By TAN KIT HOONGbytz@thestar.com.my
Sega tries to revitalise the rhythm game genre with this unusual and fun 3DS game.
SEGA's Rhythm Thief and the Emporer's Treasure may at first seem like a rip-off of Level 5's Professor Layton series - and in many ways it is - but where the Layton series focuses on puzzles, Rhythm Thief instead shoehorns in a rhythm game.
It seems like an odd choice to go for the rhythm game genre, considering that support for this type of gaming has waned over the years, but with Rhythm Thief, Sega has once again done something unusual, and as we'll see in this review, quite fun.
The thing about most Japanese games is that the story is typically quite over-the-top, and Rhythm Thief's is no exception.
Set in modern day France, you play Raphael, a bespectacled boy whose alter ego is Phantom R, a flamboyant thief with a great sense of rhythm and timing.
Phantom R has gained notoriety for stealing famous Parisian art treasures, then mysteriously, returning them a few days later.
Raphael has a very good reason for this (which we won't spoil for you) but one of his motives for turning into Phantom R is to look for his father, who abandoned him some years ago.
His path soon intersects with Napoleon Bonaparte (yes the Napoleon) who is after a number of items in Raphael's possession that when brought together, will lead to some kind of hidden treasure.
Matter of timing
It really does bear repeating that Rhythm Thief owes a lot to the Professor Layton series - the presentation is similar in that you are given an overworld map on the top screen to navigate while interviewing characters in the game and to launch new mini-games.
In fact, the anime-style character designs and detailed backgrounds are also reminiscent of the Professor Layton series.
Oh yes, another staple of the Professor Layton series that's been borrowed by Rhythm Thief is that if you use your stylus to randomly tap on areas around the screen, you will pick up medallions which you can use as a sort of currency in the game.
Rhythm Thief's similarities end there, however - the gameplay that Sega has thought up involves rhythm games, a lot of rhythm games.
But how different can rhythm games be? Well in the case of Rhythm Thief, there's quite a great variety, and many are hilarious.
There are mini-games where you hit buttons in time with the music, some in which you use the stylus to slide in time with the music and yet others where you use the stylus to slide in certain directions in time to visual cues.
What stands out is that these games are presented within the context of the story and often in a hilarious manner - for example, there's a game where you're supposed to defeat a bunch of bouncing goons by hitting buttons at the correct moments.
Or how about this one, where Phantom R's doggy sidekick is supposed to chew the arses of passing policemen (which is done by hitting buttons to a certain beat).
Despite the fact that I generally suck at rhythm games, I found the ones in Rhythm Thief a lot of fun.
There is also StreetPass functionality integrated into the game, where you get to battle people you StreetPass for them to become your "fans" and also a direct console-to-console battle.
Oh yes, as far as the 3D itself goes, while it is not essential in rhythm games (and are in fact turned off for ones that require you to tilt the 3DS) the cutscenes look amazing in 3D and really adds something to the traditionally animated scenes.
Rhythm Thief is a real breath of fresh air for the rhythm genre - it's a lot of fun and certainly worth a look even if you've never played a rhythm game before.
Sure, it blatantly rips off some aspects of Layton in its presentation but once you get past that the gameplay itself is actually quite unique and a lot of fun.
Pros: A lot of fun and can be quite challenging; loads of gameplay variety; StreetPass battles extend playability.
Cons: Sega could have gone for a more original way to present the story.
Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure
Rhythm adventure game