Maybe it says something about me that in a month with some surprisingly awesome-looking games (especially for February!), the one that I was looking forward to the most was the minigame-based sequel to a DS game. But the rhythm was going to get me, so I was super stoked to pick up a copy of Rhythm Heaven Fever, pop it in my Wii, and let the catchy music engulf me as I tap the button to the beat. Needless to say, a few games in, I’d caught the fever that it had promised.
Playing Rhythm Heaven is simplicity itself. Do you have the ability to keep a beat? Can you tap A or a combination of A and B together? Then you can play and enjoy Rhythm Heaven! Despite being on the Wii, it doesn’t actually use any motion control (deemed too inaccurate for the strict timing needed), which means that this is even more straight-forward than the DS game, which used swiping and holding motions as well. It kind of makes you wonder why they even put it on the Wii, really.
Yet let’s not write off the game because of the simple controls- yes, you’re just tapping buttons, but you’re doing it to the music each game has. Each game does have its own rules, beats and commands, so each of them also starts with a tutorial to let you know what you’re in for. Sometimes the beats in the song don’t quite match the tutorial, and some cues actually don’t exist in the actual song, so it can take a little getting used to the timing shift, but if you’re on your toes and can keep the rhythm on the fly, you’re probably good.
Each game has a rating for it, going from the abysmal “Try Again” to the highest “Superb”, which also nets you a medal. Medals unlock a bunch of rhythm toys and endless games, which are neat little diversions, but it’s a bit strange. It’s like you’re playing great minigames to unlock simpler, less-awesome ones that don’t hold your attention as much. It’s a choice of tapping as a metronome ticks, or playing as a dog playing badminton with a cat in airplanes at sunset. You’re going to choose the latter, guaranteed.
A medal on a game also gets you a chance at “Perfect” rating, which work a little like the comets in Mario Galaxy- it’s not always there, but pops up every now and then and gives you 3 chances to get it without any mistake, at all. Even if you go through a game perfect the first time, though, you only get the ribbon for it when the Perfect chance is in place. This definitely adds to the replayability, giving you a reason to go back to the games, and can be mad frustrating.
While there may not be much on the surface, Nintendo has crammed this game with a over 50 minigames , and even reason to go back and enjoy games you’ve already done through the ratings and the perfects. Perfects even get you the soundtrack, so you can just go chill in the café and listen to the Ringside music for the rest of your life. There’s even multiplayer mode, though there aren’t that many games there, but it’s a fun way to bring someone in (even if just watching the game can be a load of fun).
Ideally, the games in Rhythm Heaven can be played with you just listening to the beat and not looking at the screen. It can even be argued that the graphics are really just there to distract you- but who cares, when they’re just so amazingly good looking?
Everything just looks phenomenal. The characters all have a strong artistic look to them, with thick lines and bright colors that are a joy to look at while you’re playing one of the games. The animations are fun, too, and the way they progress through the games can both add a level of synesthesia and really make you feel like you’re adding to the world- as well as elicit a few unexpected laughs. A great example of both of these is the Micro-Row game, which adds pulsating colors that come from your character as you play that also trace your path- so by the end, you’ve drawn something into the world that wasn’t there before, and it looks incredibly nice.
Some of the animations and graphics are definitely there to distract you, though, such as a monkey that pops up in Monkey Watch who flies around in a hot air balloon and blocks your view of the game. They also throw in some smaller things to change up how things look just for the remixes, suddenly throwing everything into, say, a tropical theme. The reason? Just because. It all looks great, and is a wonderful counter to so many grey and brown games we see these days.
I experienced a small moment of fear when I was starting out on this game that the songs weren’t good. In a game like this, most of the fun is derived from the quality of the songs and the feel of what you’re doing with your input to them. Incredibly worried about this, I went back and played them again.
Turns out I just wasn’t listening well- the songs are still great and catchy. The game does a good job of balancing everything out, even putting in those little touches that add to your enjoyment by making you laugh, smile and just shake your head at the weirdness.
That’s not to say they’re all winners. A few are merely forgettable, but there’s one in specific that I felt was s bad that I had to stop for a little to get it out of my head. It had so much potential, but the fact that only one of them that I actually disliked is pretty impressive (for the record, it was the one with the rapping about love).
Beyond this, though, the game does a great job of immersing you in the sounds and the music, from the catchy opening menu theme and on. My biggest problem with the game, though, comes from the shift to a speaker system, as opposed to the headphones on a handheld. With headphones, it’s easy to control your experience and hear everything that’s going on, but from a speaker, it’s much more difficult. There are some games where the beat is swapped during play after some audio cue, but it got mixed in with the rest of the music and noise too easily, resulting in my actions falling out of rhythm and hurting my final grade. I had to strain a little too hard to hear what was going on, which was never a problem when I could just put in headphones instead.
Still, the game is incredibly fun, provided these issues aren’t present. The controls are also incredibly responsive, to the point where a few areas seemed to be reacting to what I did before I did it- though that was also partly because the animations blended together so smoothly. The sense of humor also shone through in a lot of places, and it’s a sharp, polished game- which is why those downer parts feel so much more unfortunate.
The worst thing I can say about Rhythm Heaven Fever is that it doesn’t seem like it utilizes the Wii all that well. It looks sharp, but not in a way that it couldn’t have on a portable. The motion isn’t used, the IR is optional, and it only uses 2 buttons. That’s not to say that the game is bad because of it- it just doesn’t seem like a good fit for a home console, especially one as unique as the Wii. My problems with hearing some of the audio cues is also unfortunate, and does diminish an otherwise great experience. At $30, though, you can’t go wrong with playing this if you still have a Wii, and the frenetic feel and catchy songs can keep you locked in for longer than you thought possible.