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Finished up Resident Evil: Revelations tonight, but that review will be later this week. For now, we have our review of Rhythm Heaven Fever! Enjoy that, and I'll see you in a few, short hours!
I have always been a huge fan of music and rhythm games. I'm talking about the days before Guitar Hero and Rock Band took the genre and drove it down a very narrow path. I'm sure plenty of you remember the days of quirky music games like Parappa the Rapper, Space Channel 5, Gitaroo Man, Elite Beat Agents and many others. Music and rhythm games used to be downright wacky, but in an oh-so-good way.
Some might say that the Rhythm Heaven series is as wacky as they come. If you're unfamiliar with the franchise, picture a WarioWare-style game that focuses on music instead of arcade-style action. That pretty much sums up the series right there! It's deliciously addictive, ridiculously simple to play and it'll have you cracking up all the way through.
Rhythm Heaven Fever marks the first appearance of the Rhythm Heaven series on a home console. We've seen an unlocalized GBA outing that started it all, and then things moved over to the DS. Seeing the game jump over to the home console side of things was a dream come true, but I have to admit that I did have my worries when the game was first announced.
While I was happy the game was heading to Wii, I worried that there would be a big issue with the game. While I love motion controls, when the Wii version was first announced, we didn't know if it would be all button presses or motion as well. Motion gaming just doesn't work well when you have to be absolutely spot-on with your controls, making most music games the perfect example of gaming that shouldn't make motion the main input. Thankfully Nintendo understood that, and Rhythm Heaven Fever is a strictly button affair.
The series has retained its silly visual style, and things just wouldn't be the same without it. Again, much like the WarioWare series, there's a lot of quirky hand-drawn art here, so some might scoff at the visuals upon first glace. While these graphics may be an acquired taste, they are actually a very important part of the gameplay. It's necessary to keep the visuals clean and simple in order to best convey what needs to be accomplished. Rhythm Heaven as a franchise is not one that needs the latest and greatest in graphical technology.
Hell, you might not even be paying attention to the graphics when you play! It's all about the music after all! All you'll have to do along the way is press A, B or both in order to finish each song you take on. Just two buttons to work with sure makes the game sound ridiculously easy, right? If you are saying yes, it's very clear that you've never played a Rhythm Heaven game!
Rhythm Heaven Fever might have a lower barrier for entry when it comes to actual button input, but the gameplay itself may be something that escapes certain players. If you have no sense of rhythm or timing, you might as well give up all hope of playing/enjoying this title. It's made for music lovers that also have a great sense of timing. You need to be on the beat in order to accomplish your goals, and if you have trouble finding that beat it's all over!
The combination of simple button commands with unique songs and timing mechanics makes for a really, really engaging experience. As I said, I'm really into rhythm games, and Rhythm Heaven Fever is about as great as they come. Once you understand what you need to do to play the game, the game just takes you along on an amazing journey. Things never grow stale, and you'll always be impressed with what you can pull off.
Of course, a game like Rhythm Heaven Fever will live and die by its music, and I do believe this entry in the series might have the strongest songs yet. I think this is especially true because of the variety in the music. There are all sorts of musical genres represented here, with many of them making their first appearance in the franchise. It's clear that the people involved with the series are becoming more comfortable with the gameplay development, which allows them to try out more varied tunes and sophisticated melodies.
I'm warning you...you are going to have a very tough time getting these songs out of your head. You'll quickly memorize them due to the nature of the gameplay. You'll be extra sensitive to what's coming next and what you need to do, which will burn the song into your memory faster than any other method I know of. I found myself humming/singing tunes long after I played each game, and sometimes the tunes got so stuck in my brain that they were driving me nuts! Trust me, a few of the tunes are bounding around in my head right this moment!
Those tunes will get more sophisticated and layered as you progress through the game. Rhythm Heaven Fever does a great job of teaching you the intricacies of the game itself at a very good pace. You'll never feel like you're tackling a tune that is far beyond your capabilities. Each set of 5 songs you unlock will teach you something new in the way of timing or difficulty, and by the end of your run you'll be quite surprised with where you started out. Some of the tunes towards the end of the game had me laughing in disbelief as I learned them, but gave me a huge smile on my face when I accomplished a perfect rating.
Yes, there's plenty of stuff to do even after you've unlocked all the songs in the game's roster. You can go back and 'Perfect' every song if you really feel like a challenge. Yes, that means not missing a single button press to get that Perfect rating. If that's not your cup of tea, perhaps you'll enjoy checking out the unlockable mini-games and endless games. These focus more on toys and activities. While they're still rhythm based, most are boiled down to a basic beat mechanic rather than building out a full song. Still just as engaging, and a wonderful break from the main gameplay.
What came as a big surprise to me was just how enjoyable the 2-player games were. I have a lot of friends that are musically inclined, so they were more than willing to hop in and try out the 2-player games with me. Playing these tunes with a friend at your side really creates a synergy that I've found in very few games. You truly feel like you've done something special when you and your friend can perfect a song all the way through. While the game scores you and your 2-player, I always got more enjoyment out of playing well with my friend, rather than seeing who got the best score.
As a matter of fact, one of the endless two-player games has become quite a staple with one of my friends. Every time he's around, we start up this game and play one specific tune over and over again. It's endless, so we're always trying to best our top score. It just goes to show how much love was put into this game, and how even a single tune can build up the replay value far beyond what one might think.
What's the biggest complaint I can bring against Rhythm Heaven Fever? I guess I have to list two of them. First off, the rating system just seems like it could be a bit more sophisticated. You can get a superb, OK or try again. How the game really determines when you get one compared to the other is beyond me. I'd like to see something a little more fleshed out in order to know just how much I missed a song by, or just what I need to do to get that superb.
That's a bit of nit-picking, if you ask me. I'd love to see it change, but it's not something that took away from my enjoyment of the title. The only other complaint I have is that I wish there were more! Not really a complaint when you a love a game so much that you want more of it. I could have played a hundred tunes over and still wanted more content. I'll take what I can get in this game, and cross my fingers for a sequel that shines just as much as this title does.
Rhythm Heaven Fever is coming at the end of the Wii's lifespan, and boy is it a treat to send off the system with this game. The series makes a first-time console stand on a platform known for motion control, but it shows us that there's still plenty of magic left in simple button presses. There's really no other series out there like Rhythm Heaven, and Rhythm Heaven Fever is a shining example of why this brand is amassing quite a following.
As long as you enjoy music games, this is an absolute must-have game. You cannot go wrong here, with not a bad tune in the bunch or a single complaint that'll make you rethink your purchase. By the way, your purchase is only going to cost you $30. How much more does the deal need to be sweetened before you head out to your local game store and grab a copy?!