Rhythm games are super fun, and while every game genre can’t possibly benefit from the rhythm game treatment, others are surprising fits. Crypt of the Necrodancer proved that such a genre crossover would be extremely popular. I recently played BPM: Bullets Per Minute which adds rhythm game elements to the first person shooter genre. Rhythm Fighter takes the rhythm game concept and applies it to the beat’em up genre.
Rhythm Fighter is a 2D side scrolling rhythm roguelike brawler. In it, you play as one of several animal characters who wield music-based powers. Every action you perform must be done on the beat—from moving to attacking. You can roll, jump, use your special item and attack using your weapon. It’s a simple concept, made a little bit more complicated by being a rhythm game. But unlike BPM: Bullets Per Minute where you have to dodge, aim, shoot, and more while sticking to the beat, Rhythm Fighter’s 2D perspective makes sticking to the beat a little easier. Though there is a bit of a challenge to get used to the “preferred” control scheme.
When using a controller there are two control schemes. There is a simple scheme that allows you to easily jump into the action, with fewer buttons being used for moving and attacking, but it’s also less precise, since it makes you turn to face your enemies. The more “advanced” control scheme, on the other hand, is hard to master, but allows you to deal with threats on both sides without having to turn around. While I used the advanced control scheme—and a controller—for my playthrough, I still, after several hours, struggled with the unintuitive controls. For instance, using your character’s special ability “to the right” is the “A” button on an Xbox controller, and using it to the left requires you to push down on the D-Pad, two buttons I don’t really associate with each other for the same move in the opposite direction.
Rhythm Fighter is a brightly colored game with pretty good music that keeps you hopping and fighting to the beat. You play as one of a few different fighters, imbued with the power of beat, and tasked with defeating the world’s vegetables after they have turned into evil minions for the invading Commander Chaos. It’s whimsical and obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously.
In Rhythm Fighter there are multiple different fighters you can eventually choose from, all unlocked after gaining the appropriate amount of trophies. Trophies are given for completing certain milestones—like beating levels, killing enemy types, collecting coins, and way more. After reaching a certain threshold of trophies, you’ll have different characters available, each with unique stats and special abilities. You can then use experience gained during levels to make these characters do more damage, have more health, etc.
Trophies don’t only unlock fighters, but they also unlock different stations that are used in the starting area. There is a training area, a vending machine to grab some items for your upcoming run, and a lab that allows you to spend upgrade points on better items. The lab is perhaps the most important; as it’s a way to upgrade existing items to be better for all characters that would start a run. You can use the lab to make health items heal more, or you can make your characters inherently more lucky.
Each run plays out like a rogue-lite would. There are five zones, each getting harder as you go. The zones each rotate, so if you start a new run what was once level three might now be the starting level—with the enemy’s difficulty adjusted appropriately. Then you battle through each section until you get to the end boss. Once the boss is defeated, you can move on to the next area. There are two different types of vendors to potentially encounter—one that sells for coins, the other for your hit points—and vending machines and fountains to try your luck.
One of the most intriguing features of Rhythm Fighter is the ability to customize music. Not only can you change what music plays during which levels, but there is an option to import in your own music to play along to. This is a feature I’ve seen in other rhythm games, but it’s always a welcome addition.
While I enjoyed most of my time with Rhythm Fighter, it was always in the first few levels. There I could find weaponry to make me feel powerful. But by the third level, the difficulty level ramps up a ton. The enemies don’t change behavior, or get more tricksy, instead, everything just does massive amounts of damage. Upping difficulty by increasing damage output isn’t always the most fun thing to encounter.
Rhythm Fighter is a cute, colorful game where you brawl to the beat. The control can be a little cumbersome, if you insist on the ‘advanced’ scheme, and the difficulty level ramps up a little drastically once you hit the third level. Still, there’s lots of fun to be had, and with the ability to include your own music, lots of potential for replayability.
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