Review: Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure

Announced last year Sega's Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure quickly gained interest amongst 3DS owners due to its mix of anime visuals, catchy songs and the alluring promise of a rhythm game from the publishers of Samba de Amigo and Space Channel 5.

It seems to be becoming commonplace for games to feature distinctive characters, anime visuals and twisting storylines, primarily kick-started by Level-5's games, and Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure is no different. Playing as Raphael, a teenager by day and a wanted art thief by night, you and your trusty sidekick dog Fondue must sneak your way into some of Paris' most famous landmarks to steal artwork in the hopes of getting to the bottom of your father's mysterious disappearance.

Of course along the way you meet a girl and your stories become intermingled as they share awkward glances and the townsfolks gossip about you behind your back. However, Rhythm Thief's story, as enjoyable as it is, is simply window dressing on the rhythm elements that make up the bulk of this game.

Rhythm Thief

Sega have quite cleverly introduced rhythm elements into a variety of common gameplay archetypes; need to open a locked door using a code? Make sure you match the rhythm as you punch in that code! It's little touches like this that really help to incorporate the story elements with the rhythm ones, which could have quite easily remained separate.

The early videos of Rhythm Thief videos showcased Raphael dancing with some backing dancers and avoiding constables by hopping rhythmically along rooftops. Once you dig into the game however there is a wider variety of rhythm games, from biting constables derrieres as Fondue to rhythmically beating up guards and even playing the violin as Marie, the aforementioned love interest, which I personally found to be the most difficult of the rhythm games. In spite of the difficulty of some of the challenges with enough perseverance you can get through them and the only punishment for failure is having to repeatedly rewatch the introduction scene that lasts a few seconds.

At times the story seems to act as a means to joining up rhythm games, while at other times it can become interesting. Each time you boot up Rhythm Thief you are greeted with a story catch-up, which can become tedious after a while, especially if you're only in this for the music. Personally I found roaming around Paris to be the most interesting part of the story itself, making me want to book a trip to the city to see all the sights you break into. If the story isn't of particular interest you can race through it paying little attention thanks for the game quite literally telling where to go or what to do most of the time.

Sega has also included a number of side quests and missions to expand on the story, although for the most part they can be ignored as they're not necessary to the main game. As you explore each area you can look for medals to purchase items (although their use is fairly limited), find phantom notes or look for sounds to build a master instrument but this mostly just means you tap the screen frantically in the hopes of finding items. While the latter two do result in more content later on in the game they still feel like screen-tapping side quests with little affect on the main game.

Rhythm Thief

Alongside the story mode itself Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure offers a number of other modes: Marathon Mode and Rhythm List, a continuos and replay mode respectively. These offer rhythm music fans the chance to try and improve their score, which is how this game can suck away hours of your time. The story mode will last a number of hours and is enjoyable in it's own right but it's the drive to beat your own scores that really lies at the heart of this title.

Rhythm Thief is enjoyable and certainly does the rhythm sections well but a lot of the peripheral stuff feels like filler. Additionally while the 2D anime cut scenes work really well and make good use of the 3D stereoscopic display the in-game 3D graphics in comparison feel like a let down. Much like Inazuma Eleven, this game suffers from cheesy dialogue occasionally spoken in grating voiceovers but at least the music makes the game's overall use of sound enjoyable.

Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure lives up to the anticipation Sega managed to build, providing an enjoyable rhythm game with some extra bells and whistles to either add some bulk or get in the way, depending how you feel towards it. Rhythm genre fans should definitely pick this up as it in many ways the spiritual successor to Sega's previous rhythm games, with the additional charm of Rhythm Paradise, albeit in a more story-orientated manner. If you're looking for something a little different on the Nintendo 3DS you can't go wrong with Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Fun and enjoyable with some catchy songs, it's just a shame some of the window dressing let's it down.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals4
  • Audio5
  • Lifespan3
Final Score


Good songs
Variety of enjoyable rhythm games
Great cut scene visuals


Story is predictable
Side quests/collections feel unnecessary.

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