|The internet tells me that "Tengoku" means "paradise" or something to that effect.|
Rhythm Tengoku puts you through series after series of increasingly challenging rhythm minigames, done much in the style of the recent "Wario" "microgame" titles, with simple but very vibrant graphics, extremely simple, often single-button control, highly intuitive and addictive gameplay, ridiculous variety, and a distinct, witty charm.
In the earlier "microgame" titles, you could usually replay each minigame over and over, and it would escalate in difficulty seemingly forever. That doesn't appear to the be case here; you just play each one, and it stays at the same difficulty, though you can always try to better your previous score, unless you've already got a perfect. And even if you've got a perfect, you may not have got the official "Perfect" medal, which is only available for winning at seemingly random times, for one game at a time. Also, although the minigames themselves don't offer quite the same type of unlimited difficulty increase as in the Wario games, they are longer, and perhaps more carefully designed.
Each one gives you a certain rhythm challenge. Some of the early ones, for instance, have you batting baseballs that pop out of a pipe in the floor sort of in time to music, or plucking facial hairs off some bizarre turnip heads in a specific beat pattern.
Unlike many rhythm games, you can really feel the beat directly connected to the gameplay here. If you're listening closely, you'll have a feeling, almost without even looking at the screen, of when to push the button, and you'll know immediately how well you did based on audio feedback (in addition to the usually humorous resulting animation). The music is simple, but usually with a solid beat, and highly varied, from various kinds of techno to clapping along with women singing a classic-sounding melody.
I've read that there are eight stages, and forty-eight total rhythm games. You have to beat each game in each stage in order before you can try the next one. After playing a game, you get one of three ratings, which seem to amount to Great/Pass/Fail. If you get a "Great," you get a little maybe candle icon on the game's square in the game selection board.
That's fairly clear, but it usually isn't clear how well you have to do before you pass a stage, and this uncertainty can add to the frustration if you're struggling with one of the games. I was also confused for a while by the cumulative percentage score you see on the game select screen. This score can go up or down depending on how you do in each game. You can raise it by going back to a game you did badly in, and improving your score in that game, but I can't see an easy way to tell in exactly which games I've earned a particularly low (but passing, of course) score, so this can lead to a lot of guesswork. Also, you can actually lower your cumulative percentage by doing worse than previously in a game. Eep. Since I'm not sure yet what having a higher cumulative score does for you, I guess maybe I won't bother with that until I've advanced as far as I can through the stages.
At the end of each stage, you play a "remix" of all the games in that stage, all jumbled up but amazingly somehow tied into a unifying rhythmic melody, coming at you at high speed. You're forced to switch between games, rhythm patterns, and control schemes time and again, with no break between. It's pretty darn sweet.
There are a couple curious side modes thrown in. In one, you can listen to a playlist of tunes you've encountered (?); in another, you can jam along to the tunes on a drum set. In another, you can read "emails" you get based on your progression through the games; they're in Japanese, and I have no idea what they say. Oh yeah, progressing through the games also seems to unlock little toys, like a "neko [cat] machine" that plays samples you can jam with, or a little guy who skips over a rotating arrow. I don't pretend to understand these things fully; I just accept them as part of the weirdness that makes these games so fun.
I've played through the first two stages so far, and they've been brilliant. I don't know how far I'll be able to get through the rest, but I'm going to go for it, because this is the most fun I've ever had in a single-player rhythm game.
|Although the game is in Japanese, the controls are very simple--usually a matter of pressing "A" at the right time--and illustrated in a mini tutorial that gives you time to practice for a little bit as you reach each new game (you can skip the tutorial if you don't think you need it).|
|The charm and timing of the animations accompanying each game cannot be overstated. For instance, in the stage 2 game where you shoot ghosts with arrows, you have to release the bow's string just before the beat where the ghost would cross the gap in the wall. When you do this correctly, the arrow plucks the ghost right out of the air--his movement being implied, not actual, based on the rhythm of his previous movements--and carries him in an extremely painful, contorted way--varying based on how well you timed the shot--through a doorway in the little house behind, in slow motion, with a Matrix-style slow-mo humming sound, and with the rain slowing to show the individual drops, then suddenly speeding up to normal time again as the next ghost appears. Simple and brilliant.|| ||