I like to keep tabs of upcoming games I think I’ll like, but every now and again I’m completely blindsided by a game not on my radar. Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure wasn’t really on my gaming map before last Friday when I got to play through the adventure. Within minutes I was transfixed and it has become one of my favorite 3DS games. It’s simply magical.
It combines rhythm-action game play of Elite Beat Agents, the fully animated storytelling of Professor Layton, and the style and presentation of Ghost Trick. All I had really heard about before playing it was the musical elements, but these form only a small part of the whole ensemble.
Rhythm Thief is set in Paris and follows young Raphael, a known thief who steals artifacts and then returns them a few days later. He was abandoned by his father, leaving him only a coin brandishing an odd symbol. Raphael soon discovers this symbol in different works of art and sets about stealing them. The plot thickens when he meets another orphan Maria, who also has the same symbol on her violin.
The musical elements of the game make great use of the 3DS buttons, touch screen and gyroscope to engage you in the various musical challenges. Some are action oriented, like the soccer battle where you have to press buttons at the right time to defend yourself from an aggressive soccer player. Others are melancholy and more musical, like the simply beautiful moment that you help Maria play a classical piece of music on her violin using the touch screen to bow each note.
As I said in my review of Rhythm Thief on GamePeople, it’s the way that these musical sections are integrated into the main story, as well as the exploration, fetch-quests and cartoon segments that make this such an enjoyable game. In fact my kids seem to enjoy these other elements just as much as the rhythm action elements.
After a bit of hunting around I discovered that Rhythm Thief‘s developer, Xeen, was created from Video System, the team responsible for Mario Kart Arcade. The size of the studio (over 100 strong) and their previous focus on arcade games may be the reason for the level of quality and depth here.
But now the bad news, although it was out in Japan in January and hits Europe early April it won’t arrive in the US until July. This is where the 3DS’s region lock really hurts us early adopters. However, if you haven’t yet drunk deep from Ghost Trick, Elite Beat Agents or Professor Layton these games are an excellent way to pass the time, and ready yourself for Rhythm Thief.
Wired: The best bits of Elite Beat Agents, Ghost Trick and Professor Layton in one magnificent bundle.
Tired: The uneven difficulty and not being able to quit some challenges without completing them.
Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure is $39.99 to pre-order on Amazon and will be released July 10.