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The Rhythm series is a multi-million selling franchise that started its life on the Game Boy Advance with the release of Rhythm Tengoku, which was only released in Japan on August 3, 2006. The series, published by Nintendo, would receive an arcade remake of the original game which was developed by Sega, whose team loved the GBA original. The series wouldn't make its way in North Ameica and Europe until the release of Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo DS. The series' development is full of trial and error, dance lessons and worrieness of how the game would be received.
The first game, Rhythm Tengoku for the Game Boy Advance, was released on August 3, 2006. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata explains that, though the general public wasn't too interested in the game prior to release, it was well received by critics during its release. The series head Kazuyoshi Osawa explained that he as extremely nervous of how well the game would be received, though after reviews hit the internet he was "immensely relieved".
Some were confused as to why Nintendo and Nintendo SPD released the game on the Game Boy Advance when the Nintendo DS had already been released. This is perhaps the reason why the game was never released in America, since Nintendo of America had almost ceased publishing games for the GBA. Nevertheless, Osawa felt that the game needed to be released on the GBA due to its exclusive devotion to buttons, and that it was a nice fit for the game. If it were released for the DS, then he would be required to use the DS's touch screen interface, which would pose as a challenge to the developers, and one they wouldn't tackle until after the arcade version of the game was released.
Sega approaches Nintendo for an arcade remake
After Rhythm Tengoku became a success, Sega approached Nintendo with an offer they never expected: to remake the game for arcades. Osawa explained that when he first heard, he thought that it must have been a joke. He said that when he went to talk to Sega though, he found that they really loved the game that he had developed, and that it was popular among the development staff. He didn't feel like he could approve of the project, though, so he asked Satoru Iwata if it was something to go ahead with. Iwata said "Why not give it a shot?", and Osawa was happy with the decision.
Sega worked tirelessly on the arcade version of the game, and after being released Osawa was very impressed with the game, and Takafumi Masaoka, the graphic designer, was surprised to see the diversity of people playing the arcade version in video arcades. He took some pictures of people playing the game to document it, and according to him the owners of the arcade got suspicious and brought him into their office. Once he explained who he was they understood who he was and let him go.
The Nintendo DS sequel
As the arcade game's development progressed, Osawa had to figure out how the inevitable sequel to the game would be like. Despite being a sequel, the game seems to have gone through more challenges. As Osawa had stated, the DS version would have to make use of the DS's touch screen. The development team went through so much trial and error that they almost went back to the button configuration. It took the development team around six months to just simply perfect the touch screen controls.
With the success of the Wii, music producder Tsunku wanted to bring the series to living rooms everywhere. With the idea of bringing people together in mind, Rhythm Heaven Fever was born. The dev team made some prototyes using 3D models, however they felt that the flow of the games worked best with 2D animation. Motion control was also ignored in favor of more accurate button controls.