The Wario Ware team has mined some more minigame gold...
Since the release of the mighty DS, we've seen less and less original software for the good ol' GBA, though I often find myself using my shiny Ds Lite to play my old GBA games more often than the DS ones. New GBA games do exist, though. And by new I mean not a TV or movie-based licensed title, or a sequel. That place is Japan, and the games are coming courtesy of Nintendo themselves. Recently we've seen the Bit Generations series, a collection of instantly accessible puzzle games games with a retro design to them.
Now from the Wario Ware team comes Rhythm Tengoku, produced with the cooperation of the record production company J.P.ROOM. The concept of the game originated from the mind of the musical producer Tsunku, a man behind the success of an extraordinary amount of Japanese girl idol pop groups. He simply turned up at the headquarters of Nintendo with some plans for the game, and the big N immediately set the Wario Ware team to work on the project.
The involvement of this J-pop producer doesn't mean all the music is candy-coated, super-high-pitch squeaking sounds though. There is an excellent mix of poppy tunes guaranteed to make you super-happy. The game follows a similar format of the original Wario Ware minigame mania, featuring a succession of progressively harder minigames, all with a musical theme. Its all about your rhythmic timing ability, with some games requiring you to simply keep up with the beat (not necessarily easy), and others where the music fades out entirely and there is little in the way of visual cues. It can be difficult but very rewarding. After completing a section of five minigames, you're faced with a 'remix', where all the minigames from that section are grouped in together within one song. It's awesome fun and the quality of the songs is very impressive for such a weeny cartridge. I've been humming the tunes all damn day!
The game is entirely in Japanese of course, but don't assume that that makes it unplayable for Western gamers. Think about it - exactly when was the last time you actually needed to read a game's instructions? There are some minigames where there are lengthy instructions at the start, but its very easy to understand what you've got to do just by trial and error. Getting things wrong is all part of the fun too!
There is a good variety of minigames, such as "the one with the clapping monkeys" - there's three monkeys, all in a row, the first two clap in time with the music, one after the other and you have to make the third monkey clap at the right time. Its the little touches that make you smile though, like if you mess up the timing, then the other monkeys look at you in quite a disapproving manner. Then there are games where you have to maintain a constant beat, with one favorite of mine involving a really happy stick man jumping from one box to another in time with the beat. He ain't so happy if you screw up, though. Then there are games where you have to do something like slash a sword or shoot an arrow at a precise moment, usually at the end of a little musical ditty. Easy as pie you may think but when the music can be varying in tempo and fading in and out, it becomes a little more difficult.
The challenge lies in mastering each of the minigames, which earns you medals, which (in traditional fashion) unlock bonus games and features. One such unlockable is 'drumming lessons' - there's a fully fledged drum kit mode, which allows you to perform the drum part of many of the game's music tracks. It even has double bass drum pedals for furious drummery! Another unlockable I spent a while with involves timing your button mashing with the hooves of a horse, getting faster and faster until the horse appears to be traveling faster than light! Its really quite pointless, but I seem to enjoy the sheer challenge of thrashing the buttons until my fingers hurt.
The point of the medals and unlockables is, just like in the Wario Ware titles, that they extend the lifespan of an otherwise short game. As with the Wario Ware titles I've found that games like this I may have initially blasted through within a couple of weeks but, I have found that they are games I constantly return to when in need of a bit of instant fun, like when I'm on a train or just bored on breaktime at work. They're games that make me smile. I don't have to be in the right frame of mind or take an hour to "get into" the game. I can see Rhythm Tengoku joining that little club of games I carry with me everywhere.
So, is Rhythm Tengoku import friendly? I would say definitely so. Portables are region free, and the language barrier is not a concern. If you know how to play games, you'll be able to play this one. Importing games used to be expensive, and a hobby that only the co-called "hardcore" participated in. These days imports are cheap enough and easy to purchase due to the choices available online, so we can all be hardcore with relative ease. This game is playable to all of you, NOW! So do yourself a favor and have some FUN for a change.
What's Hot: Crazy Japanese minigame fun time!
What's Not: Will probably never be released stateside