After finishing, for now, Theatrhythm, I moved on to another game rhythm game, despite my complete lack of, you know, rhythm. Sega’s, with some sort of publishing help from Nintendo if the Club Nintendo insert is anything to go by, Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure is a wonderfully charming game. It isn’t particularly original, but it has a delightful exuberance that helps keep it entertaining throughout its ten or so hour run time. It does have its flaws though, the most prominent being a lack of feedback when you fail a mission. Despite some frustration, Rhythm Thief is greatly entertaining.
At its heart, Rhythm Thief is a curious and appealing mix of other popular series. The game is formatted largely like Level 5’s outstanding Professor Layton games, but instead of puzzles there are a series of Elite Beat Agents-esque rhythm games and the story is heavily and obviously influenced by the work of Hayao Miyazaki. The mix works wonderfully. There isn’t quite the same fluidity to the tap to find gameplay as there is in Layton, the biggest reason being that there are only about 50 games rather than near on 200 puzzles. I had some real problems with a few of the games, though I understand others did not so maybe it was just me. The biggest problem I had was that the game does not do a good job of showing the player where they went wrong. I failed repeatedly at several of the games, like the dog romance ones for instance, with no clue as to what I was doing wrong. Was I tapping too early? Too late? I never figured it out. At times I was certain the timing was flat out off. It is a problem, but not quite a dealing breaking one. The frustration would have been eased is I had realized I could buy items to help ease the difficulty.
The story is flat out amazing. (Beware of the coming spoilers!) It starts out being Castle of Cagliostro, with the titular Rhythm Thief playing the part of Lupin the 3rd but with additions to the plot that are, if anything, even more crazy than the stuff Lupin gets up too. You race against the apparently resurrected Napoleon Bonaparte to gather a series of ancient artifacts from various Paris landmarks. There is a carbon copy of the rooftop scene from Cagliostro that takes place on the Eiffel Tower. Then it changes to aping Castle in the Sky instead, with a flying fortress hovering over Paris ready to destroy the city until the scrappy young protagonists can stop its power made operator.
While Rhythm Thief has its problems, it is so thoroughly charming that they are easy to forget. There are certainly bouts of rage inducing frustration, enough that some people will certainly put the game away unfinished, but I found the game to be a delight. It mines a different vein of nostalgia than Theatrhythm, instead of cashing in on a quarter century of hard earned memories, Rhythm Thief offers a grab bag of other games and movies touchstones to reminisce about. It does feel a little cheap, but still fun.