Steal stuff to the rhythm of music.
Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure is developed by SEGA on the Nintendo 3DS, and gives us rhythm-based action within a Professor Layton style setting. This enchanting tale is set in Paris and closely follows the adventures of Raphael, who is the mysterious thief known as Phantom R.
Phantom R is known for stealing famous pieces of art, only to return them several days later. He is a clever young gentleman, dressed in a dapper fitted suit and red-banded hat. Along with his trusty canine sidekick Fondue, he is driven by the investigation of why his father disappeared without a trace three years ago. The only clue was a coin left behind with an unusual mark on it. The Paris police have been made aware that Phantom R’s next target will be the bracelet of Tiamat, but they are slightly baffled as to why he would show any interest in this unknown treasure. The bracelet is an ancient Babylonian artifact and was part of the Mesopotamia Exhibit on display at The Louvre, and has the same distinguishing mark as the coin that was left behind by Raphael’s father. Local Inspector Vergier from the Paris Police, thinks it’s nothing more than some publicity stunt, but is determined to capture Phantom R and put an end to his stealing misdemeanors.
The beginning chapter transports the player to the top of the world famous Arc De Triomphe, where you’re first introduced the rhythm side of this adventure story. Phantom R appears on a flashing disco floor, to begin the showtime performance. Players follow the dancer’s moves with a simple slide action of the stylus on the 3DS interface to perform the required moves. This basically means sliding left, right, up, down and drawing a circle. It’s all down to timing and listening to the rhythm of the music as you try to replicate the dance moves in time. If you’re doing it right you’ll get a perfect remark, but if you mess up you’re booed. You can have the guide on, if you’re not sure what you are suppose to do. You’re then graded and given some much needed gold coins.
The Paris Fête is about to begin and the streets are lined with the traditional French flags. Your canine friend Fondue has run off, providing the perfect beginning for the tutorial, which starts with you introducing yourself to someone on the street by simply touching them with the stylus and trying to find your dog. The top of the 3DS screen shows your current location and using the D-Pad or circle pad you control which way you want to move on the map. You’ll find yourself in street environments with an assortment of characters with which to interact. Some of these characters will launch many of the games rhythm-based mini-games. A strange man called ‘Ghislain’ explains to you about medals that are scattered through the city and the hidden shop, where you can sell items in exchange for medals, but you can also earn them if you’re good at playing the rhythm games - the higher you rank, the more medals you’ll be rewarded with. Touching randomly on any scene, you can find hidden treasure chests which may contain yet more medals or rewarding items for the player.
During the game, you’ll also be able to make noises and then record their sound. At first this sounded a little strange, but it’s not until later on in the game that you realize you need certain sounds to make it through a selection of tight spot scenarios.
Continuing with the story, you find yourself sneaking into The Louvre and The Mesopotamia Exhibit, where you know the Bracelet of Tiamat is hidden. Unfortunately, there are many guards on patrol and looting the Louvre will take some rhythm-based stealth. Players are required to touch on one of the four coloured squares to match the statue colour as Phantom R races to find a place of safety by a striking a series of poses without being detected by the guards. Again this is based on feeling the rhythm of the music and if you mess up, Phantom R falls over and starts running again. Whilst all of the mini-games are rhythm-based, they are also quite varied in their execution and include all manner of different scenarios, such the the constant running game where you try to avoid capture by Inspector Vergier and his roller skate brigade across the rooftops. Using the A button to jump and the B button to slide, the action keeps on moving as you listen to the beats of the music to help you leap over or slide beneath obstacles.
Throughout Paris there are also 18 Pieces of the Phantom notes hidden and waiting to be found. If players hear the ‘doe’ note when they touch the 3DS screen, it indicates a piece will be nearby. Collect all the pieces to play the tune to Charles who will give you a stunning reward. Other challenges include some rhythmic combat. Using the D-pad or the A button to attack left and right, you can slap the guards with the rhythm of the beat. At first it’s quite slow, but before long you’re happy slapping guards frantically. Once you’ve finished with the guards, you can take to the kitchen and prepare food, which involves you catching food in your frying pan and throwing it to the chef next to you. You’ll also have the opportunity to play the violin and learn the song of the Moon Princess to discover the secrets surrounding the Dragon Crown.
The wireless battle mode allows you to indulge in some two-player battles with a friend. The StreetPass function enables players to receive data and this data appears as a new character on the streets of Paris. Touching the character, allows you to see your opponent’s rhythm game score and then challenge them. If you manage to beat your opponent’s score the character will remain in the city as your fan, end up losing and you’ll see them departing.
The story unfolds at a decent pace which will keep the player moving through the numerous mini-games. But it is the visual style that is most appealing about the game, with some amazing anime-styled cut scenes and 3D environments that make great use of the 3D capabilities of Nintendo’s handheld. Of course, no rhythm game would be worth it’s salt without a decent soundtrack, and yet again Rhythm Thief impresses with some really addictive tunes that will leave you humming long after the game has been put down.
Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure may suffer from the repetitive nature of the constant rhythm-based challenges, but the impressive variety combined with absolutely stellar production values and an interesting story are sure to keep you entertained. There is a good deal of unlockable content to be found, and the interesting use of StreetPass makes the game well worth traveling with. It may essentially only be a collection of rhythm-based games, but the way they are all packaged together make it so much more.