November 12, 2018

Taiko no Tatsujin Drum 'n' Fun - Review

Whenever a new music rhythm game comes onto the scene, I find myself always keen to play it, regardless of its platform, or input method. For Taiko no Tatsujin, it making its way out here for the first time was always going to be something that caught my eye, but now that it is here, does the series live up to the hype or is it just marching to the beat of its own drum.

For those that are not aware, the game is all about bashing a drum, in tune to some popular songs from Japan, while bashing is not an accurate description, it does represent how most people are likely to play the game. The games main method of input are the two strike types., Don for the red and Kat for the blue, if you are using button controls, you need to press one button for Don if you are striking on the right side and another for the left side. The other two face buttons do the left and right versions for the Kat, if you are playing with motion controls, you swing down for Don and swing from the side for Kat, it takes a little bit to adjust to the differences between the two, but pretty quickly you will be donning and katting away.

As you play the main game, the symbols of the actions you need to complete will enter from the right side of the screen, and when they land on the indicated spot, you drum away. If you have played another music rhythm game before, the concept will feel very similar, the only thing you need to be aware of, before you do anything, is the delay between screen and sound is going to be different for everyone, so adjusting that will help you out. Once you have that done, you have mastered the basics of the game, but that is not enough for you to play it, as sadly the controls, as simple as that are, are all over the place.

If you use standard buttons for the controls, then you will get the game, but without any of the fun, it would be like playing Guitar Hero without a guitar, kind of pointless, but if you use motion controls, then you need a heaping help of patience. Now I don’t know if the issue is with the game, the Joy-Con I used, which was a lot, or a combination of them, but the game would always register more inputs than I did, some getting my hand back up, ready to swing would result in the game detecting a swing. Thankfully the game is pretty forgiving, only giving you a bad result if you miss a beat, but adding more is all good in its book, the problem is when the game throws two successive notes at you, be they Don or Kat, the result is that the game just can’t understand the rapid inputs required. When you leave the music rhythm portion and enter the mini games, the game handles things a little better, whilst the mini games are a fun diversion, you are not going to be getting the game for them.

The other issue I had is the music selection, not because they are in Japanese, for the most part, but more so that the drumming noises always overshadowed whatever track was playing, if you turned down the drum to hear the music, it defeated the purpose of the game. Overall though, the track selection was pretty good, it covers a range of genres, from the traditional Japanese pop, to some classic orchestral songs, also included was the ability to listen to some classic anime and gaming tunes, perfect for the otaku in you. As the version of the game that I reviewed was the Switch one, it had some Nintendo elements in it, from tracks from Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon, to characters like Squid from Splatoon and Kirby from, well Kirby. The characters though are not just a cosmetic element, each character impacts the game.

Some of the characters will give you not bonus effects, perfect for those that want the pure experience, there are some though, that are loaded with effects, to make things easier for you. One character, removes the need to spam a button press, or shake things constantly for when you need to hit the rolling notes. Another makes it more forgiving on how close you are to hitting the note, so swapping between characters often, is a great way of finding one that works for you, if I used motion controls, I always went with the more forgiving of the characters, in order to stand a chance. As you play through the main mode, each milestone you hit, will unlock more tracks and characters, the rate of which is pretty decent, so you won't spend hours attempting to unlock a new song or two, should you wish to get more, there are packs available for download, letting you expand past the games initial roster.

From a presentation point of view, the game has a great balance between cartoon visuals and performance, that some games fail to meet, which given the intense nature of some of the songs, on the more challenging difficulty’s is impressive. The visuals though are basic, which may help explain that, seeing characters like Don-chan or Kirby at the top of the screen, I would have liked to see more than just the same repeating animations, one for normal, one for when you do something bad and one for when you are on fire. The other weird presentation issue, is that none of the characters speak in English, which again is fine, except there are also no subtitles to be found, which means whenever a character speaks, unless you are someone who speaks and understands Japanese, you will be like me and have no clue what is being said.

Taiko no Tatsujin Drum ‘n’ Fun is a decent game, it is clear though that you really need to play the game with its designed controller, to get the best experience from it. The mini games, whilst fun, are not worthy of the investment into the game and the less said about the motion controls the better. Die-hard series fans will surely enjoy this entry, but those who are new to the series, may way to avoid this one for now.

Review code provided by Bandai Namco

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