RHYTHM TENGOKU / Nintendo / Gameboy Advance

Rhythm Tengoku is a neat - but tough - rhythm game spun off from Wario Ware and handled by the same team at Nintendo. The theme is similar, but instead of strings of micro-games, you play a series of longer games that involve tapping the buttons along to both the beat and visual cues. Sort of like a mashup of Wario Ware, and a simplified version of games like Parappa and Guitar Hero.

As with Wario Ware, as you complete one challenge you unlock another, and you can re-try all the completed levels to go for a gold medal (awarded when you make only a couple of small mistakes.) Also, levels that you have a gold medal in randomly will offer a Perfect Challenge, where you usually get three chances to do a perfect run of the level to unlock some bonus or another (I haven't been able to perfect a single level yet.) Each series of levels ends with a "Mix Mode", which is more like Wario Ware as it throws snips of all the previous levels at you in one run, but all along to a continuous song. There's also the expected bonus games and multiplayer games to be unlocked as well.

The game has the same aesthetic style and weirdo humor as Wario Ware, even familiar sound clips are used and characters make cameos in a somewhat altered state.

The game is really cute, clever, and can be a blast to play ... if you have a strong sense of rhythm and can also adapt to the unique quirks of the gameplay. I can see why they never bothered to localize this one to the West - it is heavily reliant on the styles and beats of Japanese music, which are a little "off" and unusual to most of those not from the country. For example, there's one level where you have to make a dancer clap in time to a traditional Japanese song. Part of the cue is reading along with the lyrics, which are of course written in Japanese and thus of no help whatsoever. The game assumes you'd already be familiar with the song/musical style, which you would be if you grew up in Japan ... not so much anywhere else.

The music is catchy, and if you can get the hang of it the game becomes really fun when you get into a good flow. It is really, really hard to just pick up and play well, however; most players will have to put significant time into practice (and have a high patience threshold) to even be of passing skill at it. I would recommend checking it out, though. It is definitely one of the most original games for the GBA.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video