Rhythm Heaven: The Best + does a pretty good job of living up to its name.
Rhythm Heaven: The Best + is the newest game in Nintendo’s long-running Rhythm Heaven music game series. But the moment you boot up Rhythm Heaven: The Best +, you’re confronted by a glaring new addition: Unlike the past three games in the Rhythm Heaven series, The Best + has a plot. The story follows Tepiri, a young creature that has literally fallen from heaven and seeks to return. To do this, he must gain the help of the various wacky creatures of the world below.
In all honesty, while I love plot in games, Rhythm Heaven was never a game that needed one; and it feels like a tacked-on framing device here. Sure, it’s full of typical Nintendo cuteness, but more often than not, it is an unwelcome distraction from the heart of Rhythm Heaven: the musical mini-games.
In the previous Rhythm Heaven games, the stages were simply laid out in columns of five. Beat all five, and you unlock the next column. Now, however, each screen has a themed world made up of four songs—along with a “wacky” character to deliver dialogue after each stage so as to further the plot.
These four stages follow a set pattern: The first is lifted directly from the original Rhythm Heaven for the GBA (that was never released in the West); the second song is from Rhythm Heaven on the DS; the third is from Rhythm Heaven Fever on the Wii; and the fourth is a new rhythm game unique to The Best +.
Every few worlds you are confronted by three gate guardians who challenge you to a classic Rhythm Heaven mini-game that you have to pass to proceed. Luckily, you can also bribe them to pass—something that is thankfully true for all the songs in the game.
Each song you pass nets you a certain amount of coins. These can be used in several of the game’s mini-games as well as to buy a passing grade on any song in the game. Because of this, you will never get permanently stuck—though you may have to farm coins from past levels if this happens too often.
Eventually, after 26 stages in the new format, Tepiri reaches a series of towers that are clearly inspired by the past games in the series. Each one has five stages: one from each game and a remix to cap it all off.
As with every Rhythm Heaven game, the remixes are the best part. Not only do they have the best songs, but they are also a great challenge since they require you to remember how to do all the songs you recently played—as well as switch between them on the fly.
The lack of remix songs in proportion to the total stages is this game’s most telling weakness. Because The Best + sports 90 songs in the main story, the fact that only 10 are remixes is particularly noticeable.
Of course, that’s not to say that the normal stages in the game are bad in anyway. Chances are all your favorites from past Rhythm Heavens are there. For the most part, these stages are taken right out of their respective games—though now with 3D visuals if you like having the slider up. The other notable change is that all the games from Rhythm Heaven on the DS have been redesigned to have button controls in addition to their original touch controls.
The new original stages in The Best + are all quite fun—especially the alien interview, the wood chopper, and the 8-Bit Samurai Slice—and really make it worth getting this game all on their own. In fact, Western players will likely be getting double the new songs as the original Rhythm Heaven was never released outside of Japan.
Even after you beat the story mode, there are still more than a few things to do in The Best +. There are challenges where you play a predetermined set of songs or attempt to perfect your performance on one of the songs in the story mode that the game chooses. Using the rewards from passing these, you can buy other Rhythm Heaven stages from past games that weren’t included in the main plot like Love Rap and The Dazzles.
There is also a mini-game where you play pachinko to feed a goat.
In the end, is The Best + really “the best” of Rhythm Heaven as it claims? No, but it’s pretty close. While the plot is superfluous, the new songs are excellent; and I can’t think of any of my favorite normal stages from past games that weren’t included in either the main mode or in the extras. The game’s real weakness is that the best of Rhythm Heaven is and always has been the remixes. While the new ones are great, the fact that no remixes from the past three games return, while so many normal stages do, keeps it from being “the best” as advertised.
It’s still a damned awesome music game, though.
Rhythm Heaven: The Best + was released for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan on June 11, 2015. There is currently no information on an international release.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.