Rhythm Paradise Megamix's arrival on Nintendo 3DS is great news, but before anything else we have to emphasise that this series is not about the same kind of musical challenges that Guitar Hero and Rock Band offer, and instead you face a series of simple and minimalist mini-games. As much as it may look much less 'realistic' than the above games, it turns out that the lessons and concepts learnt beneath the gameplay can teach players just as much about music.
The game is the fourth entry in the series, but it's far more than a compilation, remake or remaster. There's around 100 rhythmic challenges and in terms of presentation they've tried to take a step further so that it's more inviting to both fans and new players. The game has a selection of the very best tracks from Rhythm Tengoku (GBA), Rhythm Paradise (DS) and Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise (Wii) that all come restored and enhanced, and there are also brand new mini-games and some narrative beats that come via a new story mode.
The story follows a character called Tibby and adds a bit more depth to the game, giving some progression and narrative to follow. The problem here is that, as much as the conversations and encounters are fun, the narrative breaks the pace when we would really like to just keep playing. We understand it looks well rounded and better presented this way, but some will miss the simplified menus from the previous game.
Rhythm Paradise Megamix on Nintendo 3DS is also the definitive version for the reason that it plays better than ever. Every mini-game has been redrawn to fit the resolution of the screens and the 3D effect of the handheld. Colours shine brighter, audio is much better (especially with earphones), and the controls are just perfect. You can choose between tapping on the touch screen with the stylus as you did on DS (better for the quickest drumming trials) or just relying on the comfortable and traditional buttons, just like on GBA and Wii.
The minigames are suitably varied and entertaining too, and you may have to press at the right moment, or follow the beat for the whole song. The game plays around with its various mechanics and combines them well, demanding more accuracy as you progress. At the beginning it's all about learning the basics, but it soon turns into a rewarding exercise in focus as you connect with the music. There are Superb Medals to win and Stars to collect throughout all of this as well, not to mention Perfects too.
For newcomers, helpful new touches have been added. First off, when you're in the pre-song practice learning the mechanics of a new mini-game, if you don't get it after a few attempts, a tutorial shows up on the lower screen, telling you when to tap and how. Secondly, at any given moment during the game, with each beat you perform, there's a visual millisecond-perfect representation of your accuracy on the touch screen. If you tap too early, the beat is drawn to the left. If you were late, it goes to the right. If you're too soon or too late, you miss it, whereas if you nail it, it's represented by a sound cue and some shining stars.
With such a variety of mini-games players also have a great party-game full of challenges for friends to enjoy, thanks to the brand new multiplayer mode that requires just one game card. Playing multiplayer also unlocks more content for single player, too, which is even more of a reason to play with friends and family.
Those coming from the DS version may find the game a bit confusing for the first few hours. The story structure, unlocking rooms and then towers, added to the missing remixes, can be slightly off-putting for hardcore fans. The remixes return later, however, and perseverance through the campaign will be rewarded, especially as you'll get to see and hear tracks of many types, all with a fitting surrealistic twist. And among the huge collection of animals, dolls and humans, you'll find a prominent share of monkeys, robots and space things, too.
With the best quality and controls so far, the biggest selection of music, an overwhelming amount of content, new aids for learning, a significant challenge, a hilarious minimalist design, and a unique formula which feels really rewarding, Rhythm Paradise Megamix climbs straight to the top bracket of games for the Nintendo 3DS, and it's a nice encore for the music genre right when it needs it. Nintendo and composer Tsunku prove once again their mastery with one of the kindest, cutest and most accessible games for the handheld, one that is sure to teach as well as captivate both fans and newcomers.