The first thing to know about Rhythm Heaven Fever is that if there is a monkey in the mini-game, it's going to be hard. The second thing to know that if you are part of a team of three or four guys, it's going to be hard. The last thing to know is that no matter how hard things get, it's always going to be awesome. So very awesome.
Rhythm Heaven Fever (Feel Good Nonsense with Music: The Game)
I feel like I've started most Recently Played blogs with the preface that I haven't played previous games in the series. That trend continues with Rhythm Heaven Fever for the Wii. I've had some passing familiarity with other Rhythm Heaven games, especially a demo of the DS version with the widget game that I remember being incredibly frustrating at the time. But I can see that this isn't the kind of game you want to experience at a demo station where you probably can't hear the music or enjoy the amazing visuals while you try to stick the rhythm. But it ain't easy. I'm frequently tempted to call this the Dark Souls of music games... but that's probably way too harsh. Maybe.
It really depends on how musically inclined you are and how well you can keep the beat. For everyone else it's a very demanding rhythm game coupled with a vicious grading scale I've come to expect from distinctly Japanese games. Thanks in no small part to Bayonetta's scoring system, I got used to the "OK" or "Try Again" ratings pretty fast in this game. And it's a good thing I did, because it's damn amazing in just about every other way.
The Fever Doesn't Mess Around with Timing
Right when you start the game, there's a little test that lets you know what this game is all about. They ask you to press buttons when a timer reaches zero. Something I'm extremely familiar with due to many, many Rock Band calibrations. But unlike Rock Band that simply throws you a thumbs up when you're comfortable... I was ALL over the place. Most of my tests were early or late. With only a tiny amount actually on time. Then I got to Hole in One, the first mini-game where a Monkey and a Mandrill teach you to golf, and whiffed it hard. I was hoping that my Rock Band skills would help a little (cause I've played a lot of Rock Band) but Rhythm Heaven Fever was like "Nah, son."
And it's funny that a game that controls with literally two buttons (A and B) could be so crushing. It's a beautiful simplicity that strips out a lot of elements so the only problem is really not pressing those buttons at the right time. This may surprise some people, but I still play on a standard definition TV. I don't have to worry about HD lag or all those unfortunate timing issues with pretty pictures. So with this in mind I had really taken a blow to my rhythm ego. I thought I was pretty good about that. I admit this was compounded by the Quick Look where Jeff totally kills it non-stop from start to finish, making the whole game look easy. I mean... how the hell did he get a medal on Monkey Clock? Not to mention Tambourine which is my own personal Rhythm Heaven Hell... but I'll get to that later.
Feel It, Don't Watch It
One of my favorite quirks of this game is how often is tries to screw you with the visuals. It loves its rhythm and never fails to go out of the way to remind you that if you aren't listening closely, then you're doing it wrong. One of the earliest examples is Monkey Watch, where the camera zooms far out making all the monkeys look like ants. The real rub of this game is listening to audio cues and hitting them in time with the music. This visual teasing doesn't stop as it only gets meaner in the form of screen obscuring clouds, dramatic narration, flashing lights, and in some cases total darkness. One game even starts on a black screen and if you aren't listening closely you'll miss the first three hits before you know what's going on.
But totally ignoring the screen isn't the answer. There is a lot of crazy stuff that is made better when successfully pulling off mini-games. In some cases, things get even crazier as button presses are more and more successful. Characters often react to success with party poppers or complementary cheers that making pressing one button in time feel damn good. The boss-ish Remixes are even better that take the established mini-games and throw decorative themes over everything. Rhythm Heaven Fever has a very distinctive, very awesome look that never ceases to amuse from start to finish. It also helps that a lot of mini-games are so weird it allows the art style to have a lot of fun with synchronized rolling seals, Donk-donks, and tap tap dancers with an amusing secret. Not to mention executive pigs.
Rhythm Heaven Highlights
This part is mostly for people who have played the game. With the fifty or so mini-games and people's varying experience with keeping rhythm, I imagine there are a lot of different opinions on what game is great and what isn't. Below is a short list of some of my favorites and some stuff I wasn't so crazy about.
- Ringside - "Pose for the fans!" An obvious choice maybe, but this interview game is so damn great.
- See-Saw - "Eee-ooh!" Rhythm Heaven makes See-Saws more awesome
- Air Rally - "Ba bah bah bum!" I may totally suck at this game... but it's probably one of my favorite songs in the game. It's so cheery even if it sounds like the cat is taunting you the entire time.
- Packing Pests - "Double up!" This game has a great groove. Not to mention, I can crush it regularly. One of my first perfect medals.
- Remix 9 - "Okay, it's on!" Besides Remix 1, this is the only other Remix I have managed to get a medal on.
Not So Awesome
- Tambourine - This game was my first serious road block. I didn't think Simon Says with simians would be so hard.
- Monkey Watch - I love the concept of this game as you hand out non-stop high fives... But man, it has a damn tricky rhythm to get down.
- Shrimp Shuffle - "Together!" The shrimp game is pretty annoying and I hate the switch up. I don't care for the song either, so it makes this game a complete loss in my opinion.
- Tap Troupe - Maybe second to Monkey Watch in terms of games I just can't handle. It's especially bad when this game shows up in remixes and fucks me up bad. I do like how your character doesn't seem to care when he messes up.
- Remix 2 - Probably the hardest remix in the game for me. Mostly because Tambourine and Monkey Watch make a deadly tag team to ensure I almost always get "Try Again!" I will probably get a perfect on Remix 10 before I get a medal on this game.
Wubba-dubba-dubba is that true?
Besides the style and music, this game is great about putting on pressure. The way it hands out gifts manages to add another layer to an already tricky game. It randomly selects a song you've gotten a medal on, challenges you to getting a perfect, and only gives you three shots to pull it off. The first time it gave me an opportunity on Hole in One, I missed the first beat three times in a row. During another challenge on Board Meeting I consistently missed the last beat every time. I'm not sure if these challenges keep popping up or are "forever lost," but it's just as stressful as anything in Dark Souls. I don't think I have the drive (or the skill) to get perfect medals on most of the stuff in the game. And getting a perfect on some of the Remix Boss Songs seems... nearly impossible. Like a job for crazy people. I can't handle that because I am too busy being the best at choking.
I'm glad this game exists... and I understand if others don't agree. I've already seen plenty of responses where people don't see the appeal. If I had to make an argument, I would say that it's not any single part of this game, but everything working in concert that makes the difference.
Lastly, a Challenge
I've seen some great parody videos. I wouldn't be surprised if "Blocker Heaven" is posted in the comments or one of the pony ones. Because that's what you do when Rhythm Heaven Fever talk happens. But I say take it further. I'm putting it out there on the internet... I want to see some live-action Rhythm Heaven videos. Some would be easier than others. Cheer Readers or the Ringside would be totally possible. But if someone could do Fork Lifter or Packing Pests, I'm sure it would be the best thing ever. Until then, there's always have this quirky game's crazy sense of rhythm.
And pose for the fans!