Preview: Feeling the beat in Rhythm Heaven

June 19, 2011

Rhythm Heaven is a strange and wonderful game. The mechanics themselves are quite simple: usually you’re hitting a button at the right time for the scenario, triggering this animation or that and trying to do well enough to continue to the next challenge. The actions themselves are usually simpler than even developer Intelligent Systems’ WarioWare series; those games at least have some sort of pointing or shaking or aiming or… well, something we’d call a legitimate game mechanic.

Even with all that, Rhythm Heaven has an advantage, and it’s because it feels so cool to play it. Sure, you’re just hitting a button or something, but you’re doing it to a cool rhythm, and each one has its own interesting variations.

From what we played of the Wii installment (the third in the series, though the GBA original was never localized), it follows in that vein. Whether you’re destroying jumping enemies with a samurai sword or catching peas with a fork, it’s all about the sound. Sure, the visuals try to indicate some things, with blue-eyed baddies moving at a different speed than red ones or where the pea gets caught in your fork showing you how close you were to the correct timing. But you can play this game without looking at the screen. (We tried it. We actually did better focusing solely on the audio cues.)

There’s no great leap forward in gameplay dynamics — at least not yet. We’d love some multiplayer modes, WarioWare DIY-style customization or something to make the fun continue after the first pass through the game. Still, without it, it’s still more Rhythm Heaven, and we were getting worried that Nintendo wouldn’t localize it anymore.