Our species is a very interesting one to examine, because every individual human happens to be unique. We all have different likes, dislikes, talents and roles. Going a bit further, it can be easy to tell that some folks have rhythm, while others don’t. Rhythm Heaven Fever, a Nintendo Wii exclusive, is a game which can be used to easily separate those who possess the musical skill from those who wish they did. It provides a rather unique, yet frustrating set of timing exercises.
The third game in a popular Japanese franchise, Rhythm Heaven Fever is the first series release to appear on a console. Featuring over fifty different time-based mini games, it tasks players with pressing buttons on the WiiMote at the correctly-timed second. Your main input is the A button, although the B button quite often factors in as a companion. A great example is a tambourine challenge, where two types of hits are required to create distinguishable beats. Pressing the one will create a basic tap, while hitting both buttons together leads to a secondary tap and its varied sound.
Upon creating a save slot profile, new users will be asked to complete basic tests, in order to see whether they possess any sort of inner rhythm. Once they’re over with, the core game begins. Five similarly shaped icons quickly appear near the middle of the menu screen, with another set to their left. The ones on the left side link to a cafe, as well as unlockable secondary modes, including an endless play mode, rhythm toys, and select levels from one of the game’s aforementioned predecessors. Medals earned for flawless performances are unfortunately required to unlock stages within almost all of those lists. Since I didn’t perfect anything (not for lack of trying,) I was unable to test them out, apart from the cafe. That quaint shop serves as a hub, where the owner can be spoken to about coffee, in-game music can be listened to, notes can be read and the inaugural tests can be replayed.
Getting back to the main menu, it’s necessary to note that the most important icons are located near its middle section. They represent available activities, with a new one unlocking after its predecessor has been completed to a satisfactory level. Each set contains four, single attempt games. The fifth one is always reserved for unique remix challenges, which contain artistically spliced elements from each of the others, with a catchy tune occasionally thrown into the mix. When a remix has been defeated, a new set of icons will appear. Then, it’s time to rinse and repeat.
Showcased within the lengthy list of provided rhythm games are some very unique creations, alongside others that are merely OK or those that happen to be too frustrating to be enjoyable. For me, the standouts included a samurai warrior hack ‘n slash design, a robot factory head screwing line job and a wrestler’s post match media press conference. The first two are mentioned because of their very enjoyable and fluid gameplay, which is thoroughly explained and easy to grasp. Conversely, the athletic one is there because of its neat and unforgettable audio. Its gameplay is half-decent, albeit overly tough with perfectly timed taps required for any sort of success. These are just three of a large amount of challenges you will be asked to undertake. Granted, there are a decent amount of other good ones to be found.
To the naked eye, this experience resembles a party game – something which Nintendo‘s motion-controlled console certainly does not lack. However, that preconception is incorrect. There is a basic two-player co-op mode, where a pair of friends can use local means to tackle eight challenges from the single player list. Though, instead of catering to familial groups, this title focuses more on the single player side of things. That isn’t a bad thing as many of its activities require large portions of the screen to be visible, in order to be made sense of. Due to that requirement, it’s understandable that the decision to focus on solo content was made.
Being new to this franchise, I didn’t know much about what I was getting into with Rhythm Heaven Fever. Though, I quickly learned how things worked after putting a bit of time into its first two available challenges. The game’s utilized design is rather easy to grasp, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great gift for a young child. Many of the included activities will end up being too unforgiving and frustrating for fledgling gamers. If you don’t have near perfect timing, then multiple restarts will be in your future. Attempts that are not close to 90% perfect are usually deemed as poor. Even incredible runs, where only a couple of button presses are missed, tend to be labeled as being merely OK. Anyone hoping to get all of the available medals will be spending quite a bit of time with each one.
What’s weird about Rhythm Heaven Fever and its created design, is the lack of a quick retry button during activity attempts. In order to restart one, we’re forced to quit out to the main menu, which means waiting for the game’s tutorial to load before getting a chance to play again. Pausing during play will bring up a map of the WiiMote, where two options are present: continue or quit. It was hard to believe that such a simple and important facet of this type of experience was omitted. The result is added frustration, on top of what is already a very challenging game. That is, unless you feel musical rhythm incredibly well. Since only one mini game is available at a time, this omission would be nearly game breaking if it wasn’t for the option to take a pass after three tries.
The area in which this budget title excels the most (creativity,) is also one of its weakest points. Frankly, the game is too difficult for the casual gamers who will be drawn to its colourful box art and affordable price tag. Sure, quite a few of its activities are designed with tons of style and character. However, many require split-second precision, which is tough to master. While it’s a given that practice makes perfect, just how impeccable one must be to even get a below-average, “Just OK,” rating will exceed the skill level possessed by many Wii owners. As a result, it’s a specific set of seasoned gamers who will get the most out of this one.
Being a rhythm game, it’s no surprise that music plays a large role in this Nintendo-developed release. A lot of the time, music is used to indicate when your split-second button tap should occur. That mechanic is undoubtedly a helpful asset. However, the audible ally is occasionally removed in favour of near silence, forcing the player to watch for visual indicators. During those times, its absence is strongly felt, as difficulty levels tend to rise. When music and/or indicating sound effects are used, they’re almost always very effective and of impressive quality.
All of the stated audio effects are complemented by a very unique set of visuals. It’s tough to fully describe the artistic designs featured within, since they vary with each activity. One time, you’ll be hitting golf balls onto an island green while looking at a child-like drawing. Next, it will be a simplistic black and white line design used to give off a sense of factory work monotony. The list goes on, but one thing is for sure: Rhythm Heaven Fever is a very colourful game. It looks quite good, albeit for a Wii game. The developers’ hand-drawn, cutesy art style, is both neat and captivating.
In the end, Rhythm Heaven Fever is a good game, which is unlike just about every other interactive experience on the market. That statement happens to be true in regards to its included gameplay mechanics and presentation features. Though, not all Wii owners should pick this one up, because the experience really isn’t as easy to play through as it looks to be (or should have been, with the inclusion of a secondary difficulty level). With that being said, certain types of gamers will find the content on this budget-priced disc to be a heck of a lot of fun. Even those who end up becoming frustrated by the game’s difficult mechanics (like my rhythm lacking self,) will appreciate its quirky creativity.
This review is based on a copy of the game, which we received for review purposes.