Rhythm Paradise (Nintendo DS) Review

By Mike Mason 28.04.2009

Review for Rhythm Paradise on Nintendo DS

Nintendo's attempts at the music genre haven't been the most straightforward, for better or for worse. There's Donkey Konga, a game played - brilliantly - with plastic bongos, underwater fish meddling with Electroplankton's musical toy approach and Wii Music, which is hardly worth mentioning such was the wasted potential beheld by it. Following on this path of experimentation - and thus punting back any hopes of an eventual release of Daigasso! Band Brothers yet further - is Rhythm Paradise (AKA Rhythm Heaven, Rhythm Tengoku Gold), a musical romp unlike anything else you've ever played.

Developed by members of the Wario Ware team under guidance from Japanese music producer Tsunku, Rhythm Paradise is anything but a standard rhythm title. Rather than simply following along to notes on screen, players are instead presented with a number of scenarios which take the form of stages lasting between one and two minutes. During each level the player must perform one or two actions by tapping, dragging or flicking the stylus (as though you're finishing a tick), the technique required varying from stage to stage, but with a twist - it's all got to be done to the rhythm of the accompanying music, with your actions creating additional sounds to complete the track. Audio cues to help you out come in the form of voice clips or sound effects from actions on-screen; for example, in one level you take control of a table tennis player and knock back oncoming balls in a rally with an AI character by flicking the stylus (a rough approximation of how you might swing a bat with a touch screen). The sound of the ball hitting the opponent's bat and the table as it bounces cue you in, and the sound of your hit completes the bar. This pattern is repeated throughout, with variations of ball speed as the music moves through certain parts.

Screenshot for Rhythm Paradise on Nintendo DS

To those unaccustomed to it, Rhythm Paradise may first come across as unforgiving due to its lack of an interface telling you exactly when to time your tap, instead trusting players to gorge fully upon the knowledge offered by the tutorial before each stage. It's this lack of hand holding that makes it such a refreshing journey into the music game genre. You're always told explicitly what actions are needed, but it's not frightened to throw a change of pace at you without a moment's warning - you're literally learning new things even up until the second to last stage - meaning that you always have to be on the ball and cannot approach it with a lax attitude and expect to win until you've had a lot of experience with it and learnt the songs inside out (and even then you'll probably still find yourself having to concentrate to do well!). Later on, the game will deliberately remove vital cues that you may have relied upon earlier, or distract you with needless or humorous visuals, thus meaning you actually will have to develop some degree of a sense of rhythm to succeed. Indeed, it's sometimes easier to close your eyes and remove any distractions whatsoever so that you can focus solely on the beat! Wisely, Nintendo have included an option so that everybody will be able to see everything in the game. The only way to get the next level to unlock is to pass the one before it, but if you're struggling with a particular one and lose three times straight you can hop over to the cafe menu and skip over the level with no penalty so that you can continue progressing through the game and return to your problem stage later. It's completely optional, so if you want to practice until you can do it yourself, you're more than welcome to.

Screenshot for Rhythm Paradise on Nintendo DS

There are a total of 50 stages, including 10 'boss' stages, though 16 of those are more difficult versions of the original 24. These are laid out in sets of five - four normal levels followed by a 'boss'. While the standard stages involve you helping out the vast cast with your rhythmic powers, the final stage in each set takes the form of a remix, pulling together the elements in the previous four stages to create a new song. It is clear that Wario Ware had some influence on the remixes as it takes more of a microgame approach - you'll do a few beats of one stage, then go into another and keep flicking around until the tune has ran its course. When you've beaten the original sets - quite feasible in a couple of hours to somebody with a half decent sense of rhythm - you unlock the harder stages (which will last much longer), and these remixes encompass any levels in the game, bumping up the challenge significantly as you have to be prepared to change to any situation without any warning (though the order remains the same all the time in each stage, as there is a fixed piece of music for every one). Though there aren't that many different levels really, Rhythm Paradise is the kind of game that you're going to come back to again and again once you find your favourite songs. In addition, there are a ton of unlockables, from musical toys and Wario Ware-esque endless mini-games, to lyrics sheets, songs for the sound test and guitar lessons based on one of the stages. These are gained by collecting gold medals by scoring 'superb' ratings on levels. There's also a 'flow' rating ever present to show just how good your sense of rhythm is; the higher the better, and it adjusts every time you play or replay a level, meaning that there's always an incentive to try and improve it just a little more. Every so often, you'll be offered the chance to perfect a level by hitting every note. This is one of the game's only shortcomings: the opportunity to perfect a level is random and cannot be accessed at all times, which is particularly frustrating if you're hitting every note all the time on a level but cannot get the perfect mark because it's not 'time' for it yet.

Screenshot for Rhythm Paradise on Nintendo DS

It goes without saying that the music should be the focal point in a game of this nature, and it absolutely deserves to be in Rhythm Paradise. It's utterly fantastic and you'll be humming along to your favourites in no time. Thankfully the soundtrack has been wholly retained from the Japanese original. There are a couple of dud moments caused by localisation - in an early stage featuring a pop star and a crowd of monkeys a female vocalist sounds mildly bored and isn't aided by the translation which, although literal, would have benefited from some extra thought to improve the lyrics - but overall the soundtrack is close to perfect with a wide range of genres covered. The majority of the stages with lyrics come across well, thankfully, a highlight being Frog Hop which could never have been more perfect compared to its original form. If you're a fan of game music, this soundtrack belongs on your MP3 player.

The translation as a whole is pleasantly surprising. Nothing is lost between the Japanese original and the version released here, and the experience is, of course, improved with the ability to comprehend all the sarcastic jabs and encouraging comments that it chucks at you. Then again, it has to be said that Rhythm Paradise was never as strange as its Game Boy Advance predecessor and was always better suited to a Western release than its prequel. Unfortunately, in increasing the complexity to involve more input actions with the touch screen it's not as good as the original Japan-only Rhythm Tengoku (which used just the A button for the majority of the game with occasional use of the d-pad and B button), but even coming close is a notable accolade.

Screenshot for Rhythm Paradise on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Rhythm Paradise is one of those games that makes you grin unwittingly. A lovable bunch of characters, a top notch sound track and addictive gameplay all blend together to create a game that, if you're a fan of music games or anything slightly off-centre, must be experienced.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (12 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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