From the moment Rhythm Spirit starts, you’ll quickly realize this rhythm-fighting game is not your typical music tapping game. Think Tap Tap Revenge meets The Last Dragon. You take on the role of Toshi, a wandering swordsman who’s unaware that a strange mystical power has been bestowed upon him by a mysterious fox spirit. He quickly finds himself at the center of a sensational battle between the gods and demons of an ancient land.
Using the musical queues, you must jump, duck, slash and block by tapping the appropriate button(s) at just the right time if you hope to defeat your powerful opponents. If you’ve ever played a traditional rhythm game, the control scheme will feel very familiar, with a series of 4 color coded buttons that need to be tapped and or held, when the like symbol appears in the “target zone” on the rhythm bar. Although, unlike most rhythm games which have you trying to play an instrument or dance to the latest popular music, Rhythm Spirit offers a much more zen experience, putting you right into Toshi’s very capable and deadly shoes. Instead of the usual rockin’ beats, your ears are treated to a mix of techo, trance and electronic dance music artfully crafted using traditional Japanese instruments. This unique approach has produced a sometimes soothing yet often intense soundtrack which pairs perfectly with the fighting scenarios. The exploding drumbeats will really get your adrenaline pumping.
The game’s story unfolds across 10 levels, through beautifully animated characters and cut scenes. Toshi goes fist to fist with an eclectic collection of baddies reminiscent of comic book super villains. I found the game’s dialog to be interesting and the storyline engrossing. Rhythm Spirit has three difficulty levels, with the easy and normal modes available right away and hard mode left as an unlockable. At the end of a level your heroic feats are rewarded with unlockable tropies and a letter grade, based on how perfectly you landed your attacks and blocks.
As a guy with absolutely no rhythm (my wife and daughters can, and will, attest to this), I found even the ‘easy’ difficulty setting offered a decent challenge. That being said, I suspect that more experienced players will want to opt for the harder difficulties. The game could be a bit on the shorter side (depending on your skill level), but it did take me several hours my first pass through and given my (lack of) skills, the hard mode could provide many more hours of challenges. Rhythm Spirit offers a nice change of pace from your typical rhythm game. Its appealing graphics and sound (always important in a rhythm game) coupled with an engaging story, make this an appealing alternative in a rather crowded genre. If you’re still not ready to commit the $1.99 for the full version, Monad has recently released a free Lite version that’ll give you a taste of the action.