Fight detectives with soccer balls? Why not!
I do enjoy games that don't take themselves seriously. Especially puzzle games with Professors that always end up battling some kind of gigantic mech in Ye Olde Londone Towne. So when I discovered that Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure was a story-based rhythm game set in France, where the plot was to resurrect Napoleon...well.
One ticket for Crazyville, please.
What Rhythm Thief Got Right
Great Variety - Over fifty different rhythm games, and they're mostly pretty strong. Most are based around the stylus, but some use the buttons instead. Many games feel quite unique, which is quite impressive considering the amount of them.
Sega also gives a couple of throwbacks to both Space Channel 5 and Samba de Amigo, with some Rhythm Thief versions of those games. The second Samba de Amigo game even gives a double-dose of nostalgia by having one of the songs the title theme from the DS launch title, Feel the Magic: XY/XX!
Doesn't Take Itself Seriously - Thankfully, Rhythm Thief takes place in Japan's ideal version of Paris, meaning that famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame are seconds away from each other. The Parisian police force wears rollerskates, because why not, and a Private Investigator is aged ten and hunts you down with a soccer ball.
Nice Music - As to be expected, Rhythm Thief has a wide range of enjoyable tunes to go with the rhythm games. The main theme uses a harpsichord to help give a European feel, while the games themselves range from violin, to techno, to violin solos, and sneaky trumpet-based songs for searching museums after dark.
What Rhythm Thief Got Wrong
Gyroscopic Mini Games - I mean, come on, really? I thought we'd gotten past this. You need precise input for a rhythm game. You can't make an accurate rhythm game out of blowing into the microphone, or tilting a device with a gyroscope in it, or focusing a camera, or heating up your console to a specific temperature.
Please stop trying to do this.
Very Forgiving - For a rhythm game, Rhythm Thief is VERY forgiving with missing the timing. It's also very generous in allowing you to get a low rank to progress to the next level. There's a lot of leeway in general to allow the player to progress, and it really doesn't toughen up until about 3/4 of the way through the game's initial play.
You do get an additional Hard Mode, but it seems bizarre that you couldn't choose that from the start. Some of the early games are laughably easy! Rhythm Thief also includes something similar to Rhythm Heaven's "P" attempts, where you can't make a mistake. But instead of appearing randomly, you must purchase an attempt from the item shop before you begin. Whether you'll want to save up money for each attempt though is another matter.
That's No Way to Groove! - As with any good rhythm game, listening to the music is key. Unfortunately, some games feature speech as your prompts which distract you from listening to the actual song. The problem with this is that the speech obscures the actual beat, sometimes making it difficult to keep in time with the music. While you can adjust the sound settings, you can only turn ALL sound off (which includes voice AND sound prompts used to tell you when to tap), rather than choosing just to mute voice or sound.
The Final Verdict
While Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure is not perfect, it is an enjoyable, lighthearted rhythm game for the 3DS. Its tendency to not take itself seriously makes for plenty of entertaining and funny situations for another rhythm game, and while the story and characters may be a bit forgettable at times, you'll certainly enjoy tagging along with them as you discover the secret history of Bizzaro Paris that you never knew existed. It takes a much more casual approach to rhythm games than ones such as Rhythm Heaven, which require much more precise timing, but if you've not played a rhythm game before, then Rhythm Thief could serve as a great introduction to the genre for you.
By Ben Kosmina - Tweet @AussieBen