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Rhythm and Beats: Nintendo’s Greatest Forays in Music

Illustration for article titled Rhythm and Beats: Nintendo’s Greatest Forays in Music

To say that some smaller Nintendo titles have a cult following would be an understatement. It seems that with each generation, along with the regularly scheduled Mario and Zelda releases, we see a few smaller titles developed or published by Nintendo that push creativity over the refinement of a formula. Even within gaming some genres are pushed to the sideline to make space for titles that appeal to the broadest audience. That doesn't mean these genres don't exist, and I think one of the biggest cult genres has to be rhythm based gaming.


We've been burned before. A lot of us might still be suffering Guitar Hero and Rock Band fatigue that lasted a good chunk of last gen, but that isn't to say they were particularly bad games. Harmonix gave us too much of that delicious cake, and then we became upset when we got a tummy ache. Nintendo on the other hand is tight gripped with it's IPs, and we haven't had nearly enough to satisfy our hunger for the ear candy they've served up. Elite Beat Agents, Rhythm Heaven, Wii Music, and HarmoKnight are all titles that I've been craving to take the next bite from, and I hope Nintendo has a second helping ready.

Elite Beat Agents

What do you get when you mix together rhythm based gameplay, a fantastic cover soundtrack, and a spy team comedy anime? You get the best rhythm game available on the original DS. The premise was wacky and lighthearted: you are a group of elite agents who used music to motivate heroes across the world. The game culminates in (spoilers) an epic battle against an alien force along with everyone you've helped, all along to the epic song "Without A Fight". The feeling you get when you finally beat the game pure joy, only to find out you can play as the Elite Beat Diva's on a harder mode. Elite Beat Agents garnered critical success and a handful of various game awards. I'm surprised Nintendo hasn't taken the opportunity to follow up on this gem. Even the Regginator has voiced that he'd love to work with iNiS on a sequel!


Rhythm Heaven & Rhythm Heaven Fever

Rhythm Heaven was as much an exploratory effort into the DS's features and gameplay as it was a top notch rhythm game. And despite seemingly simple mechanics it featured an expanse of content and replay-ability. Featuring a cast of cooky characters like the Chorus Kids, as well as a slew of monkeys and birds, the situations you found yourself in were as crazy as they were varied. Despite looking easy, Rhythm Heaven was anything but. It required precision that bordered on insane. If you could master it though you'd find yourself sailing smooth. Despite the difficulty it made it's way into the ears of gamers, and eventually onto the Wii for it's sequel Rhythm Heaven Fever.


Fever was the fantastic sequel Rhythm Heaven deserved. It featured all the things gamers loved about the original and expanded on what was great, adding new multiplayer capability on the Wii. It received fair review scores and it's cult following grew. Despite being solid, it may have stuck to the formula a little too much and never felt as unique as the initial outing on the DS. Even so, fans were still excited about the (as of yet unsubstantiated) rumor that the Chorus Kids were going to be DLC on Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. Obviously there are fans, and it'll be time for Nintendo to revisit the franchise before long.

Wii Music

Ah, Wii Music. I've never been really sure how to feel about it… It was panned critically and garnered measly sales by any standard. Unlike other titles here, there wasn't ever any particular challenge to Wii Music. It was less of a music game than it was a rhythm based tech-demo. It had a hefty number of instruments and a handful of forgettable game modes. The real problem with the was that Nintendo didn't give us much of what you'd expect from a Music game: Music and Game. It provided the lightest, most uninteresting musical fare they could put together. Instead a game packed with great Nintendo classics and composers like Koji Kondo or Kenji Yamamoto, we got a slog through royalty-free slop.


But Wii Music could have delivered! And I feel like a little TLC from Nintendo could give me a deep, involved but relaxing experience. To fill the game out proper and flesh out the simplistic game modes could turn a sad tribute to the forgettable into great music into a a fantastic auditory journey through the long list Nintendo's greatest themes.


HarmoKnight was a charming title released on the Nintendo eShop, developed by the same people who brought us Pokemon, GameFreak. The story behind it's conception is spectacular: Staff members were allowed to begin their own new projects whilst working on current company titles with the potential of expanding it into a full title with enough internal support. And so HarmoKnight came to be. It carries the trademark precision of many games in the music genre, but alleviates the difficulty with a generous health system. The gameplay was simple but novel, and offered plenty of replay value with an increased tempo version available after achieving a gold on a course. GameFreak even took advantage of it's existing properties and put in memorable tunes from the Pokemon titles, adding even more charm to a game chock full of it. Being an eShop title meant that it was a bit bite-sized for dedicated gamers. That's why I'd love for GameFreak and Nintendo to let our hero Tempo out on another wonderful and catchy adventure, maybe even transition it to the Wii U (à la Pushmo World).


Of course there are plenty other games Nintendo already has in the works, and even more that fans have been clamoring for (Looking at you Mario Paint). What do you think? Have you given any of these titles a shot? What music games come to mind when you think of greatness?

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