Namco's Taiko Drum Master, an imported rhythm game that asks you to pound away on traditional Japanese drums in time to a strange selection of tunes, doesn't seem like it would be such a great candidate for a mobile translation. For one thing, the drum peripherals that make the game so much fun in the arcade and in the console version are lacking here. And for another, there's no way that a mobile phone can reproduce the original's musical fidelity. However, even without these two important elements, the mobile version of Taiko Drum Master still makes for a very competent mobile rhythm game. Namco missed out on a few opportunities to push the boundaries of the genre here, but this game's surprisingly full scoring and authentic graphics are sure to satisfy both Taiko purists and rhythm game enthusiasts.
Taiko Drum Master comes complete with 15 MIDI tunes that are divided into five difficulty levels. Your choices range from classical standbys like Beethoven's Fifth and the William Tell Overture to remixed versions of Namco game themes, such as Ridge Racers, to bizarre original compositions. Once you pick a song, you're whisked away to the game board, and the song starts playing after a few seconds. As you're tapping your foot to the tune, circles of varying colors and sizes scroll from the right side of the screen to a marker at the left end. Each of these circles represents a different sort of Taiko strike, and each one is mapped to the 4, 5, or 6 keys here. There's also the occasional, yellow drumroll symbol, which is dealt with by jamming quickly on the 5 key. The idea is to nail each Taiko circle by hitting the correct key right as it passes over your drum, thereby playing along with the music and racking up points. If you nail a strike perfectly, you'll get a larger number of points, and you're also rewarded for chaining together perfect strikes. If you miss too many strikes entirely, on the other hand, you'll be unable to fill up your drumming meter and you'll consequently fail the level.
Taiko Drum Master's main strengths lie in its presentation, which is pretty strong on the LG VX7000. First of all, much of the original's insanely goofy visual style made it into the game intact. Dancing cats and grinning Taiko drumsticks caper along the margins of the screen. If you're a Japanophile, the game's graphics are sure to bring a smile to your face. More importantly, the MIDI themes have a very full sound to them, even though they're a little light on percussion, strangely. This isn't a game you're going to want to play on public transportation.
On the other hand, this isn't a picture-perfect Taiko translation. The most glaring deficiency is the game's run speed, which is definitely on the clunky side. The drum strikes don't scroll very smoothly at all; it's more like they jerk across the screen in increments. It's a little frustrating to have to adjust your play style accordingly. It's also a shame that the game doesn't produce any sort of noticeable auditory feedback when you bang a drum. Even a bit of vibration or something would have been nice, because it would give you the impression that you're actually playing along. In addition, this game lacks downloadable MIDI songs, so once you get through the 15 default songs (some of which are extremely difficult), there's not much else to do.
Overall, Taiko Drum Master is a serviceable mobile rhythm game that has a flavor all its own. Fans of the console offering, or of rhythm games in general, should check this game out.