Professor Layton with a Beat,
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This review is from: Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure (Nintendo 3DS) (Video Game)
Rhythm games are not my sort of thing. That's why I found myself surprised to be enjoying this game so much. The main advantage that this game has over its competitors is a good story, with gameplay features borrowed from Professor Layton, and extremely catchy beats. I found myself humming the tunes from this fairly shortly after playing it for the first time.
The plot of the game is focused around a young Frenchman called Raphael, who goes around by night disguised as the notorious Phantom R, an art thief of great style and sophistication. The police are baffled at the ability of this young redheaded thief in a fashionable suit and fedora to disappear. Undoubtedly they asked the random redheaded civilian with glasses and no hat for information, but he didn't see anything. It's that kind of game. Raphael is searching for his father, who went missing years before. During his pursuit he finds himself entwined in the risen Emperor Napoleon's dastardly plans to take over the world. Fortunately his men are susceptible to timed dance moves.
Sound ridiculous? Good, it's meant to. The plot is one of the most entertaining things about this game. Amusing and insane it takes our heroes on a tour of Paris and its environs. And Paris is very much on display here. The city looks gorgeous, even in the 2D that dominates the gameplay. When you do get to see a cinematic cutscene (in glorious 3D no less) it really sours.
The rhythm games are cleverly based around this plot. For example, when sneaking into the Louvre you have to follow a beat to hide behind convenient statues and avoid the guards. When fighting Napoleon's men you have to punch them as they bounce at you in synchronized fashion. When eluding policemen on roller skates you have to jump or duck to avoid capture. And my personal favorite: you get to defend yourself against your archrival's PI child Charlie who attempts to apprehend you by kicking a flaming football at your face. They're all fun, not a little bit silly, and have a catchy beat.
The parts of the game not revolving around playing rhythm games owe a very large debt to Professor Layton. Not so much the puzzle aspect, but the way that you move your character along a map and use the touchscreen to interact with the characters and scenery on it. They even have playcoins you can collect by tapping random areas of the screen. The character and street designs are very nice. These are seen at their full effect when the cutscenes start. These cutscenes are beautifully animated and really capture a spirit of adventure. I wish they would make this into an Anime so we could see it all animated. The 3D is used to good effect in these, especially the first cutscene which has Raphael dancing around a room filled with chandeliers. The rest of the game doesn't use it much, and it's often easier to just turn it off.
Most of this game takes place on the bottom screen. The top screen has a map and is used for all the wonderful 3D cutscenes, but when traveling you pay attention to the touchscreen. In battles the top screen becomes important. These battles alternate between having you tap buttons on the bottom screen with your stylus and hitting buttons. No, you don't have to do both at the same time. That would be horrifyingly difficult.
The downsides to the game are fairly minor but annoying. The rating system is messed up. The game doesn't record your best scores, only an average of all your scores. This means that if you want the game to save you getting an A-Rank score you have to get it right on your first time. Which is almost impossible. Another flaw is the grading system for these ranks. It is too heavily focused on what your last move was. You can get a perfect score right up until the end and then flub only the last note, dropping you down to a C-Rank. It's very irritating.
If any of this sounds compelling try the demo. It's available for free on the Nintendo store. This is one fun game even for non rhythm game fans. While the game doesn't always add up to the sum of its parts, nevertheless it provides a fun ride.