Imagine this: an evil overlord from another dimension called Commander Chaos arrives on your planet and starts showering vegetables with Dark Beat Energy, turning them into his corrupted servants. Those vegetables then start doing naughty things and getting up to all kinds of shenanigans. Who’s going to save us? Mr. Disco, that’s who!
Yup, Mr. Disco swans down from on high in his trusty U.F.O. and now showers you with Light Beat Energy, turning you into a kick ass DJ who’s going to beat the ever living stuffing out Commander Chaos and his naughty veg.
Rhythm Fighters’ is a helluva concept for a 2D side scrolling beat ’em up. Much like any modern roguelite, the aim of Rhythm Fighters is to make it from start to finish in one go with dying encouraged. When you die, you are saved by Mr. Disco and taken back to the first stage to try again. You lose everything you’ve picked up apart from cash and hearts which are used to upgrade your characters. Once you’re done upgrading your character, it’s off you go to try again, stronger, harder, faster.
Initially, you only have DJ Daxx to call upon, but you unlock other cool cats like Spice Lee and Kid Cubbs, all animals from various professions. Spice Lee, for instance, is a Chef and has a passive ability called Gourmet which let’s him recover an additional 3.5% health when he eats food. He also can eat a Ghost Pepper to boost his attack power.
As mentioned previously, this is a 2D side scrolling beat ’em up. The caveat is that everything you do is done to a beat. It’s recommended that you play this the sound turned up so you can get the best out of Rhythm Fighter and they are not wrong. The whole experience is based on timing your movement and attacks to the beat of the music – a pretty cool effect we’ve seen crop up in a few games recently. Spamming the attack button will only get you so far, dealing middling to low damage at best, but if you can get a decent rhythm down and score perfect strikes, the damage output will be at its maximum.
There are two control schemes available. The basic controls are as you would expect, using with the D-pad to turn left or right and the face buttons to dash roll, attack and use special items, but you can also switch to a more advanced control scheme once you’ve completed the tutorial. Here, the attack and move buttons are mirrored on both sides of the controller, meaning if you press the attack button on the D-pad, you’ll attack left, but press it the attack button on the right hand side and you’ll attack right. The same applies for movement, skills, etc. It felt weird at first, but as soon as I got used to it, it was really fluid and I couldn’t go back.
There are a total of five stages to progress through before you get to Commander Chaos, each with a different theme and increase in difficulty. Each area is randomised so every run is different, meaning you won’t be able to learn patterns. At the end of each zone is a boss that will tax your skills, especially if you are trying to maintain perfect hits. It definitely encourages you to learn and play better, which I quite like. Because each run is random, you don’t know how many enemies you are going to face, how many traps you might step on or even if you’ll run into a vendor. So you need to play with style, and play to the beat. If you manage to do it quickly and beat the speed zone time, you’ll be treated to a bonus room after the boss which grants you extra loot.
Loot, of course, comes in many flavours and offers you unique ways to dispatch your foes. Space Junk, for instance, is a tactical item that lets you summon one piece of space junk, to the maximum of three, every three beats. This can then be launched at enemies. Other pieces of loot you find in the field are Beat Cards which have varying effects. Nitro Boost is one of my favourite cards because it lets you roll forward one additional space, and I roll a lot. There are tons of different cards to find but try not to get attached because you lose them when you die.
There will be many occasions where you die and that’s OK. Dying is good. It means you can come back stronger. Firstly, you get to upgrade your characters, increasing their attack, health and other stats. Then there’s performing feats as you unlock achievements, which not only serve to appease achievement hunters like myself, but also let you unlock various features like the Automat, items in the form of bonus upgrade hearts, and new characters.
One of the best features you can unlock is the ability to Revive at the cost of upgrade hearts. Any spare hearts can be traded in at the Automat to buy items which you can start your next run with. Cool if you fancy an edge at the beginning. I you want to earn some extra upgrade material, you can get involved with daily challenges which have a leaderboard so you can compare your score to others that have tried.
The hand drawn art style of Rhythm Fighters is fantastic. It’s like a moving comic and has a great soundtrack to match, which you would hope to be the case considering you need to be listening to the music in order to play! The one downside of being on the Switch is that, unlike its PC counterpart, you cannot customise the tracks. Thankfully, you probably won’t miss it as the soundtrack is more than good enough.
I can see some getting bored with the grind aspect of Rhythm Fighters because it is a grindy game – it is a roguelite, after all. You are expected to repeat levels until you are strong enough to get to the end and this won’t be appealing to everyone.