A Musical Slice of Heaven
Rhythm Heaven Megamix is the 4th game in the Rhythm Heaven series. Like its predecessors, RHM features plenty of quirky, musical minigames that test your ability to follow a beat. Although the game is filled with a breadth of enjoyable content, a sizable portion of it is borrowed from the first 3 games in the series. While it’s unfortunate that this game is mostly a best-of compilation, new challenges and repurposed minigames give both newcomers and veterans a reason to get back into the rhythm.
The gameplay of RHM centers on rhythm games, in which you press buttons to the beat of the song. The games vary, both in terms of playstyle and music. Some games have you follow simple cues that go along with the song while others ask you to keep a steady beat throughout. All are easy to learn and require very simple button presses (or as an option, touchscreen taps). As the games become harder, the inputs become more complicated, asking you to press different buttons for each cue. The timing eventually becomes harder, introducing syncopated, faster tempos to throw you off. Thankfully, before you begin each game for the first time, a helpful tutorial ensures that you get the hang of its particular beat, cues, and instructions. For veterans who want to dive straight in, the tutorials are skippable.
The rhythm games are all fairly short, with the average song lasting one to two minutes. These bite-sized intervals are perfect for quick portable sessions. Additionally, the short lengths allow you to practice and improve. RHM grades your performance on a “Flow” meter, with Flow measuring how many beats you accurately hit and how close you are to a perfect beat. Built-in feedback stars on the bottom screen indicate how close you were to hitting the notes. A colorful array of stars shine from the middle if you got the beat perfectly. Otherwise, yellow stars will appear closer to the left or right sides depending on if you were too early or too late. Getting the minimum 60 Flow to conquer a game is pretty simple with the feedback stars guiding you. Since the game also rewards “superb” ratings for getting at least 80 Flow, the feedback stars are excellent additions that serve to improve your timing and sense of rhythm.
Part of what makes RHM stand out is the quirky nature of the rhythm games. Each game has a unique premise that drives the rhythm. For instance, you may play as a “Karate Man,” punching and kicking oncoming objects to the beat. Other games have you in a spaceship shooting at enemy ships, playing badminton with a cat on a plane, or pulling beard hairs off of a mustached onion using tweezers. Some of the games are so ridiculous that they’ll likely make you laugh while playing.
For veterans of the Rhythm Heaven series, it is important to note that roughly 70% of this game is recycled content from the first 3 games. This may be disappointing for those hoping for a new full game. Since most westerners would have missed out on at least one of the games, especially the Japan-only Game Boy Advance entry, Rhythm Tengoku, this isn’t such a bad deal. In fact, as a best-of compilation, RHM is effective at offering nearly every game a fan could have wanted, all in one complete portable package. Plus, the brand new rhythm games are some of the most stellar ideas ever devised. Highlights that will put a smile on your face include cats contorting their bodies to gather logs for a muscular woodcutter fox, an 8-bit samurai slicing pixelated enemies on a skateboard, and perhaps the best new idea of all: a pair of huge sumo wrestlers wackily slapping each other and making amazing poses, all to a Japanese folk song. The only disappointment is that we don’t get a full game filled with more of these outstanding ideas.
RHM is the first game in the series to have a story mode. It’s a goofy tale of an afro bear trying to get to Heaven World. Unfortunately, it slows the game down with strange, pointless interactions, and the dialogue tries too hard to be funny. In an attempt to ease players into the story, the first 24 games are watered down versions, designed to be tutorials. After getting past this slow start, RHM reuses the games from the initial sets, using the proper full-length musical track. This results in redundant gameplay. Another way that story mode hinders the game is through mandatory boss trials, in which you must pay gold coins earned from successfully completing rhythm games. These challenges are less dependent on music and more focused on precise timing. If you fail, you must pay more coins just to try again, introducing a tedious grinding system that has no place in this series.
On a more positive note, the most interesting aspect of Rhythm Heaven returns here: Remixes. As the name suggests, Remixes take older songs, accompanied by their specific rules, and mashes them up into one cohesive song. With almost no breaks, Remixes take you from game to game, testing your mastery of the beat and cues that you should have learned throughout your experience. Everything happens so rapidly, invoking the style of this developer’s other hit series, WarioWare. The thrill of reacting instantly to a new ruleset every few seconds effectively rounds out Megamix’s package.
Music & Sound
Music is understandably important for a rhythm-based game, and RHM delivers. Nearly all of the songs are catchy. You may even find yourself bopping your head and tapping your toes to the music. While the gameplay is certainly enjoyable, it’s the music that makes this game worthwhile. All of the music is completely original to the series and composed by prolific songwriter Tsunku.
There are plenty of different genres represented, from pop to rock and even tango. The music most shines when there are vocals, which sound good enough to be played on the radio or in an anime. Although I wish there were more vocal arrangements, the ones included are enough to satiate most musical appetites, especially when combined with the other fun tunes. As a bonus, you can switch between English and Japanese audio tracks in the settings.
The sound effects are also very effective in prompting your beats and providing feedback. Most games have cues in the forms of bells, whistles, or vocal commands to guide your rhythm. When you hit the beats, your sound effects will be a part of the song. If you miss a beat, a “boing” sound plays to let you know that you’re off.
The artstyle is consistently fun and cartoonish. The graphics also lend themselves well to the humorous premises of each rhythm game. Some are so laughter-inducing that it may even be distracting. In fact, RHM purposefully tries to distract you with the graphics so that you don’t become dependent on the visual cues. Occasionally, your vision of the action on-screen will become obscured or distorted, forcing you to rely on the audio. Other times, the game goes for cheap, but effective laughs, like having wrestlers make ridiculous poses directly at the camera. The humor is all in good fun, and is part of what gives the game its charm.
Story mode takes you through the majority of the games, roughly lasting 3-5 hours. Despite its short length, RHM sports an impressive amount of replay value. Merely trying to get a superb rating on each game, which requires at least 80 Flow, can take another several hours. Achieving the difficult 100 Flow requires constant perfect beats, but will increase replay value tenfold for the determined. With over 70 unique games, there are plenty of songs to master.
Challenge mode repurposes existing games for added excitement. Perfect Challenge is a returning mode where you must go through a whole song without missing a beat. However, you only have three attempts before the Perfect Challenge expires. If you fail, you will have to wait until the next Perfect Challenge randomly pops up. The next challenge may be for a different game altogether, making practice difficult. Even worse, you can’t earn a perfect rating by just playing the game in story mode. You must earn it through this 3-strikes mode. While it’s certainly a worthy challenge and one that will make you feel proud upon completion, it’s too stressful and punishing. Limiting it to three tries makes it devastating if you lose, and the pressure alone can lead to failure.
Challenge Train is a more enjoyable experience that is brand new to the series. In this mode, you face a set of three rhythm games, each with certain conditions. For example, some games require you to get a certain amount of Flow while others ask you to get less than three missed beats. Sometimes, the songs’ tempos are faster than usual. This mode can be played multiplayer using multiple carts or the convenient single-cart download play. This turns it into a cooperative mode in which all players must collectively achieve a certain level of flow. Everyone plays at the same time on their own screen, but indicators tell you how your friends are handling the beat, introducing a competitive flair.
Finally, a café acts as your hub when you want to relax from the story. Here, you can feed turnips to a goat in a calm pachinko minigame. StreetPass mode pits you against a CPU controlled Mii in a head-to-head rhythm boxing competition. The StreetPass is limited since you don’t actually face any human opponents, but it’s a nice inclusion that also informs you of a passerby’s favorite game and overall Flow level. You can also buy goodies at the shop, including new rhythm games. These bonus games aren’t part of the story and can be played at any time. However, they cost rare Flow Balls, only gained from completing challenges. You gain very few balls from a single challenge, and rhythm games are pretty expensive, making the unlocking process overly tiresome.
Rhythm Heaven Megamix is a very entertaining game that comes with own set of flaws. A story mode and a long tutorial hinder the game’s pace, while a reliance on grinding makes this game feel longer than it needs to be. Being a compilation game is a mixed bag, but will overall please anyone looking for a rhythm fix. The majority of games, especially the brand new ones, are nothing but enjoyable. Hilarious graphics and toe-tapping music guarantee smiles and laughter throughout. Challenges and multiplayer keep the game alive long after the credits roll. If you’re a fan of the series, this game is a worthy purchase, offering portable versions of your favorites while delivering some of the best new songs ever produced in this series. If you haven’t played any game in the series before and enjoy music games, then Rhythm Heaven Megamix is the gold standard, filled to the brim with wacky entertainment and musical pleasure.