* Prices may differ from that shown
'Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure' is an adventure/puzzle/rhythm game released for the Nintendo 3DS. I quite like rhythm games and when I heard about this game I immediately went and downloaded the demo from the 3DS eShop. The demo, which consisted of 3 rhythm games that make up the core gameplay, were very good - the style of gameplay reminded me of cult rhythm game 'Space Channel 5'. I finally bought a physical copy of the game, which in reality can be described more as '"Professor Layton" meets "Space Channel 5"...and came away with the better business deal'.
The game is set in Paris, France. Our hero is a young man named Raphael, otherwise known as 'Phantom R'- a thief who steals precious artworks from around the city only to return them some time later. In reality, Phantom R is doing this to find his father, whom disappeared when he was younger, by creating a reputation that would get his attention. Accompanying Raphael is his sidekick dog, Fondue.
At the start of the game, Phantom R's next target is a bracelet in the Louvre. However, after stealing it he encounters Marie, a young violinist and orphan, and a strange man, claiming to be Emperor Napoleon himself. "Napoleon" is looking for his own treasure and is intent on capturing Marie for reasons initially unknown. As Raphael travels around Paris trying to find his father's whereabouts, he must also protect Marie (who is looking for her mother), avoid the Parisian police force led by obsessed Inspector Vergier and protect Paris from the revived "Emperor" and his army.
I wasn't expecting the story of 'Rhythm Thief' to impress me and for the most part it was simply okay. Not that it is weak or non-existent either; there were some plot twists that caught me off-guard, particularly towards the end. However, compared to the 'Professor Layton' games or any RPG it is not amazing. The main characters are defined well enough, but I never really cared or related to Raphael's predicament despite him being the hero. Nevertheless, 'Rhythm Thief' doesn't really try and take itself too seriously and has some funny and charming moments between Raphael and Marie.
The bulk of the game takes place in the 'Story Mode', with other options in the menu being unlocked as you progress. Gameplay can be split into two aspects: a) roaming Paris 'Professor Layton'-style finding clues and conversing with other characters, and b) playing rhythm games.
Players control Raphael/Phantom R by moving him around Les Invalides, Paris. In each area players can touch people or objects to interact with them. Speaking with people can reward you with new information or extra rhythm games. Touching objects might grant you medals (for buying levels and items for the rhythm games), Phantom Notes (collectible pieces of paper dotted around the city) and sounds. The latter can be recorded by Raphael and are used both to solve puzzles and help create the Master Instrument, which forms an optional sidequest. Movement through the city is pretty simple and the top screen acts as a map which shows you where you are as well as where to head to next (indicated by an explanation mark and path highlighted in red).
Now onto the reason I bought this game- the rhythm games! Players control one of the characters (most of the time Phantom R, but it can also be Fondue or Marie, among others) using a variety of controls to get through some predicament. These controls vary between each level and can consist of using the touch screen, A and B buttons, L and R buttons or even the 3DS's gyroscopic camera. So you could be sliding your stylus to the beat as Phantom R dances alongside his backup dancers, or sneaking past security by touching the buttons on the screen to hide behind statues at the right moment, or have Fondue attack police officers by pressing A as they come past him. Your character has a stamina meter at the top of the touch screen. Getting moves correct will increase the stamina, combo and potential ranking, whereas missing moves lowers it. At the end of the level your score is totalled up and you are ranked between A to E. The better your ranking, the more medals you earn.
I love the variety of rhythm games offered here. Most of them are part of the story and need to be completed to progress, while others are only accessible by speaking to an NPC. The difficulty is noted at the start of each level on a star system of 1-10. I would say the 'Rhythm Thief' progresses well in difficulty- the later rhythm games will definitely have you restarting a number of times if you don't pick up the mechanics fast enough!
The controls for each rhythm game work fine. However, the gyroscopic-based games do prove awkward. Sometimes the game did not recognise my movements and so it would count as a 'miss', and this led to a few times where I would fail a level. Fortunately, only a few levels out of fifty or so use the camera, so it is an annoying but not a game-breaking mechanic. Furthermore, if you're really struggling at a rhythm level, you can use your medals to buy boosts just before you start. Such boosts including restarting your stamina meter if it hits rock bottom, or making your stamina meter build up faster. I tried not buying any boosts and relying on my own skill to pass the levels that stumped me, but sometimes I caved in as they really do help when the later levels become less forgiving of mistakes.
The graphics in 'Rhythm Thief' are very colourful and vibrant. Their version of Paris looks gorgeous and very atmospheric, especially during the portions when the game takes place at night. There are plenty of cutscenes during the story as well and these are also well-animated. 3D is put to use during the rhythm games and the exploration sections and it looks pretty good, with character models really standing out from the top screen.
Since this is a rhythm game, a good soundtrack is really important. Fortunately 'Rhythm Thief' gets it right. Most of the background tracks (including the main theme) are jazz-inspired and fit the theme and the setting of Paris perfectly. A lot of tracks for the rhythm games are quite catchy and can be more than enough reason to play through the games again!
Perhaps one of the weaker points of this game however, is the voice acting present in all the cutscenes and rhythm levels. The VA is not horrible and some voices suit the characters well, but it's really inconsistent. First of all, the game is set in Paris but several main (French) characters do not bother with a French accent while others do. I wouldn't mind if all the characters sounded American (as Raphael/Phantom R does) but when some characters sound so British they should be in the 'Professor Layton' series it is quite off-putting. Secondly, I noticed on several occasions that what was being said aloud is not what is on the screen. This included French phrases being said as their English translations. This shows a big inconsistency between the script and the voice direction and something that should have been checked during QA testing. That said, it doesn't affect gameplay whatsoever, but it does hinder the quality.
'Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure' is criminally short- I completed the main game (consisting of ten chapters that take around half an hour to get through) in about six hours. Luckily there is quite a bit of extra content. Extra chapters are unlocked involving certain characters by finding all the Phantom Notes, completing the Master Instrument and getting 'A' rank on all rhythm games. In addition there is a Wireless mode where you can play against friends and a Streetpass mode to set high scores against the people you meet through there. Therefore, I would say there are still plenty of things for me to do before I finish completely!
'Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure' is a not perfect game, but it is still incredibly fun and looks great. If you're a fan of rhythm games like 'Space Channel 5', 'Samba di Amigo' or 'Rhythm Paradise' then certainly buy this game! If you want something like 'Professor Layton' then also look into this game, although the puzzle aspects here are much weaker than those found in that series. I feel there is something for everyone here whether you're a 'casual' or 'hardcore' gamer. The developer commented that he might do a sequel for the 3DS or the Wii U and I would definitely buy that as well!
'Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure' is available new from £30 (£39.99 for a digital copy off the Nintendo 3DS eShop) and used from about £19.99. Please do shop around as this game is pretty uncommon!
A first impression:
I first got this game in December last year, at first I didn't have high hopes for this game, I just thought it would be something to while away the time.
I have completely changed my mind now. The game opens in Les Invalides, Paris, France with a thrilling cut scene which reveals to the player that the casket containing one Napoleon Boneaparte has been stolen, only to later be shockingly brought back to life.
The Main Story: (in a nutshell, as the game really should not be spoilt!)
The game focuses the events that take place three years later from the cut scene, on the journey of a 18 year old boy by the name of Raphael, (aka Phantom R) and his dog Fondue as they travel around Paris, "liberating" works of art (and then returning them only a few days later).
Throughout the game, the player is thrown into a brilliant, musical fast paced adventure, with thrilling cut-scenes, fascinating characters, intrigue and at times baffling rhythm based puzzles as you search for clues to help you in your quest. Whilst unfortunately, there are only ten chapters, I feel making it a shorter yet still enjoyable experience perhaps for more experienced gamers,I personally think that this is a game that is not to be missed, truly a diamond in the gaming rough! A must have addition to any games collection!
In game features:
Features include: 50 unique Rhythm Games
The ability to buy back cut scenes previously witnessed within the game
Local Play: 2 player ability through multi card (one for each player)
Street Pass Compatibility
3 Save slots
Gallery: view extra content such as in game tracks, previous cut scenes and more.
Marathon Games: Think you can handle the heat with some fast paced beats? Take the rhythm up a notch in this frantic mode.
Does the game utilize all the 3DS functions? for me, yes it does. In the rhythm games, the game makes full use of all of the buttons, both of the screens and also... the tilt function. I found this to be beneficial, however if you find the 3D function of the console conducive to headaches I would probably have it off for the duration of the rhythm games.
Unfortunately, this game is brilliant enough to be considered a stand alone, however now it is very difficult to find in main retailers, so it would probably be worth looking around in second hand stores or online (average price is £15.00 and up)