Rhythm Tengoku (リズム天国 Rizumu Tengoku?, lit. Rhythm Heaven) is a rhythm game developed by Nintendo SPD and published by Nintendo. It was released on August 3, 2006, and was the last game developed by Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance. An arcade version of the game was reprogrammed and published by Sega on September 20, 2007. Both versions were released in Japan exclusively. The game has spawned three sequels; Rhythm Heaven, Rhythm Heaven Fever, and Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus. It began as an idea created by its composer and supervisor Tsunku who proposed it to Nintendo due to his belief that they could do a better job with it than he could.
Rhythm Tengoku's gameplay focuses on audio cues rather than visual cues to convey information to players. It features a number of unique stages which have their own type of rhythm and gameplay. Players follow the rhythm (in some levels as a character) until the end where they are given a score based on their performance. The gameplay and music were both well received by critics and consumers. Parallels have been drawn between it and the developer's previous work on the WarioWare series.
Rhythm Tengoku is a rhythm game similar to the WarioWare series of video games due in part to its simplistic controls and art style. It features eight tiers which consist of six stages each (all of which are unique to each other). Each tier's sixth stage is a remix of the previous stages accompanied by a new song. The seventh and eighth tiers consist of stages that were based on previous stages. Players unlock more stages by completing the levels in order. The object of each stage is to match the rhythm the game expects of players which varies from stage to stage. The game primarily relies on audio cues to indicate the rhythm; while it uses visual cues as well, it will sometimes subvert players' expectations with them. Players are given one of three ratings at the end of every stage - Retry (aka. Try Again), Mediocre (aka, OK), and High Level (aka. Superb). Players must achieve at least Mediocre in order to proceed to the next level. Players who achieve High Level receive a medal which can be used to unlock extra games, toys, and drum lessons. Players are allowed to attempt a Perfect Play of a randomly selected stage; if players make any mistakes in the stage while making the attempt, they must try again. Players have three chances to attempt this before it either disappears or moves on to another stage. Players who succeed receive an in-game certificate as well as a gift (varing on the rhythm game); if they obtain all certificates, they get a special certificate as well as access to all songs in the drum mode. The game's drum controls allow players to use the different buttons on the Game Boy Advance to control various aspects of the drums.
Rhythm Tengoku was released in Japan only during August 3, 2006 for the Game Boy Advance (GBA) and was developed by Nintendo SPD and published by Nintendo. Key staff members include Kazuyoshi Osawa, Tsunku (music composer and supervisor), Masami Yone (sound designer), and Ko Takeuchi (graphic designer). It was first revealed in an issue of Famitsu. The project began when Tsunku brought his proposal to Nintendo of a rhythm game that did not rely on visual indicators for its rhythm. Osawa was wary that people would enjoy it due to its lack of a music score as he felt that it might only appeal to a niche audience. It was decided to be released on the GBA due to Osawa's desire for a smaller screen and portability. The staff took dance lessons in order to improve their rhythm by the recommendation of the game's music composer Tsunku. One stage that made an impression was "Vegeta-Pull", a level that featured an onion with a face from which players pluck its hair; it was originally going to be a real face but it was deemed "a little too gross." Another stage is called "The Bon Odori" and is based on the real-world Bon Festival. Sega approached the staff with an offer to co-develop an arcade version of the game for the Sega Naomi, which was released September 20, 2007. This was due to the popularity of the game with its development staff. Osawa brought this offer to the attention of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and others who approved of the idea. Yone had to make adjustments in the arcade version due to the differences between arcade mechanics and console mechanics. The arcade version also featured an extra set based on Set 1, but at 150% speed and with remade music to match (Note: The vocals in the "Karate Man" extra stage are the same. One example in this level is "Hey, baby! How's it going?").
Rhythm Tengoku has since received three sequels. The first was titled Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo DS and was the first game in the series to be released in English. It uses touchscreen controls rather than buttons. The next game was titled Rhythm Heaven Fever and was released on the Wii. It featured button controls and had unlockable extra stages that originate from this game. The games were titled Rhythm Paradise and Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise in Europe respectively. The fourth game in the Rhythm Tengoku is titled Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus and features games from Rhythm Tengoku, Rhythm Heaven and Rhythm Heaven Fever. Rhythm Tengoku and its sequels were the source of inspiration for independent video games such as Beat Sneak Bandit and Karateka Man. Simon Flesser (designer of Beat Sneak Bandit) cites Rhythm Tengoku's artistic design and mixture of beats and back beats as influences in its design.
Rhythm Tengoku has received generally positive reception. While it did not receive much attention before its release it was very well received by consumers. The game received an Excellence Prize for Entertainment at the 10th annual Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006. Video game designer Frank Lantz listed Rhythm Tengoku amongst his five favourite games. Eurogamer's staff ranked it the 36th best game of 2006 while its readership voted it the 50th best. Tom of Eurogamer called it the best Game Boy Advance game of the year while he and fellow Eurogamer staff member James felt that it was at least on par with Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (which also received positive reception). GameSpy's Andrew Alfonso praised its music, gameplay, and variety; he felt however that it was not long enough. GamesRadar staff included the game's drum lessons in its list of the "20 Magical Nintendo moments". A reviewer at Computer and Video Games (CVG) gave praise to it for its WarioWare-like humour and its quality music but felt that the game lacked replay value and length. Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft called it "one of the Game Boy Advance's most interesting (and enjoyable) titles". GamesRadar's Shane Patterson recommended it for people who liked WarioWare's art aesthetics and music. CVG's Andy Kelly included the Bon Odori song in his list of the 100 best video game themes ever. He called it "insanely catchy." Eurogamer's Chris Schilling used Rhythm Tengoku as an example of a game that would be overlooked if the Game Boy Advance was region-locked. 1UP.com's Bob Mackey called its lack of an American release "one of the great Game Boy Advance injustices of 2006". Wired's Chris Kohler noted that Rhythm Tengoku (as well as other games) should be released on the Wii's Virtual Console or WiiWare services.
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