With how well-received 2009’s DS title Rhythm Paradise was, it was only a matter of time before the series made the jump to home consoles — and the Wii was, of course, the perfect fit.
Since Nintendo’s unconventional but immensely popular console catered to a broad demographic almost identical to that of the DS, it made perfect sense to bring the series to players’ televisions. So that’s exactly what happened in 2011 in Japan, followed by a Western release in early 2012.
Like its predecessor, Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise (Rhythm Heaven Fever in North America) combines extremely simple, accessible mechanics with a gentle but firm difficulty curve — and the result is a highly enjoyable game that pretty much anyone can enjoy, regardless of their gaming experience.
Thankfully, Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise eschews the use of the Wii’s erratic (pre-MotionPlus) motion controls in favour of simple two-button functionality: most games simply require you to tap the Wii Remote’s A button at the appropriate time, and a few also incorporate a “squeeze” gesture achieved by pressing A and the trigger-like B button at the same time. It doesn’t get any more complicated that that at any point in the game — the challenge comes from the various ways in which those controls are implemented.
The first game you’ll encounter involves rhythmically hitting golf balls as a monkey and a mandrill throw them at you. Following series co-creator Tsunku’s original concept of being a rhythm game based on auditory rather than visual cues, you’ll have a much better time if you pretty much ignore what you see on the screen and instead concentrate on what you are hearing. The cues in this stage are easily distinguished: the monkey makes high-pitched squeaks and throws reasonably slow balls at you, while the mandrill’s voice is much deeper, signifying you need to be ready to quickly respond to a high-speed throw.
Given that the game is played on the TV and is thus likely to be connected to a home theatre system, these audible cues are much easier to distinguish than through the tinny speakers of the DS, and there’s a strong sense that Tsunku and the team have really made an effort to provide satisfying feedback to your actions. Numerous games make their most obvious, bassy part of their rhythm section dependent on your actions, giving a strong feeling of direct connection between player and music — and the animations you see on the screen complement what is going on in the music extremely well.
This feeling of direct connection is core to Beat the Beat: Rhythm Heaven’s appeal. In many of the games, you’re effectively performing in an ensemble with computer-controlled characters, and it’s immensely satisfying to feel like you’ve done “your bit” right. Don’t get complacent while other stage elements perform their parts, however; you always need to be ready to respond to the rhythm, particularly in fast-paced games like See-Saw, where you are alternating between fast and slow regular rhythms according to the cues you receive.
The actual music involved in the game is simply wonderful, too, covering a wide variety of styles that always feel appropriate to the visual (and, at times, narrative) setup for each stage. And much like in the DS version, regular “Remix” stages not only task you with rapid-fire changes between four different minigames, they also mix up the musical styles somewhat, requiring you to understand the audible and visual cues in a whole new context.
Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise maintains its predecessors’ challenging but forgiving rating system in that clearing a stage with the top “Superb” rating isn’t dependent on performing absolutely perfectly; it instead simply requires that you meet two or three hidden “objectives” over the course of your performance. These most commonly correspond to displaying basic competence in the game, demonstrating you can maintain your composure when rhythms become more complex or syncopated, and in some cases hitting a particularly challenging note or phrase, usually on an offbeat or as part of a cross-rhythm.
Speaking as a musician, Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise is an absolute treat because it tickles the musical pleasure centres of one’s brain like few other games thanks to its excellent music and strong use of audible feedback. It feels like playing music, to put it another way — or at the very least, like you’re playing along with music. But this isn’t to say that only trained musicians need apply, mind you; each new game begins with a comprehensive practice section that trains you in all of the techniques you’ll encounter once the minigame proper starts. There are no surprises in terms of rhythmic patterns and techniques once you get going; the challenge comes from responding quickly to the cues and, in some cases, simply learning the song or spotting the patterns.
A good example of the latter comes as part of a game that involves catching sweets to put in a box while swatting away cockroaches. To catch the sweets, you press A and B; to swat a cockroach, you simply press A. Upon first playing this game, it’s easy to assume you need to watch the screen to determine which of the buttons you need to press, but the action moves so quickly it doesn’t take long for it to become apparent that this isn’t the right way of going about things. Instead, take a moment to observe what’s going on and you’ll notice regular, predictable patterns are being used throughout the entire game; once you understand this, nailing a Superb performance based entirely on the audible cues will quickly follow.
Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise would be a solid enough game if it simply consisted of its component minigames, unconnected in any way. But in true Nintendo tradition, it has a substantial metagame for those who wish to take their enjoyment of it more seriously.
Medals are available for obtaining Superb rankings on each individual game, and these can be used to unlock both “rhythm toys” that are primarily for messing around with, and endless games in which you chase high scores rather than attempting to survive to the end of a track. Occasionally, games will become highlighted and challenge you to complete them perfectly with 100% accuracy, with your reward being unlockable music tracks and short snippets of narrative text providing the setup for the less abstract games. And many of the games feature hidden passwords that occasionally show up during gameplay; these can be entered into the “police investigation” rhythm toy to trigger various amusing scenes.
Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise is something every Wii or Wii U owner should have in their collection. It’s accessible, playable, addictive and has aged beautifully, thanks once again to Ko Takeuchi’s wonderful contributions to the visual side of things.
And I defy you not to be singing some of the songs to yourself even when you’re not playing it. Wubbadubbadub’zat true? YEAH
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