REVIEW: Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure

Monday, September 10th, 2012

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Hey, kids!  Do you like dancing?

Well how about dancing around Paris to defeat the armies of the resurrected Napoleon as you search for your art stealing father who abandoned you three years ago?

Then you’ll enjoy Sega’s rhythmic game, Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure.

Control Raphael on your Nintendo 3DS as you dance your way through Paris.  Tap the screen.  No seriously, tap the entire screen.  Tap the boxes.  Tap the buttons.  Tap your friends.  Then stick the game down their pants and make them moonwalk.  Shake the 3DS like a madman and do a pirouette on your porch.  You’ll enjoy hours of fun with Rhythm Thief.

Okay, maybe it’s not like that, but the game is really fun.


As I stated, the story of the game deals with you taking control of Raphael (or his alter ego, Phantom R) as he dances, jumps, and fights his way around Paris to uncover Napoleon’s secret treasure and stop his Chevalier army.  I liken it to a Professor Layton game, but centered around music.

This was a well put together story with good twists with a couple of issues that I’ll talk about later in the review.  It should take you about 10 hours to get through depending on how many times you need to retry a rhythm game.

The controls work well.  The response during the rhythm games was mostly good.  Drawing lines as well as button pushes were accurate.  Gyro-controls worked well, too, but you need to make sure you don’t jerk a different way after making your move.  That can make a certain later level a bit difficult.

At a number of points during the game, you’ll see animated scenes that look wonderful whether or not you have the 3D on.  In my opinion, they look better in 3D.

Dialog and voice over work was very enjoyable.  There were a couple of issues I had with some of the dialogue seeming a bit… well, off.  But that may just be me.

But let’s get to the most important part of Rhythm Thief: the rhythm games.  The music to this game was well put together with each song working well for each level.  And for the most part, this was live music with actual musicians.  That is awesome on its own merit.

Though a number of songs sort of blend into one another, each song is still good with a number of songs being rather memorable.  Ones that come to mind are Looting the Louvre (second level; a quick paced jazz song going along with your escapade through the Louvre) Phantom Fondue (15th level; a comedic march as your dog, Fondue, distracts security) and Melody of Hope (42nd level; your friend Marie plays a dramatic piece on her violin to encourage Raphael near the end of the game).

But my absolute favorite is the rock version of Beethoven’s Little Fugue in G Minor at the 39th level.  And the aesthetics of the level make it even more memorable.  You play as Raphael as he dodges and deflects attacks from a giant machine controlled by a guy who just betrayed you as you battle over a pool of lava that’s in a sky fortress.  Freaking awesome!


As I said, the controls were good but there was one issue that I had with it.  It deals with how you find coins, music tracks, and phantom notes.  In order to find these, you have to tap the touch screen while outside the scenes and rhythm games.  Most coins and tracks are in obvious places on the screen but there are places that have them that you wouldn’t expect.  In addition, to collect phantom notes, which there are 18 of, you have to find all five on the screen which are separated with almost no rhyme or reason.

However, I found this to be more or less annoying, not badly put together.

Graphics were good, particularly on the scenes.  However, the 3D effect didn’t feel right outside of the scenes.  They were okay during the rhythm games but the 3D on the world map, which stays on the top screen, can be a bit headache inducing.  So use the 3D only in certain situations if you want to use it.  Other than that, everything was fine.

The story I said was good.  But there are two issues I have with it.  And what I’m about to talk about is a spoiler so if you want to be spoil-free, please skip the next couple of lines.


You never actually fight Napoleon.


The other issue with the story deals with how it ends.  I won’t say what exactly happens but it seems like a lead-in towards a sequel.  This wouldn’t seem so bad until you start looking at sales numbers.  Not many people have bought this game in any region.  And that is sad.  We may not see the end of this story.  Or, what could be worse, only Japan gets to see the end of this story.

The final issue with the game was pretty much timing.  Not in the game but when the game came out.  It was poorly placed to pretty much go head-to-head with Square Enix’s juggernaut of a franchise in Final Fantasy.  I’d bet that if the average person went into a game store and saw these two games and saw that they were both rhythm games, they’d probably choose Theatrhythm Final Fantasy just on name alone.  And that is unfortunate for Rhythm Thief.


Not having played Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, I don’t know for sure if Rhythm Thief is the best rhythm-based game on the Nintendo 3DS.  What I do know for sure is what Xeen and Sega have shown me is the gold standard for what a rhythm game should do.

It should use just about everything that a system offers.  If it has a touch screen, it should utilize the touch screen.  It is has buttons and a D-pad, it should use it.  If it has gyro-controls, it should use gyro-controls.  Pretty much the only things they didn’t use were the camera and the microphone – and I don’t know how they would have used the camera.

This game has faults, yes, but the faults are more or less personal annoyances than bugs in the game.  This is well worth a buy.

Review Score

And now, it is your turn to go out and tell everyone you know about Rhythm Thief.  If you have a 3DS, buy it.  If you have friends with a 3DS, tell them to buy it.  If they refuse, punch them until they buy it.  This story must be completed and the only way we will see it is if we buy the game.  It’s that simple.

Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure is a production of Sega with development done by Xeen.  It is available now in all regions and rated E10 for Everyone 10 and up.

To learn more about the game, click here.

About Jeff Neuenschwander

Jeff has been a supporter of the website and campaign since the beginning. Joining in for E3 2012, he worked his way up the ranks quickly, making it to the Editing Manager post at the beginning of 2013. Jeff has a wide variety of tastes when it comes to gaming and pretty much likes anything that is quirky, although his favorite genres are Action, Platforming, and RPG. Outside of gaming, Jeff is a musician, being trained as a trombonist for Jazz and Classical music, and holds a degree in Sound Recording.