People often complain that there isn’t enough to play on the Wii, but if you missed Rhythm Heaven Fever, the followup to 2009’s Nintendo DS title, it’s worth waggling your controllers again. Unlike most music games that require complicated arrangements of button combinations, Rhythm Heaven Fever is divinely simple. Simple press A, press B, or both. That’s it.
But the unique time signatures render even the simplest tasks difficult as you beat through dozens of mini-games that test your timeliness. We emailed with Masami Yone, the game’s sound director.
I’ve heard it said that music is math. Did you design special software to deal with the beat making?
No. Of course, music does have mathematical elements. But this game is focused more on intuition. We want people of all ages to be able to enjoy this game without thinking about it.
Someone joked that Rhythm Heaven is turning people into famed drummer Neil Peart. Was there any educational intent for Rhythm Heaven?
Yes, the game does have some educational intent, but having players enjoy the game has always been our top priority. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game were the first step to someone becoming a legendary drummer.
Do you like Neil Peart?
Yes. I really respect him. I often think about how wonderful it would be if I could accurately beatout a rhythm that matches up against any other, the way that he can. If playing Rhythm Heaven gives you at least a glimpse into that kind of wonderful thing, then I couldn’t be happier.
Are any of the mini-games based on real-life music, situations, or people?
Speaking from my personal experience, one tradition you see in Japanese weddings is having the bride and groom cut the wedding cake together, at the same time. There’s always this huddle of people surrounding the couple as they do this, trying to get photos of the decisive moment, so you see the bride and groom trying to smile at all these cameras while cutting the cake.
There’s something about that scene — where you have to react to all these other people while doing something important — that I find really comical, so I thought we’d make a game around it. That was the seed for the “Ring Side” minigame. I think you can really find a lot of hints for games inthese sorts of scenes in life, where someone’s trying to do something really serious.
Was there one particular mini-game/time signature that proved hard to create?
Trying to wrap a game (of any type) into a simple, complete package is always challenging, butwith this title, one major issue was how to make the graphics and sound retain their impact throughout the game when you’re playing it on the larger screen. The challenge here was how to retain the attention of not only the player, but anyone else nearby the TV set.
What we aimed to do was make the graphics feel really good, or at least make people smirk a little, and have the music and SFX be something that sticks in your mind, something that you’d find yourself humming out of the blue later on. We also tried to put in a lot little things that you’d find hard to notice if you’re the one playing it, but are a lot more obvious to anyone else watching. I think that seeking out all these extras with your friends as you play is one of the fun aspects of the game.
Music games are often thought of as deceased. Why is that? Why don’t more designers play with sound?
I’m sure that everyone knows how fun it is to listen to music and get into the rhythm. We want to continue to challenge ourselves with new music game projects from here on out as well.
Is there an example in your life that you feel has a rhythm? If so, how?
There’s the act of walking, to give a simple example. When you’re shopping at the supermarket, have you ever found yourself walking to the beat of the music being played over the PA system?That sort of thing really lies at the root of what makes Rhythm Heaven work.