Rhythm Tengoku was developed by Nintendo R&D1 and released exclusively in Japan for the GBA in 2006 and in arcades with Sega's help in 2007. Being developed by the same studio responsible for the WarioWare games, Rhythm Tengoku mixes the mini-game based gameplay with rhythm game elements, featuring unusually high-quality music for a GBA game. The game started development in 2004. A 2002 prototype for a GBA drum sequencer was incorporated into Rhythm Tengoku as well: the player can freely drum within the Sound Test or take on 19 drum lessons. (Source)
The game contains eight stages with five rhythm games and one remix of the previous five each, adding up to 48 different mini-games total. Each game can be completed without hitting every note perfectly, although doing so will unlock various rhythm-related bonus games and modes, such as a drum set where you have to mimic what the drummer does.
Much like the Wario Ware series of games, Rhythm Tengoku is all about following your senses and trying to be aware of various cues in the visuals and audio. This emphasis on sense instead of language makes it quite easy for anyone to pick up and play, even though the game is entirely in Japanese (and consequently only available in the Asian region or through an import website).
For example, one of the game's levels has you rapping with a computer-controlled character. He'll speak a colour-coded Japanese phrase, and the player must press 'A' in different rhythms. Although the game explains what rhythms to do for which phrase, non-Japanese speaking players can watch hand movements on-screen to figure it out without the need for language.
Occasionally, challenges will crop up, asking you to complete a level without any mistakes. Doing so earns you a certificate for that level, and a pink heart with a 'P' on it appears in that level's description.
There are numerous rhythm games, some of which repeat over the course of play. Here are some examples:
- You are a martial artist who has to punch objects being thrown at him to the beat of the music.
- As a pair of tweezers, pluck hairs from a man's face in the same rhythm they are growing.
- A group of toy soldiers obeying the commands of their commanding officer, all keeping in step.
- A baseball player hitting balls from a floating room in space, again, to the rhythm.
- The third member of a dance group, clapping in time with the others.
- Ghosts try to sneak in between a gap of a fence, you have to try and shoot them with a bow and arrow.
- A samurai waiting at the edge of a building for enemies to come by. Again, timing when to strike based on the music will defeat them.
- One of three mice running on a table, hiding behind objects to avoid a cat.
- A member of four girls doing a traditional Japanese dance for a young girl. You clap in rhythm during the times the lyrics command you to.
- You are flying around in a circle above growing plants. Use your watering can at the right times to help them grow.
- A rabbit bouncing in time across a large body of water.
- A pair of trampoline artists changing clothes in mid-air.
The sequel, Rhythm Tengoku Gold for the Nintendo DS was released in Japan on July 31st, 2008. For the first time in the series, the game was released in the US as Rhythm Heaven on April 5th, 2009. It has the same gameplay and features as Rhythm Tengoku Gold, but any songs with Japanese lyrics have been rerecorded in English.
Rhythm Heaven Fever, the third game in the franchise, was released in Japan in late 2011. An English release arrived in the following year.
Though Rhythm Tengoku's two sequels have been officially localized to English, Rhythm Tengoku never received an official translation. A fan-translation is in-progress, and public betas are regularly released.