Things get pretty wacky in Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven series of music games, a proud tradition carried on with splendor in Rhythm Heaven Megamix. You've got lumberjack cats chopping wood, seals rolling around in lovely synchronicity, and an onion in need of facial hair grooming, to name but a few bizarre scenarios served up and played out via quick and quirky songs.
As its name implies, Rhythm Heaven Megamix is more of a series mixtape than a wholly new entry. However, that isn't to say the game offers nothing new – especially for non-Japanese audiences, who've only seen two of the other games released in their territories. Breaking down the tracks included, 14 are original to Megamix and another 10 are remixes new to this collection. Another 16 are from the DS title; 25 are from Wii's Rhythm Heaven Fever; 16 are from the Game Boy Advance release Rhythm Tengoku (which only saw the light of day in Japan). Some of the returning tracks feature new audio and a refreshed look.
The chunky Story Mode is where most will spend their time, where rhythm games are threaded around a loose narrative in which you're trying to help a character named Tibby make his way home to Heaven World. This mode is structured into 10 different "worlds" – 7 of which are inhabited by another character that needs your help, and 3 are "gates" that require you pass a trial.
The unpredictable nature of the rhythm games means there's always something twisted around the bend. But the true beauty of Rhythm Heaven is in its purity – many of the games require just the A button to play (although the B button and directional pad can make guest appearances from time to time), which allows players to focus on keeping time with the music instead of fiddling with the inputs. The songs are typically quick, too, giving you enough time to get the hang of things and enjoy yourself without the tracks overstaying their welcome. Play it again and you'll have a better idea of what's coming and can thus rack up a higher combo or score. Another go through and you'll fare much better with timing and nail the game's Skill Star. This style of quick-hit and highly replayable gameplay is the perfect formula for bite-sized bursts of fun.
For the worlds inhabited by other characters, they'll let you advance once you complete all four of the games in their world and thus have helped solve whatever bizarre conundrum they've found themselves in. You don't need to ace a song to advance, but the better you do the greater your reward haul of coins will be. These coins are then used to pay for attempts in the gate trials. Each gate has three versions of one game that vary in difficulty, and the cost to play is inverse to the difficulty attempted. The challenge posed by each world tends to ramp up fairly smoothly, but the occasional spike in difficulty (especially around the gated stages) can lend some unnecessary frustration. Your mileage may vary here, though, since music might "click" differently between people.
There's more to Megamix than just the story, too. A cute little café acts as a game hub outside of that mode where you can talk to a sassy barista dog, feed a goat with turnips for some reason, and spend coins on trinkets for the museum or to unlock bonus games. The café is also where you can get to the StreetPass Terrace, in which you can take on rhythmic robot battles with passersby. Up to four players can hop aboard the Challenge Train via Download Play, too.
Just like its predecessors, Rhythm Heaven Megamix absolutely oozes style. The dialogue is crisp and quirky, often getting a laugh out of us at just how bizarre it is. The art style is impressively flexible and robust, able to be molded into all sorts of slick permutations while maintaining a cohesive throughline everywhere you turn. And the music by series regular Tsunku♂ is a delicious flavour of futuristic electro pop that can't help but put a smile on your face and a tap in your toes.
Oh, and the English versions of the game include both English and Japanese audio, if that's your thing.
Rhythm Heaven Megamix's stylish assortment of songs and supremely accessible, pick-up-and-play nature make this a great introduction to the series for the uninitiated. But for returning players, whether this compilation nature is appealing or not might depend on your perspective. On one hand, Rhythm Heaven fans have seen – and possibly already mastered – a good portion of these ditties (or at least, a version of them). On the other, each track is still great fun to play, and it's nice to have a "greatest hits" collection of a series that you can bust out at any time. We lean towards the latter perspective, ourselves. If you are looking for some quick-hit and stylish portable fun then you need to take a good, long look at Rhythm Heaven Megamix.