's also an adventure game in the same mould as Professor Layton, concerning itself with taps and beats rather than mental feats. It's a strangely satisfying combo, despite a few pacing issues.
The game takes place in Paris and stars a likeable young lad named Raphael, who also masquerades as 'Phantom R', the most famous art thief in all of France. In the search for his missing father, Raphael comes across an unusual symbol, similar to the one found on a coin belonging to his dad. Thinking the two to be linked, he sets off to investigate the mystery, running into a colourful cast of characters, including an orphaned girl, a relentless detective and a dangerous enemy claiming to be the reanimated spirit of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The rhythm games are largely very good and feature a wide variety of challenges and gameplay styles. Some games see players fend off waves of baddies by hammering a combination of face buttons and the D-pad, others see Phantom R hide behind plants and statues by tapping colour-coordinated squares, while another sees players tilt the system in order to catch treats as pet pooch Fondue. A personal favourite involves keen musician Marie, who must play the violin by moving the stylus left and right along the touch screen.
Overall, the music-based mini-games are a blast, though there are one or two poorly-executed offerings, which fail thanks to a lack of direction or badly-implemented controls. Any game that involves drawing circles, for example, isn't quite as responsive as games with solid, button-based commands or screen taps. Luckily, thanks to the enormous variety of games on offer, moments like this are few and far between. The music, meanwhile, is excellent, capturing the mood of Paris and conveying the sense of danger and adventure associated with the game's more significant moments.
Unfortunately, while the rhythm gameplay is largely excellent, the same can't be said for the exploratory sections, which border on the tedious. Players move around a map of Paris, stopping at different checkpoints to talk to strangers, solve puzzles, search for medals (in-game currency), sound effects and unlockables. Each point on the map is represented with a colourful image on the touch screen, depicting famous landmarks such as The Louvre, not to mention bustling back streets and picturesque parks.
While large parts of the exploratory sections can be overlooked, there are numerous side-quests - such as capturing everyday sounds for a merchant's new instrument - and hoarding enough medals to afford in-game movies, songs and mini-games. Occasionally paths will be blocked and Raphael must use a recorded sound to clear the way. An early example involves a growling bulldog and a cowardly guard. While these sound-based teasers are an interesting idea, they're far too easy, proving nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
Outside of the main campaign, which can be bested in a few hours, there is a marathon mode, tasking players with completing a continuous string of mini-games with a limited number of lives. There are also online and StreetPass features, pitting players in one-on-one battles or competing for fans by completing score-based challenges. With the ability to unlock a hard mode, a bevy of hidden items and the option to play games individually, all the while competing for scores, there's a definite incentive to keep playing beyond the first run through.
Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure features some excellent rhythm action gameplay, a well-executed narrative and an interesting array of colourful characters. While there are some pacing issues, particularly during exploration, and the odd mini-game that isn't quite up to scratch, this is largely a very successful marriage of music and adventure. If they ever made Professor Layton: The Musical, Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure is what you'd be left with, a charming game perfectly suited to the portable.
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