Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight is a freaking joy

By Dave Cook
20 March 2013 10:08 GMT

Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight hits all the right notes. VG247’s Dave Cook explains why the latest 3DS release from Pokémon studio Game Freak has made him a new man.


Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight is the latest game from Pokémon studio Game Freak. it’s a digital 3DS release that hits the US and EU eShop on March 28.

The game follows a young lad named Tempo, who must train to become a Rhythm Hunter and banish a gang of noise-making beasts from his homeland.

Game Freak has even snuck in some Pokemon-themed levels that play familiar music from the series, and if you look closely you may just spot cameos from Pikachu, Tepig and other creatures.

Nintendo’s official HarmoKnight hub is full of screens art and trailers. Check it out here.

This game is out March 28.

You should buy it.

Go on.

You can seriously stop reading now.

Oh wait you’re still here. You must really want to know more. Well look, I love rhythm-action games, and while you won’t find me juddering embarrassingly on the scuffed Dance Dance Revolution machine down the bowling alley on a Friday night, I know a good music title when I see one.

Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight is one of those games. But it’s not just a good rhythm-action game, it’s an absolute gem of a platformer with charm oozing slowly from its trumpet.

If you were to drink said ooze you’d see the world painted in rainbows and remember a time before games used to have guns, micro-payments, or muscular heroes who look like they could pull the head from an ox.

It stars Tempo, a boy-samurai who sets off to banish a band of noise-making bastards from his peaceful, harmonious land.

To do that you must help him sprint through musical worlds, leap over hazards, batter creatures with his staff and collect notes. It’s very simple.

Except no it’s not. At all.

That’s because the game’s threadbare controls hide immense depth, and this is where the genius of developer Game Freak shines through. What? Who? Yeah the guys who make Pokemon, correct. But so what? I sometimes see folk giving that series a lot of shit for being child-like, and they’re bang out of order.

Smacking cute creatures
may make you a tad guilty.

As a grown man who once imported a copy of Pokemon Blue from a highly-priced indie store in Glasgow, to then pump about 60 hours into the sod, I can tell you that Game Freak has always been a solid developer.

If you’re afraid of HarmoKnight’s colour and innocence then I suggest you go back to your gun games and look up ‘fun’ in the dictionary. Study the page hard for there will be a test.

Apologies for the outburst, but a little colour and whimsy is nothing to be afraid of, and HarmoKnight’s presentation and control mechanic is full of it. In a stage, Tempo will typically sprint to the finish line in time to the beat, and while the only actions available to you are jump and attack, there is great depth to be found.

Enemies will launch themselves at you in time with the music, and you hit them on the beat, adding more stings to the track. You can also jump across platforms, bounce on tom drums, and whack flowers that sprout cymbals or triangles for extra notes. Everything in a level adds to the music. Nothing is wasted.

Along the way you will befriend other characters that will tag in at certain points of the track, changing the music and mixing up the control scheme. Lyra can shoot arrows from her harp and slide under traps, while barbarian Tyko can clobber larger enemies with his hammer. He also has a pet monkey on his shoulder who can clobber flying beasts with his dual cymbals. He’s brilliant.

Boss battles play out
like Parappa the Rapper.

There are gladiator arena stages, a dance off with an octopus samba dancer, levels based on the Pokemon soundtrack and a minecart run where the pitch and speed of the music changes as the rail track rises and falls. The minecart is also shaped like a giant monkey head. Monkeys are the MSG of gaming.

The boss battles are also superb. At one point Tempo befriends a bird called Rockaw who wears face-paint like the members of Kiss.

Seriously, read that back and tell me it’s not awesome. You’ll hop on Rockaw’s back and swoop around, hitting the bee’s projectiles back at him. Then you’ll nose dive down into a ravine, navigating it in time to the beat like the trench run from Star Wars.

All of this and more can be yours for less than a DLC season pass. How’s that for perspective? It’s one of the most generous downloadable games I’ve played in a long time, and one of the best 3DS games in recent memory. My worry is that Nintendo – like most of its eShop titles – doesn’t market HarmoKnight within an inch of its life. It deserves to be played.

Sure it’s basic on the outside and it’s not going to revolutionise gaming, but I’m so absolutely sick of gun-fire, having my tinnitus worsened by loud explosions and dulling my retinas with the colour brown that I’m thankful something like this has come along and made me happy.

For the first time in a long time I’ve genuinely smiled while playing a game. That’s not because I’ve grown cynical. I think I’m physically incapable of that because – shock alert – I adore gaming. It’s just a game that doesn’t take itself seriously for once and actively goes out of its way to charm you until you grin from it.

I’m treating it like a holiday away from the triple-a market and as with all good holidays, going back to the old routine will be a difficult. If you have a 3DS I strongly recommend you give this game a whirl when it launches on March 28. It will really brighten up your day.

Now that test. What’s the definition of fun? Answers in 200 words or less please.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this piece, Nintendo sent Dave a download code for Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight. No additional merchandise or advertising was offered or accepted.

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