Ontamarama Hands-On

It’s certainly no Guitar Hero, but Ontamarama’s mix of fun, J-Pop, and coloured flower blobs could be just the ticket to while away the time between shred sessions.


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During E3 we caught up with Atlus USA--American distributor of the Trauma Center series--to see what’s on the horizon. One title in particular caught our eye--a Japanese rhythm game for the Nintendo DS called Ontamarama. In a nutshell, the game is a cross between a simplified right to left scrolling Guitar Hero-type music title and any DS game where you poke around a lot with the stylus.

The storyline is vague and very Japanese. Basically, Otama are sound spirits, and they live and run free on an island somewhere. A demon convinces the locals that these innocent looking spirits are actually evil, and need to be captured. Beat and Rest, two local Otamaestros from the island, challenge the villagers to free the Otama, and that’s where you come in.

Over 12 levels and spanning three difficulty settings, you’ll need to click one of the coloured Otama on the bottom screen using the stylus. After you click the Otama disappears, and you’ll need to press the d-pad in the corresponding direction to the beat marked on the bar at the top of the screen. The only way to score points is to keep the rhythm going and press the right direction button as it passes through the hit zone.

The songs become progressively more difficult as you move up the scale, with shorter periods between notes, demons to avoid clicking on, and longer notes to hold. The interaction changes slightly as you’ll need to begin circling groups of Otama rather than clicking individually. It sounds easy just circling them, but you can only group matching colours and you still need to be hitting the d-pad to score points.

Completing challenges awards you points--just in case saving Otama wasn’t enough for you philanthropists--which you can then spend on unlockable content, including new songs. The songs are catchy J-Pop tunes, and we'd be lying if we said we didn't find ourselves tapping our feet as we played with a set of headphones on.

There’s no firm release date for a localised version in the US, but Atlus is aiming for some time around the holiday season. Surely part of the background story is lost in translation, and we're looking forward to finding out the whole deal, so this is one to keep an eye on.

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