Die And Go To Rhythm Heaven
Rhythm games traditionally make an effort to become more and more complex and mechanical as time goes on. A look at the trajectory of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series show a series of mechanics being piled higher and higher, culminating in keyboard controllers, “pro guitar” controllers that are functionally real guitars, and drum kits with three cymbals or two bass pedals. Would-be upstarts like Rock Revolution, PowerGig: Rise of the Sixstring, and Rocksmith all open with more complicated controls than Rock Band would ever have dreamed of launching alongside.
Leave Rhythm Heaven Fever to sweep up the overcomplicated mess and deliver one of the most engaging and accessible music games on the market. Roughly fifty games, built to their own songs, span across ten tiers, and range from fishing tournaments to first dates to luchador interviews. It’s bizarre stuff, and so I’ll include a few videos to sort of show the variety on display here.
Despite all its songs being played over fifty games, Rhythm Heaven Fever uses only the Wii Remote, and there are zero motion controls involved; the game is played by either pressing “A,” or by pressing “A” and “B” at the same time. That’s it. Just two buttons, and always “A.” How difficult can that be?
Well, the answer is very, very difficult. The absolute precision of Rhythm Heaven Fever is so specific that it actually serves as a musical theory instructor. If you’re able to complete the first four “games” of Rhythm Heaven Fever, you’ll have learned off-beat rhythms. Continue onwards, and you’ll master rhythms in 3/3, rolling beats, and to divorce the musical rhythm from the visual matching of the game. Each tier ends with a remix, combining the different mechanics of each game on that tier to form one cohesive song. These remixes force people to jumble all these techniques on-the-fly, really drilling down on the importance of each mechanic before moving onward to the next level. It’s brilliant stuff, and I’ve had multiple people play the game better with eyes closed to just focus on the beats.
If they were to play a level through for the first time with eyes shut, though, they’d demand to immediately watch someone else play it. The visual style of Rhythm Heaven Fever is vibrant, diverse, simple, and generally pretty darn cute. And on multiple levels, there are incredibly clever and distracting visual gags that demand to be seen. It’s subversive, engaging, and full of the charm of cartoons like Adventure Time, or games like WarioWare.
While Rhythm Heaven Fever succeeds in terms of its visuals and mechanics, it would fail if its soundtrack weren’t one of the most endearing and eminently listenable scores Nintendo’s released in several years. It ranges from jazz to blues to metal to light pop, and it’s all the kind of stuff that catches your brain and refuses to leave. And, while the game reintroduces some of its game types with higher difficulty towards the back half of the game, the new songs are still engaging, and the absolute best song in the game is hidden in the credits. (to clarify, that's not this next song)
Rhythm Heaven Fever is a bit of a revelation. While some will declare that Rhythm Heaven for the GBA or DS are superior versions, the party atmosphere one can evoke by trying to force their friends to get at least a “but still just…okay” rating on Hole in One is only achievable on a game playable on a television set, and the controls are simply more precise on the Wii than the DS version. It’s a top of the line rhythm game, and an absolute must-have addition to anyone’s Wii catalog.
...one more? Well, okay.