Review: Orgarhythm

Orgarhythm may sound like an item sold at MVC, but it’s actually an RTS/Rhythm game hybrid. It begins with one of the most beautiful credits sequences I’ve seen in gaming with some awesome thumping music that will be stuck in your head for a while. After that bit of greatness, you can choose to either dive head-first into the campaign, take on some opponents in either local or ad-hoc multiplayer, change some options, check the in-game database for info, or partake in some tutorials.

Unless you’d like to be slaughtered immediately, start with that. The core game combines RTS mechanics with rhythm gaming – kind of like Patapon, but with a more traditional RTS 3/4 overhead viewpoint. As the God of Light, you’ll command your troops against the God of Darkness’s many minions. Battle begins by tapping him, then choosing which of his three sets of troops you’d like to send into battle. Each one is based on an element, with a rock-scissors-paper mechanic in place to determine who you should send in. If you’re facing Earth-based enemies with yellow bars, you’ll want to send in the red-barred Fire troops, who are vulnerable to the blue-barred Water enemies. You can choose how many of the troops to send in by drawing a line. A short line sends one troop, while longer ones will send more out to do battle. If you’re against just one enemy, you may not want to send in a lot of troops, but if you’re facing a slew of folks, you’ll want to send in more.

The battle mechanics may sound difficult to learn, but after some trial and error, they become second-nature fairly quickly. I haven’t played an RTS game in many years, but found Orgarythm’s battle system to be very user-friendly and easy to learn after only a few minutes. This handy trailer not only explains the battle system, but showcases just how rhythm plays a part in it and should put any doubts potential players have about the genre blending to rest.

Pressing the God of Light, or issuing any command in perfect harmony with the music, allows for faster leveling-up. While a challenge in itself, the greatest feat (beyond the AI) comes from getting into such a groove that you can actually rattle off every command needed in a fraction of a second to get the jump on enemies and really boost your levels. It’s one of the game’s most rewarding aspects and makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something when you get the hang of it. There’s more to combat than just sending certain troops out against others; secondary support abilities to help against enemies when the God of Light’s health has been depleted to its last third also exist. Carefully tapping a silver icon instead of the usual bright red, yellow, and blue ones takes a turn or two to get used to, but yields some awesome features. By taking your time, you’ll be able to increase your offensive or defensive capabilities, get some much-needed health back, slow enemies, or even BLAST THEM WITH LIGHTNING.

One great thing about how Orgarhythm‘s battle system is crafted is that audio cues don’t have to be relied on to do well — visual cues are given for the proper rhythm. Each beat causes a circular pattern to appear around whatever needs to be tapped, slowly evaporating as the beat goes on. When that circle is completely gone, you know it’s safe to tap and still get an excellent rating. This is ideal for playing on a bus, or in a car, or any other setting where you get the urge to play the game, but still have to keep your ears open for something.

Thankfully, when you’re able to play it with the audio on, you’re in for a treat. As one might expect from something with a rhythm theme (and a really awesome intro song), Orgarhythm‘s soundtrack is really good. It’s got a lot of tribal music, tons of drums, and even a bit of rock thrown in. It’s pretty diverse and the intro music alone had me wish a soundtrack album was available to download on PSN. Unfortunately, the graphics don’t quite stand out as much as the music. They’re far from bad, but have a generic RTS look that just isn’t very distinct. While a  bright color scheme helps keep track of things in battle, environments can be a bit muddy when not masked by the great lighting effects.

Closing Comments:

Orgarhythm surprised me in a lot of great ways. I expected to be terrified of an RTS/rhythm hybrid going in, but its user-friendly nature made it easy to learn. The fast pace is great for people who have avoided RTSes due to slow pacing, and it winds up creating a fantastic gateway game for newcomers. It may be rough around the edges visually, but the outstanding soundtrack and incredible controls (for something that is largely touch-based) make it a must-buy for anyone remotely interested in the genre.

 Platform: PS Vita