Rhythm Fighter Review – Moving to the Beat

    Title: Rhythm Fighter
    Developer: echo games
    Release Date: January 14, 2020
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Coconut Island Games
    Genre: Rhythm/Adventure

The action and rhythm game genres would logically get along really well. Sound design and music supplements the experience of basically every game, so smacking enemies to a beat sounds like a logically fantastic idea. While several games feature these systems, I haven’t played many of them. However, when I spotted Rhythm Fighter, I thought I should change this. Initially released on PC, developer Echo Games brings the game to Nintendo Switch for an on-the-go rhythm experience.

Rhythm Fighter is set in a world where the vegetables have rebelled; only Mr. Disco can provide you with the power of beats to destroy the evil Commander Chaos and put a stop to his veggie uprising. That’s it, that’s the whole story. But with a name like Rhythm Fighter, you’re not looking at playing it for an expansive tale filled with gravity-defying plot twists. This roguelike will be throwing you into a series of four stages with a randomized order; your goal is to get to the end so you can throw hands with the evil commander chaos and save the earth. Each level is filled with all sorts of violent produce to slaughter, but you won’t ever win by just spamming any particular button. You see, it’s important to feel the rhythm and time hits and movements to beat your enemies into non-existence, with whatever tools you can find.

You begin with only the ability to punch and one character ability, but by using your rhythm MMA skills, you’ll be able to clear out rooms and locate chests. Chests contain valuable resources like coins, beat energy, food, hint scrolls, passives, weapons, and tactical equipment. We’ve got fists, swords, lances, small guns, big guns, and the whole set in terms of weapons.

Tacticals, on the other hand, are even more varied and can be anything and everything from boomerangs, shurikens, ceiling fans, fighting game moves like the power geyser or Hadoken, and the list goes on. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t encountered the kitchen sink. These tacticals increase your max health and run on a cooldown. You have no defense stat, so while you get stronger tacticals as you go on, the health boost becomes more important as enemies slap you for more damage.

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In the event that you die, which you inevitably will, you lose all of your items and are sent back to Mr. Disco’s UFO. Still, you keep your beat energy, which is used in the laboratory to add a few permanent perks to your runs, at the automat for single run boosts, or upgrade your character’s star rank and stats. You only start with one character but unlock others as you play, each having their own passive skills, stat spread, and ability to suit different play styles. As you progress through stages, you’ll discover that enemies start to tank many hits, which forces you to switch out weapons.

This is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because the shallow RPG element allows for some extra longevity in playthroughs, which can last around 20 minutes. Still, it also limits the amount of freedom you have in runs preventing you from picking out weapons you care more about. It doesn’t take long for the stats to outclass any extra effects your weapons had. You could theoretically play the long game, but the game entices you not to do this. If you can find your way to the boss and kill them fast enough, you’ll be able to access a room with extra rewards that can help you significantly in the next stage. You can backtrack once you’ve gotten to the room, but take too long, and it’ll lock you out.

Rhythm Fighter 4

The sound design is where Rhythm Fighter really showcases its skill. Each stage has a particular aesthetic, but each room itself has an array of songs with similar beats, each long enough and different enough to prevent the rooms from becoming repetitive. The stages being in randomized order also helps keep the songs from getting too stuck in your head as they’re constantly being reshuffled.

The controls can seem picky and weird to match the beats, especially the advanced variations, but they can make some really chaotic fun. That being said, I stayed with the simplified ones for the most part because they still work fine. You can fine-tune controls in the settings and alter the timing if the music feels off to you.

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Rhythm Fighter finds a good home on Switch as it melds together music and mayhem for short bursts of gameplay. The sheer variety with all of its characters, randomness, and potential systems make it a perfect fit for the handheld. Still, the gameloop isn’t as addictive as I could have hoped for, with some mechanics not leaving a lasting impression.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Pyre Kavanagh

Senior Editor - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter