Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Import Preview

Nintendo and Inis reveal the secret life of male cheerleaders in this stellar DS game.

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The male cheerleader is a little known and mysterious individual whose existence borders on the supernatural. Much like the yeti, unicorns, and the rarely seen feral Care Bears, male cheerleaders aren't something you see often. There is, of course, a reason for this. No, it's not because the notion of men jumping around like their female counterparts is both unsettling and hilarious. The reason the male cheerleader is rarely seen is because he's off doing important work just below the radar of the common man. What kind of work? Up until recently, no one really knew just what male cheerleaders did. However, the recently released import Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! for Nintendo's DS sheds light on the secret lives of male cheerleaders with a fun, addictive rhythm game that's something all DS owners must experience.

You've always dreamed of becoming a male cheerleader, right?
You've always dreamed of becoming a male cheerleader, right?

Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is a rhythm action game that puts you in charge of a trio of male cheerleaders that, much like Batman, is never far from those in need. The trio remains in a state of catlike readiness until it hears the call of "Ouendan!", or "Let's cheer!", from someone in need of help. You'll find two main modes in the game, a single-player experience that offers easy and normal difficulties, as well as an unlockable cheerleader difficulty and a multiplayer mode for two to four players.

The single-player game is a collection of 14 slices of life that finds your trio of cheerleaders making the rounds in Japan and helping anyone that cries out for help. You'll find people in need by using the DS's stylus to navigate a 2D map of the city. The needy masses can be seen running around at specific locations crying for help. You'll tap an individual to select him or her, and then you'll hop in to help him or her. As you progress through the game, you'll open up additional needy folk in search of help until you reach the mother of all help requests and find yourself saving the world.

The multiplayer mode comes in two flavors, a simple two-player versus and a four-player rumble, that let you mix it up with friends over the DS's Wi-Fi. You'll be able to choose from any of the 14 songs, and you can compete against your friends. The interesting twist is that although the songs are recycled for this mode, the artwork is not, which lets you appreciate a few more hilarious story sequences, most notably two that feature monkeys (which is always a plus).

It's time to put your PDA-honed stylus skills to the test. Ouendan!
It's time to put your PDA-honed stylus skills to the test. Ouendan!

So just what is the gameplay in a male cheerleading game like? It's surprisingly easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Developer Inis, which was responsible for the underappreciated Gitaroo Man for the PlayStation 2, has put together a very smart system for Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! You'll basically see a series of numbered circles that you'll have to tap in time with the music. A shrinking concentric circle will serve as your guideline, and it will alert you to when you can tap the numbered circle. As you progress through the game, the mechanic expands a bit to include dragging a circle between two points in time with an onscreen icon and using your stylus to fill an onscreen gauge by spinning it on a wheel that appears on the touch screen. Your taps will yield points that fill a dwindling energy bar that cycles between red and yellow at the top of the screen. If the bar runs down to nothing, it's game over.

Let's Cheer!

Each stage in the game will be broken into multiple parts, and story sequences in between them will give you a breather from the action. If you manage to have a yellow energy bar at the end of each part of a stage, you'll be rewarded with a sizable health boost, which helps considerably as you try to make your way through the increasingly challenging levels. It's a very smart system that's addictive and fun.

Regardless of your understanding of Japanese, the game's cutscenes never fail to entertain.
Regardless of your understanding of Japanese, the game's cutscenes never fail to entertain.

Once you look past the winning goofiness of its premise and presentation, Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! ends up being a very impressive technical showcase for the DS hardware. The visuals feature sharp manga sensibilities in the story sequences, which are essentially a collection of modestly animated comic panels. The sequences set the scene for each of the levels, and they play in the top screen during the game to give you an idea of your progression. The game graphics that show off your squad of cheerleaders in the lower screen during the game show off the DS's very capable 3D abilities. Your trio of cheerleaders is represented by modestly detailed polygonal models that feature smooth animation, which captures the fluid movement of a grown man performing a cheer routine.

The audio in Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is outstanding and is an excellent showcase for the DS's sound capabilities. You'll hear a wealth of speech in the songs you'll be cheering to, as well as a generous assortment of audio clips during the story sequences. Your cheerleaders will also issue a manly assortment of grunts and cheers as they show their spirit. The music sounds great overall, although you'll hear a bit of fuzziness and distortion at the upper and lower registers. However, it's nothing that will ruin the experience.

All told, Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is a fantastic DS game that shows off just about every feature the hardware has to offer to good effect. The only notable omission is microphone support, which is likely for the best at the present time, as we're not sure the world is ready for people to be cheering into their DS mics while in public places. The game offers a fun experience that has a respectable amount of depth for a rhythm action game. The single-player game is addictive fun that's made even more appealing by the challenge of opening up the higher difficulties. Better yet, the multiplayer mode is outstanding and offers an engaging experience that can last for as long or as short as you like.

Keep your fingers crossed for an American release.
Keep your fingers crossed for an American release.

If you're looking to import the game, you shouldn't have much trouble getting through menus and actually playing, as everything is pretty straightforward. Sadly, importing the game may be the only way for people in the States to experience its inspired looniness, as Nintendo currently has no plans to bring it over. While this doesn't mean all hope is lost, we do hear from a good authority that several third parties are looking it over to see if it's viable to bring to the States. However, this does mean that it will likely be a while before it sees a release in the US. Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is currently available in Japan, so check out our media on the game, and bask in the wonder.

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