Have you ever played a game that ended up being way better than what you thought it would be? It’s such a pleasant surprise, isn’t it? Well that’s exactly what happened when I tried Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure. Play as Raphael, a young chap who lives in Paris, France. Raphael’s secret is that he’s actually the heroic thief, Phantom R. As a thief, he steals artifacts form the Louvre art museum only to return them a day or so later. He does this to uncover the whereabouts of his missing father, and he’ll end up unraveling an even bigger mystery in the process! Gameplay is a lot like the Professor Layton games, except for instead of solving boring math problems, you’ll tackle fun music and rhythm based mini-games!
In story mode, you’ll travel around Paris and solve the mystery of your missing father and priceless artifacts that connect to his disappearance. This part of the game is very much like Professor Layton. Each location is a single screen where you can tap to talk to people, find hidden coins, and maybe solve a simple puzzle involving elements of music. At key points in the plot, you’ll have to play a music based rhythm game to progress the story. You might have to sneak past guards, escape the cops, or defeat bad guys trying to take your treasures!
The neat thing about the music games is that there is so much variety to them. Some you might have to slide the stylus or tap on the screen, while other challenges have you press buttons or tilt the 3DS itself. The games are similar to those found in other titles like Rhythm Heaven Fever, Elite Beat Agents, or even SEGA’s own Space Channel 5 (note to SEGA, a Space Channel 5 game would be awesome on 3DS). I nearly freaked out when I saw that one of the challenges is directly based on one of my other favorite SEGA music games: Samba de Amigo. Only problem with the music challenges is that some of the picture cues are misleading, and the controls for some of the games feels a little off. Most of the games are forgiving enough that you can pass them to progress the story, but mastering them will prove a little more difficult.
There are tons of secrets to discover in story mode, too. Poke around and you can find hidden coins, items, and even secret rhythm games. Collect recorded sounds to solve puzzles and build a special musical instrument, use earned coins to buy goodies and items to help you play, and search for hidden notes to uncover new branches to the story. Snoop around as much as you can so you don’t miss anything, because some secrets can’t be found later in the game.
When you’re not in the middle of the story you can play each music game you’ve unlocked separately to try and beat your high score. There are also special ‘marathon’ games and you can even challenge a friend locally or with StreetPass to get a better score. Rhythm Thief has tons of video animations, quality voices, and a long quest. Fans of Professor Layton will definitely want to get this. It definitely has that Layton feel, along with heroic thief tales like Robin Hood or Lupin the Third, and international adventure cartoons like TinTin (both main characters even have a white dog sidekick). I know another music game just came out on 3DS: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, but if you can afford to get both, I’d say give Rhythm Thief a chance, too!
Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Alcohol Reference, Cartoon Violence, and Mild Suggestive Themes. Paris is famous for its wine, so there are a few mentions of it here and there by the locals. Raphael may hit enemies and his dog may bite them, but it’s all cartoony. The suggestive themes are really mild and non-existent, and really only consist of a few small jokes here and there. Reading skill is a must for all the text, and younger gamers may find some of the music games a little too difficult. Rhythm Thief may even be considered slightly educational, though, as the games let kids practice fundamentals of music and rhythm. Plus, even though the story is fictional, players will learn a little about French history and culture since many of the locations in the game are actual places in Paris.