May the Flow be with you.
I’m a relative newbie to the Rhythm Heaven scene, having only extensively played 2012's Rhythm Heaven Fever on the Wii. I very much enjoy rhythm games, and my experience with them is extensive so it surprised me that I hadn’t really bothered to play any previous Rhythm Heaven game—this series is directly in my gaming wheelhouse. For the uninitiated, Rhythm Heaven is a sort of WarioWare-style mashup of rhythm-based minigames where your goal is to tap A or the touch screen in perfect time with the beat. Rhythm Heaven manages to take that exceedingly simple concept and apply it to dozens upon dozens of situations and art styles. The results are often hilarious, challenging, and rewarding.
If nothing else, Rhythm Heaven will improve your sense of timing.
Rhythm Heaven Megamix, the newest entry in the series,is a compilation of previous minigames with some original content for good measure. Having not played the GBA or DS games, the majority of the minigames were new to me, and even a few of the Wii minigames were just beyond the reach of my working memory. In short, Megamix was essentially a new game from my perspective. The story is inconsequential. A little afro-sporting bear named Tibby falls from Heaven Land and needs your rhythm-keeping help to get back. You’ll meet colorful characters, like a barber or a guy who wears a car on his head, and help them by completing rhythm-based minigames. In between minigames, you’ll be able to visit an ever-expanding Café where you can try your hand at pachinko and StreetPass boxing, or spend some loot in the store. You can take on more challenging minigames with up to three friends for Download Play (a situation I never found myself in).
But you’re here for the minigames. Everything else is window dressing.
Each “level” is made up of four distinct minigames. There is no unifying theme; they’re just haphazardly strung together. The first couple levels breeze right by, but very suddenly, you’ll find yourself greeted by at least one or two super-hard minigames per level. A couple bear special mention here in their evilness: Almost the entirety of the bird-themed level can die in a fire (especially Power Calligraphy); Airboarder is hampered by a terrible song that screws with your timing, and Glee Club inverts the rules in a way that’s not intuitive or particularly enjoyable.
The game’s second half is made up of more difficult versions of these minigames in addition to some new ones you haven’t played before and some very fun remix minigames. Remixes use a single musical track but constantly swaps between four minigames. Despite their challenging nature, the remixes are my favorite part of Megamix.
The only major problem I have with Megamix? Between some levels, you must pass a “trial,” which amounts to a rhythm-based boss fight. You must complete a challenging task several times in a row to move forward (like catch a coin based on a silent beat) and pay coins to do so. You win coins by completing minigames. It’s not hard to do, but if you’re terrible at a given trial, this means you may eventually have to go back and grind for coins. This is awful, and completely antithetical to how the game is otherwise played. I understand the concept of a boss fight, but why make me pay coins for it?
One other nagging irritation is that you can’t swap between button-presses and touchscreen tapping on the fly. In the Options menu, you can flip between them. However, I found that roughly a third of the games seem to work between with button-pressing, while the rest are fine with touchscreen-tapping. I wish they could be toggled between minigames with the press of a button (like Select), but having to go into the Options menu is an unnecessary step.
I should mention here that in almost every case, the minigame music is phenomenal, and several tunes have become permanently lodged in my brain (MONKEY GOLF!!!). The graphical styles that accompany the different tracks are wildly experimental and never dull. I want an entire game based on those badminton-playing flying cats. The only art styles that don’t look great are the few that are presented with 3D character models—again, Airboarder is the low point.
One thing I do very much appreciate about Megamix that certainly wasn’t present in Fever is the feedback you get from the touchscreen. If you pay attention, it will tell you when and approximately how early (or late) you were from hitting the beat perfectly. This helped me improve my timing during certain minigames enormously.
Rhythm Heaven Megamix provides a huge dose of fun for anybody, but those with a poor sense of timing may become frustrated by it. I will say, however, that the game’s feedback system does give you a wonderful opportunity to improve your sense of timing. Weird trials-by-payment aside, Megamix is firing on all cylinders for me; if you’ve ever been curious about the series or you’re already a fan, this is a great way to jump in…as long as you’re jumping on the beat.