2009's Rhythm Heaven for the DS was a fresh take on the rhythm game genre, with its varied and visually interesting minigames, as well as gameplay that was both simple and challenging. Now, Nintendo is bringing the series to the Wii. We were able to try out a few of the minigames in Rhythm Heaven for the Wii at Nintendo's E3 booth, and we had a terrific time with it.
The text that introduced each of the three minigames on display was in Japanese, but this was no problem; the language of rhythm is universal. We also couldn't hear the game over the din of the show floor, so we donned headphones, which let us lose ourselves in the game's catchy music.
One minigame depicted a hand holding a fork in the foreground and another hand far off in the distance that flicked tiny pellets toward the screen at incredible speed. The goal was to push a button at precise moments to bring the fork down and impale the speeding pellets on its prongs. The pellets moved so fast that trying to react to the visuals of their approach seemed almost impossible. Instead, we had to rely on the beat of the music to get the timing down.
In the next game, we took control of a samurai who was battling small demons that emerged from a dark cloud. We could make him perform two different attacks: an overhead slash that was good for defeating the red-eyed demons who jumped from the cloud alone and a frantic flurry of slashes that could stop the swarms of green-eyed demons who sometimes emerged from the cloud en masse. The art style for this game was reminiscent of classic Japanese paintings. At first, just watching for the telltale red or green glow of a demon's eyes in the cloud was enough to trigger the appropriate response on our part. But the game seemed to want us to rely on our ears rather than our eyes, and it gradually became more difficult to see what was happening as our view of the samurai warrior and the demon cloud was obscured by other images. There was a rhythmic pattern to a demon's attacks, though, and the red and green demons made distinctly different sounds, so it's definitely possible to not miss a beat (pun totally intended) even as the visual cues disappear.
The third game was definitely our favorite. Here, we controlled a dog playing a friendly game of badminton with a cat. To make things more interesting, the two had apparently agreed to play while flying small planes with open cockpits. Our only task was to tap a button at specific moments to swing the racquet and send the shuttlecock flying back at our feline opponent. The music for this game was catchy and suited the cartoony visuals of the planes soaring through clouds perfectly. As with the other games, we had to rely more on our ears than our eyes because the cat would often fly its plane to different positions on the screen, and our view would sometimes be obscured by clouds. The cat was one cool character, and its calls of "One-two-three-four!" and "Bop-bop-bop-bop!" made the tune even more toe tapping. It was a beautiful level that shifted from cloudy day to starry night, and although many shuttlecocks went soaring right over our head as we failed to get the timing right, we were having too much fun to care about our mediocre performance.
We came away from Rhythm Heaven with a catchy tune in our head and a big goofy smile on our face. As of yet, no details about when we can expect to see Rhythm Heaven in stores have been released, but we'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.