Everyone must know the Taiko No Tatsujin series by now, if only for the videos on YouTube of people in Japan being simply godlike at it (no seriously, look it up), but it has had people happily hitting their taiko drums since 2001 in Japanese arcades.
I had the privilege of playing the upcoming Nintendo Switch version of the game, Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun, at a recent press day with Bandai Namco, and now the continual drumming that filled that room the whole afternoon has become a kind of baseline soundtrack to my daily life, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same again.
The basic premise of the game has you hitting a taiko drum in time to whichever musical track you have chosen. The notes are divided into two key types red ‘don’ notes and blue ‘kat’ ones, played by hitting the drum itself or the rim of the drum respectively. There are more complicated notes requiring hitting both sides or either part of the drum, or drumrolls, but these are essentially the basics.
You need to hit the appropriate part of the drum in time to the music, based on the ever moving timeline of notes running across the screen. Just how many notes you have, and how little time you have to hit them, is dependent on the difficulty level you choose for the song ranging from the easy, to practically pulling a tendon difficult. Obviously song choice will impact this too, but even the slower songs can be devilish on the higher difficulties.
Speaking as well of song choices, the array on the game is genuinely impressive, encompassing a lot of different genres and even sources of music. The version I played had songs like ‘Jump Up, Superstar’ from the recent Nintendo Switch triumph Super Mario Odyssey right alongside classical pieces from Mozart and ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from the Disney film Moana. So there’s pretty much something here for everyone.
The game can also be played, as I did, with a second player as you both hammer out the same song to attempt to beat the other in terms of points. An interesting thing I liked about this was that the difficulty of the song could be changed for each player, allowing a more inexperienced player to still play with one who had played before without feeling that the odds of success were too stacked against them. These odds can be boosted even further by choosing specific allies, most of which will make things easier for the player.
I have to admit that the taiko drum peripheral is possibly the most impressive part of the whole thing. It’s not just a cheap piece of plastic as most would expect, but instead is a substantial and weighty object that can really take a good whack, but yet can comfortably rest on your lap for decent lengths of time. Furthermore, having played this game on the peripheral, I couldn’t imagine that any other method of play would match it.
Visually, Taiko No Tatsujin is as bonkers as ever with colourful characters all over the place, including incredibly happy dogs in hats, and a lot of visual feedback for the player as they progress through each song. For instance, the screen gets more visual effects and colour the better the player is doing, removing the need to continually look at the progress bar.
The music is, as one would expect from any rhythm action game that wanted to actually succeed, an incredible array as mentioned earlier. All the other sound design is punchy and distinct, with not only tactile noise from hitting the taiko but also in-game sounds to denote successful hits too, just in case you want to wear noise cancelling headphones so you don’t hear drumming forevermore.
I must admit that Taiko No Tatsujin is not for me because, although I enjoy rhythm action games, I really don’t enjoy the more … active ones. However, I had tremendous fun playing this at the Bandai Namco event, and would definitely recommend it to fans of this sort of game. It was fun, it was silly, and it was a genuine joy to play.
Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun is due for release in the West at some time in November this year! Do you think you’ll pick it up, or does the taiko action not hit the right notes with you? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter, and check back for more coverage of games like this and other Japanese titles.
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