The Game's Story
The mystery involves a teenager named Raphael, who has a secret identity as "Phantom R." The public follows the exploits of "Phantom R," because he dramatically steals artifacts and then returns them.
Raphael's father went missing three years ago. Following a clue found on a coin that his father gave him before he disappeared, Raphael is now determined to find his dad. His pursuit leads him to join forces with a sweet, violin-playing girl named Marie. Accompanying the duo is Raphael's dog Fondue. Playing as Raphael, you explore the city of Paris looking for clues about his father's mysterious disappearance. In the process, you run into someone claiming to be the long-dead Napoleon Bonaparte and his soldiers. Bizarre? Yes. Fun? You bet.
How to Play
Presented in voiced, cartoony videos, the story has a Japanese anime feel. You can find clues by stopping and talking to people you meet along the way, or tapping on scenes. Tapping the landscape will also produce hidden collectibles, including medals (the currency in this game), new background music and sounds to record for use later on in the game. For example, when you need to make a policeman move out of the way, if you have recorded a bulldog, you can play it and the scared-of-bulldogs-cop will flee the scene.
At times, the game also provides you with 3D maps on which to traverse. You decide which way to move -- sort of like moving on a board game. The maps contains special markings to help you figure out where to go next.
Most rhythm video games don't have much of story; rather they are simply a collection of progressively harder mini-games. Not so with Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure. The 50 music-based mini-games are embedded in a rich story, which is spread over 11 chapters.
Each mini-game fits within the story and winning the game serves to move the story forward. For example, when some thugs try to stop you from leaving the cathedral of Notre Dame, you defeat them by blocking their rhythmic punches by tapping the "A" button. If you are off rhythm, their punches reach you and you fail the mini-game. When you need to sneak past some guards in the Louvre, you match statue poses in rhythm to the music playing. It is ingenious and fun.
However, as engaging as Rhythm Thief is, it isn't a perfect game. Its setup is such that there is a lot of random talking to people you meet along the way. In this regard, it feels and looks a lot like a Professor Layton game. But when you talk to quirky characters in a "Professor Layton" mystery, they give you brain-teasers to solve. In Rhythm Thief, you just talk, and lots of time it leads nowhere.
Another issue with Rhythm Thief is the scoring of the rhythm-based mini-games. The games vary greatly, which is a plus. And most are broken into three sections, giving you a breather in between each section. Unfortunately, the last section is frequently unforgiving in its scoring. You can breeze through the first two sections being rewarded the top score of an "A", and then repeatedly fail the last section because its scoring is so hard.
When faced with repeated failures of a specific rhythm mini-game, there is no way to bypass the difficult activity. There are a few items you can purchase to help, but they are not all that useful. Be prepared to play many of the rhythm games over and over again to win. Rhythm games for the masses work better if the player can control the difficulty, the puzzles get easier after repeated failures or the player can opt to bypass the ones that are giving him trouble. This game doesn't use any of those mechanisms, and thus it is best for players that have great rhythm and don't frustrate easily.
Controlling the purloining prankster is exciting, particularly when Raphael is dancing, leaping, and sliding over rooftops. And there are many musical puzzles that aren't about responding to a beat. Players will have fun solving concentration-type games about matching musical tones. They will also play back melodies by plucking violin strings and listen to tones to figure out which one doesn't have a match. If you can feel the beat and your reflexes are quick, this game is a lot of fun to explore.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.