Taiko no Tatsujin Import Review
Anyone with any rhythm whatsoever shouldn't have any trouble breezing through every song in the game.
It seems there's a certain formula for making a successful rhythm game, and unlike in other gaming genres, the more a rhythm game sticks to this plan, the more it seems to satisfy. You take a collection of odd and catchy songs, give the player a unique controller to use, add a number of modes to play in, toss in some basic multiplayer functionality as well as perhaps some import-only mystique, and you're almost sure to have a cult classic on your hands. As one of the more culturally inaccessible entries into this genre, Taiko no Tatsujin still manages to deliver on all of the above fronts, and though it does have its shortcomings, no fan of Japanese imported rhythm games should overlook this title.
Taiko no Tatsujin, or "drum master," for the PlayStation 2 is a rhythm game based on traditional Japanese taiko drumming, which is most often used in festivals and formal concerts. Taiko no Tatsujin represents this fairly well by including a controller called the Tatakon, which resembles the surface of a taiko drum and is played with two plastic drumsticks. The Tatakon has sensors on the left and right sides of the drum surface, as well as sensors on the right and left rims. These are used to execute the various elements of the rhythms of the game, which are relatively simple--a red mark on the screen indicates when you should strike the surface of the drum, and a large red mark indicates when you should strike both sides of the drum at the same time. Likewise, a blue mark signifies that you should strike on the rim, and a large blue mark signifies that you should strike both sides of the rim at once. Other rhythm elements crop up in the gameplay: Long yellow marks on the screen indicate that you should perform a drum roll, and red marks with a number represent the number of times you should strike the Tatakon on its surface before the next pattern occurs. Though the idea is simple, the game's harder modes remain fairly challenging by containing some complex rhythm patterns at somewhat brisk tempos. Disappointingly, the Tatakon isn't quite as responsive as it could be--there are a number of dead spots on the surface of the drum as well as on the rim, and this can lead to a good deal of frustration when you're first getting started. As with many other rhythm games, you can play Taiko no Tatsujin with a regular controller, but this essentially sucks all the fun right out of the game.
The real draw to any rhythm game is going to be its music, and the soundtrack of Taiko no Tatsujin lacks some of the accessibility found in other rhythm games. The soundtrack consists mostly of J-pop, along with traditional Japanese festival music, the latter of which might appeal much less to international audiences at first. But all told each has its own appeal, and before too long you might find yourself humming the various track as you go about your day. Each difficulty setting in the arcade mode has a set number of songs--21 in beginner, 24 in intermediate, and 19 in hard. Surprisingly, there are no additional songs that can be unlocked, though there are other songs to be found in the game's various modes. Music aside, the sound effects in the game are limited and relatively weak. The sound of the drum being struck should have been more resonant and dominating, and although the game has a few options for different sounds, such as a dog's bark and a cat's meow, most of your other choices are ridiculously distracting.
The game contains a nice number of modes, including some that have come to be expected and a few surprising ones as well. There is the traditional arcade mode, in which you play through two songs and then are graded on your performance. Your accuracy in each beat as well as the overall unbroken chain of correct beats will begin to fill a meter at the top of the screen. A certain level of the meter must be met for the song to be passed, and if the meter is completely filled, your score will skyrocket. Another mode lets you play through complete songs without worrying about passing or failing. There is a survival mode, in which you start with a filled life meter that depletes as you make mistakes. Finally, there is the race mode, in which you must roll on the Tatakon Track & Field style as fast as possible in order to make your drum run faster than either the computer or a second player can make theirs run.
Graphically, Taiko no Tatsujin doesn't bring very much to the table from a technical perspective. Honestly, it could have easily been a PlayStation title, with its simplistic sprite-based graphics, limited animation, and overall low production values. What it lacks in technology, however, it makes up for in charm. Your character, the drum, is a surprisingly cheerful drum with an adorable catlike face, concentrating fiercely on rhythms, prancing with glee over successful songs, and pouncing on harder difficulty settings with joyful rage. As you get better and better, you will attract a crowd of similar characters, including a dancing squid and mushrooms, dogs wearing bonnets, turtles with fans, and a host of classic Namco characters such as Mr. Driller. This charm is what really gives the game a lasting appeal and is what will often draw you back again and again, if not the music.
All told, Taiko no Tatsujin seems to be aimed at a younger audience than most rhythm games, and as such, the challenge of the game is ramped down somewhat. There is some difficulty to be found in the harder levels, especially in the survival mode, but in the end, anyone with any rhythm whatsoever shouldn't have any trouble breezing through every song in the game. However, the game's charm and uniqueness cannot be denied, so fans of the genre will certainly want to check this game out before it passes us by.
- Game Universe:
- Taiko no Tatsujin Portable 2 (PSP),
- Taiko no Tatsujin: Wai Wai Happy Rokudaime (PS2),
- Taiko no Tatsujin Portable (PSP),
- Taiko no Tatsujin: Tobikkiri! Anime Special (PS2),
- Taiko no Tatsujin: Go! Go! Godaime (PS2),
- Taiko Drum Master (PS2, MOBILE),
- Taiko no Tatsujin: Atsumare! Matsuri Da!! Yondaime (PS2),
- Taiko no Tatsujin: Waku Waku Anime Matsuri (PS2),
- Taiko no Tatsujin: Appare Sandaime (PS2),
- Taiko no Tatsujin Doki! (PS2)
- Number of Players: