EVER SINCE Dance Dance Revolution debuted in '98, the rhythm genre has been a fan favorite. That's been great for musically inclined gamers—but after over a decade of popularity, the genre is losing steam, with faux guitars, dance pads, and karaoke all having been done to death. So what does a new rhythm title have to do to earn its moment in the sun? If Sega's Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure is any indication, the answer is "blend the rhythm and adventure game genres."
In Rhythm Thief, you play as a young boy who moonlights as an art thief. There's a convoluted story behind why he swipes valuable art, but more crucial is the "how" behind these crimes. Gameplay in Rhythm Thief is broken up into two main sections: The first plays like a standard adventure game, with players traveling from area to area, searching for useful items. Once you've reached a point of interest, though, the game switches styles and you're thrown into a short, rhythm-based minigame.
This mashup of disparate styles is the hallmark of Rhythm Thief: Instead of having a trademark style throughout for all its minigames, Rhythm Thief lifts and adapts various styles from dozens of other rhythm titles, updating and improving them as it goes. The result is a rhythm game that feels like a greatest hits compilation for the whole genre. Though Rhythm Thief doesn't feature any popular licensed music, that almost doesn't matter—the game's original score is suitably poppy and addictive. The result is a handheld diversion that's perfect for both rhythm game neophytes and people who adore the genre. Additionally, the ability to return to the minigames you've completed gives Rhythm Thief massive replayability. For $30, you can hardly do better on Nintendo's handheld.