No lie – Rhythm Heaven Fever was one of my most anticipated games of the year. I was introduced to the series with the DS installment a few years back, which I bought on a blind whim so I would have something new to play on my just purchased DSi. I sat down to try it out and ended up not moving for hours, a pattern that would repeat itself every time I fired it up. I wasn’t sure if we would ever get more Rhythm Heaven in North America and yet here we are, with a budget priced installment for the Wii.
And hey guess what? Turns out Rhythm Heaven is still fantastic.
The concept of Rhythm Heaven is simple, yet tricky to explain in a way. Basically you are taking part in a series of mini-games, each one requiring you to keep up with the rhythm of the music in different ways. It’s always done by pressing the A and B buttons, there is no motion control in play at all here, which for a game that requires you to be very precise with your actions, is a huge relief. While the primary goal remains the same (trying to keep the rhythm) it’s the situations you are put in that make Rhythm Heaven what it is.
This is made evident right up front when you are presented with the game’s first scenario. You are a golfer on an island with a smiling monkey and a mandrill (named Mandrill). The monkey will throw golf balls towards you and you have to hit the ball in time with the beat. From there is just gets crazier as soon you find yourself protecting two weasels on a date from getting hit by sports balls, traversing a tiny wrist watch filled with high fiving monkeys, and participating in a choreographed lobster dance. The game constantly finds new ways to use its simple mechanics and at no point does it ever feel like you’re doing the same thing again and again.
I will say that there are a handful of games I did not enjoy as much in the grand scheme of things. A game involving hooking fish at the end of a fishing line felt a little uninteresting and I never quite got a feel for Love Rap or the badminton airplane game. This is bound to happen and in a game with nearly 50 mini-games, it’s hard to get too upset when a few of them aren’t quite up to par with the others. For the most part each one of the mini-games is an absolute delight.
Even in the games I didn’t like in, the music is consistently fantastic. It’s catchy, upbeat and it feels great to play along with. I may not have enjoyed Love Rap but the song itself has been in my head for days, right along with the lobster dance song and a few of the remixes as well. It’s just a rotation of Rhythm Heaven Fever songs in my head 24/7.
I’ve heard a few complaints about the scoring system and that it seems to operate at random, making it difficult to acquire the medals you get for performing well on each stage. Personally I haven’t had any issues. At this point I’ve played through all of the games and have acquired just over half of the medals, as well as a handful of perfect runs. There has not been a single occasion where I was given my score at the end of a stage and thought “bullshit!” Even if you are technically hitting the right beats, the game makes it pretty clear up front (in an opening tutorial that I will say goes on for FAR too long) that it is also meticulously watching how early or late you press the buttons, and that factors heavily into your scores. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I have not found the scoring system to be flawed in the slightest so far.
You can probably already tell by some of the things I said in the above paragraph, but there is a ton of replay value in this game. Playing through the mini-games themselves, earning at least passing grades, will only take you a few hours (I believe for me it was around 6 hours). Of course that also depends on how often you have to replay some of the stages along the way. Once that’s done, there are medals to earn in each level and some of those are going to be a beast to get. THEN on top of that you can earn Perfect runs in each stage to unlock music and other items. This is something I don’t think I’ll ever pull off but I will gladly keep trying. There are also other fun surprises to unlock, as well as a two-player mode, which is slightly disappointing as it simply carries over existing games and doesn’t have any unique offerings of its own. Still though, all this in a 30 dollar package? You’re getting more than your money’s worth.
I love Rhythm Heaven Fever and would not be surprised if it found its way into my top games of the year oh so many months from now. It takes a simple concept and makes it consistently engaging, while surrounding it with great music and a colorful and fun aesthetic. Unless you hate happiness, I see absolutely no reason why you should not immediately buy this game.