Anonymous sources respond to Sakamoto’s proclamation that Rhythm Heaven isn’t dead

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‘Of course he’d say that’

Ozzy Osbourne, founding member of Black Sabbath and star of the reality TV show The Osbournes, announced his retirement from the stage at least twice over the past of 20 years, but he went back on those promises both times.

In a 1982 interview, Grace Kelly, academy award winner turned Princess of Monaco, would not commit to a permanent end to her acting career, though it had been 26 years since her last role in a Hollywood picture. “I have always tried to avoid saying never or always…” she said, wisely avoiding an unanswerable question. Sadly, she died from complications of a stroke and a car accident a few months later, so we’ll never know what her true intentions may have been.

These are just a few of examples of how you can never be sure what an entertainer will do next in their careers, regardless of what they say. People change their minds. Accidents happen. No one has a crystal ball. All we can do is make our best guesses. 

That’s why I called this post from last week an opinion. It is not a rumor. It’s an educated, informed perspective from a few trusted sources who see the Rhythm Heaven series as quietly retired. Rhythm Heaven series producer Yoshio Sakamoto recently countered those opinions, stating that as far as he’s concerned, the series is not dead.

I went back to a couple of the sources from the original post to ask them what they made of Sakamoto’s response. Here is what they said.

Source #1

“I’m not surprised that Sakamoto-san said that. I mean, of course he said that, just like how he didn’t say that the years of buzz around AM2R was one of the reasons they decided to remake Metroid 2 themselves, but your readers have to remember that he and everyone else at Nintendo would never announce that a series was “dead”. Not only would that make their fans angry, but it would also make them look like liars if the company were to ever change their minds and bring the franchise in question back into development. He has to stay on message, and only make statements that are of benefit to his employers and stock holders.”

“This is why you’ll never hear Intelligent Systems say that Advance Wars is over. It’s been almost ten years since the last game in the series. People still ask them about it all the time, and it’s really encouraging to them to hear those questions, but these days, they are tied up with games that have a bigger fan base or new projects that Nintendo higher ups are more hopeful about. Advance Wars had its time in the sun, but it’s a relatively niche war sim that is too cute to appeal to fans of Battlefield and Call of Duty, but still too militaristic for fans of colorful fantasy and lighthearted fair.”

“Rhythm Heaven is in a similar place in Nintendo’s stockpile of old IP. It doesn’t appeal to fan of plastic instrument games, but it’s not quite ‘indie’ enough to draw in that crowd either. Rhythm Heaven games are also not as cheap to make as you may think. Each one has about 100 original songs, many of them fully voiced, all under the supervision of big money pop producer Tsunku. Nintendo always hoped that all the heart and money poured into the series would eventually lead to worldwide hit, which is why they went as far as to hire Beyonce to promote the DS game a few years ago, but at this point, it looks to me like they’ve given up.”

“Splatoon and Arms have shown Nintendo that they are capable of producing new IP that can go head to head with 3rd party AAA games on a global scale, and I think you’ll see them spending a lot more of their time and money on those sorts of projects moving forward, and not their Tier B franchises from the past.”

Source #2

“The studio that created the Rhythm Heaven games, Nintendo SPD, closed in 2015, with its members absorbed into another in-house group with a different management structure. The first Rhythm Tengoku was the first game they created on their own, without the help of Intelligent Systems, and Rhythm Tengoku: The Best+ [Rhythm Heaven Megamix in the US and Europe] was the last game they released before they were deconstructed. It’s also not a coincidence that Nintendo SPD was put together by Iwata shortly after he became president of Nintendo, and that it closed a few months after he passed away. That was just the start of some pretty massive internal changes at Nintendo that followed his passing.”

“That was also the year that Tsunku, the producer and creative soul of the Rhythm Heaven series, retired from full time work after having his vocal chords removed to save his life from laryngeal cancer. This is why he didn’t contribute much new material to Rhythm Tengoku: The Best+ and has more or less disappeared from the JPop scene since.”

“Ko Takeuchi, the artist of the Rhythm Heaven series, was working on the Nintendo Badge Arcade app pretty much full time until earlier this year, until new content for the app was discontinued. Since then, his Twitter handle and other social media pages were changed to read “character designer”, with no mention of Nintendo.”

“This isn’t insider information. It’s common knowledge for anyone willing to look, and it all points to the Rhythm Heaven series as we knew it coming to an end.”

“But it’s certainly possible that Sakamoto has plans for a new Rhythm Heaven game, and that it’s been greenlit behind closed doors, but if so, I haven’t heard anything about it. I suppose they could port some of the levels from past games to mobile, which is a project that I assume they could throw together in a few months in Japan, without involving Nintendo of America at all. Or they could go forward with the series without Tsunku, but that wouldn’t really be Rhythm Heaven anymore, at least in my opinion. Either way, I hold true to my original statement that the Rhythm Heaven series looks dead from where I’m standing. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be brought back to life someday, but I’m not holding my breath. “


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