Rhythm Games That Would Take Us To Rhythm Heaven

Last week, Atlus announced several new additions to their positively blooming Persona franchise during a giant concert celebrating the series’ illustrious selection of musical cuts at Yokohama Arena. The most traditional of these new spin-offs was the handheld dungeon-crawler Persona Q 2, but the real show stealers were the pair of rhythmic titles that made their glorious debut – Persona 5: Dancing Star Night and Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night, which are both set to arrive in Spring 2018. It’s pretty exciting news – and that’s not only because Dancing Star Night blesses the world with a real life Dancing Queen.

The initial entry in the series’ groovy offshoot – Persona 4: Dancing All Night – was greeted with a mixed reception by the Persona faithful. Some saw it as a flimsy cash grab to compensate for Persona 5’s delayed release, whilst others praised it for being a rhythm game that not only boasted significantly updated character models but also one that built upon the relationships and narrative established in its central RPG iterations. It’s quite rare to see a fully fleshed out rhythm game hit consoles in this day and age – with many companies instead opting to produce comparatively simpler mobile apps to satisfy the rhythm market’s restless thumbs and fingertips – but there are so many titles out there that could take a stab at it and conceivably hit that proverbial goldmine.

So, here’s a mere sample of some dream additions to the rhythm gaming genre and the wonders they could entail:

Splatoon

Perhaps seasoned squids/kids might glance at Splatoon’s entry on this list and let out an exasperated “You’ve gotta be squiddin’ me!” in response. The series does after all come packed in with its very own rhythm game courtesy of the arcade machine located in its central hub of Inkopolis. The oh-so-retro Squid Beatz is a pretty bog-standard affair loaded up with all the gurgle-led bops from the game’s soundtrack. But for a franchise that so routinely reminds you how fresh it is you could probably consider it the video game equivalent of Subway, serving up a platter of nostalgia bait ain’t gonna cut it.

Considering a Splatoon rhythm title wouldn’t be Nintendo’s first venture into the world of music-based games – Donkey Konga and Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix are examples of their prior accomplishments – there’s no reason as to why a newer IP with music integrated into its world-building couldn’t be a phenomenal hit. The Squid Sisters and Off The Hook – the game’s pop star celebrity duos and mascots – could be treated to vivid, choreographed dance routines a la the Project DIVA series. The game’s vast selection of customisation options could easily be transferred over, ensuring you accumulate those style points whilst you’re getting your groove on. You could even have other players’ Miiverse-esque art posts drift along in the background to provide distractions in the form of various memes, because who doesn’t want a reminder that Knack 2 is on the way when you’re trying to maintain a combo streak? Pop, lock and oct ’til you drop, baby.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Whilst the overall quality of some of his most recent exploits certainly cannot be assured, it’s hard to deny that Sonic The Hedgehog’s resume is one of the most diverse in video game history. His CV boasts a long, long list of various job roles – racing car driver, tennis player, hover-board pilot, Olympic athlete, werehog, knight of the round table, Chaocarer – and at this point he’s likely the most overqualified anthropomorphic animal in all of fiction. For all his antics, however, the blue blur has never taken the opportunity to put those iconic oversized sneakers to real good use and bust some moves on the dancefloor.

A foray into rhythm games would totally work for the spiny speedster (let’s keep racking up those bad alliterative monikers, huh) and not only because Sonic fans must be totally accustom to SEGA throwing their beloved mascot into the most ridiculous situations that the human mind can conjure up. The series has enough loveable characters to easily fill up an entire roster – although hopefully a dancing Eggman model wouldn’t turn out as nightmarish as the one that hobbles through Sonic Adventure 2 – and most importantly it’s got the most gosh darn eclectic set of jams to ever score a game franchise. You could kick it to the sublime skate rock of ‘City Escape’, button bash away to Crush 40’s bountiful discography of butt rock tunes and you’d be totally kidding yourself if you didn’t think Sonic R’s 90s house-inspired soundtrack isn’t the stuff rhythm dreams are made of.

Undertale

Almost two years since its initial release, Undertale still retains a loyal following. There might still be some people who consider it to be a soppy love letter to the Earthbound series and nothing more, but its impact on indie game development and the lofty heights to which indie games can aspire to will forever be inspirational. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of Undertale is the game’s soundtrack – composed entirely by the game’s creator Toby Fox – which spawned a seemingly infinite number of covers, remixes and originals inspired by the lengthy score that few if any games have amassed over the past couple of years.

It’s unlikely – and quite frankly unnecessary – that Undertale will ever receive a direct sequel, but a brief detour to the dancefloor for Frisk and co. would do well to appease its ravenous fanbase. The game’s quirky combat system routinely verges into bullet hell territory, so players would be prepared for the screen-consuming chaos that comes with the more challenging difficulty levels in these types of games. Its cast is comprised of a bunch of goofballs – Papyrus seems like the type who’d think he’s got the moves but in reality would spill his spaghetti everywhere – so getting to see them partake in friendly dance competitions and explore their relationships further would be more satisfying than wolfing down one of Toriel’s butterscotch pies. And if your Undertale experience came to a close with its soul-wrenching genocide route, a little remedial dance therapy might just fill you with enough determination to put your heart back together.

Bayonetta

Bayonetta is a series that simply oozes with style. Its titular character spends her days pirouetting through the night skies, encasing demons within her hair and kicking pesky angels in the ‘nads. She’s also one to indulge in the odd bit of dancing here and there, made gloriously apparent by her surprise appearance in Super Smash Bros. in which she’s prone to bust out a twirling taunt that never ceases on command.

A Bayonetta rhythm game has the potential to be pure, unadulterated madness. The emphasis on combos and quicktime events that runs throughout the mainline games couldn’t be more tailored to fit the fancy fingerwork required to survive three minutes of intense rhythmic button mashing. Its soundtrack – a whirlwind mix of jazz, R&B and the odd 60s classic re-imagined – would make for a refreshing technical alternative to the waves of eurobeat and j-pop that saturate the likes of Dance Dance Revolution. Throw in Witch Time – Bayonetta’s signature skill that allows her to briefly manipulate the fabric of time itself – as a game mechanic, a narrative that sees her having to face off against friends and foes from the series and the game’s tongue-in-cheek brand of humour and you’d end up with one hell of a whacky rhythm title.

Animal Crossing

Although the gargantuan popularity of titles such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band has dried up faster than Dragonforce’s mobile banking advertisement deals, they at least serve as a firm reminder that rhythm games can be centred around REAL instruments too. But how do you sell a guitar-based rhythm game to the masses in 2017 – when the face of guitar music is not a bearded man with a degree in shredology but instead Ed Sheeran, an acoustic-toting, coffee shop composer extraordinaire?

Okay, so it’s unlikely we’ll ever see K.K Slider – Animal Crossing’s smooth canine club – bark out ‘Redbone’ in a licensed Nintendo game, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve a game where you tap along to his vast collection of breezy originals. Performing within the cosy setting of The Roost – the cafe owned by Brewster the Pigeon – would make for a relaxed alternative to the neon-drenched nightclubs that typically play host to rhythm game capers. You could even grab a virtual coffee and mingle with the locals between performances – a fine substitute for pumping real caffeine into your body and trying to converse with people who have no interest in your dance game obsession, especially if it’s chilly outside. Just don’t let the damn dog near those DJ decks, y’hear? He seems like he might be a bit of a hypebeast and we don’t need tropical house to ruin rhythm games, too.

Joshua Pauley

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