In the quest to frustrate roommates, parents, friends, neighbors, and pretty much everyone within audio range, Namco is releasing Taiko Drum Master
in the States. Long a staple in Japanese arcades where the game is currently in its sixth version, Taiko Drum Master
is a drumming rhythm game that is fun for those who are playing it and pretty much hell for everyone else. But forget everyone for now since the focus is on banging out the beats and having fun doing it. It's also about looking ridiculous while pounding a plastic drum, but don't let that bother you either.
The appeal of Taiko Drum Master is pretty freakin' simple: bang the drums with the sticks in time with the music. The plastic drum peripheral comes with the game along with two hollow plastic drumsticks. On the screen circles move right to left and when they hit the left side the drum needs to be hit at the same time. Red circles are for drum hits while blue circles indicate that the side of the drum needs to be hit. The drum has left and right sensors for both types of hit so the extra large red or blue circles mean that hitting both sides at once will give a bonus. A couple of other features like a yellow bar or a red balloon are for rapid drum rolls and that's it. See how easy that is?
With these drum controls going on, Taiko Drum Master lays out some drum patterns for 31 different songs that cover game themes, classical music, and pop songs. A full list of all of these can be found right here and includes a variety from "Toxic," "Tubthumping," "William Tell Overture," or even the office favorite of "Katamari on the Rocks" from Katamari Damacy. Each of these songs has three difficulty levels that are accessible right off the bat. Be warned that just because these can be tried out from the beginning it's pretty much a sure bet that trying them will cause a hissy fit of epic proportions. Take it slow, try out some of the simplere rhythms of the easy mode, work up to normal, and once you have achieved Jedi Master status with the sticks you can try out the hard skill level.
Like all rhythm games, Taiko Drum Master requires both hand-eye coordination and some musical talent. Just trying to follow the instructions on the screen and hitting the drum as they hit the indicator on the left will work out most of the time, but really listening to the music will truly get you to the glory land of banging along as if you really were a part of the band. It's here that the game itself takes off and becomes really fun. Sure, getting through the easy and normal are worth a pat on the back, but getting through on the hard difficulty and tapping out some beats is pure rhythmic happiness.
The only thing that gets a little in the way of this happiness is the controller itself which can get a little off sometimes when the hits aren't hard enough or the angle on the side isn't quite right. Since combos, a series of perfect hits, are such a large part of getting the songs done right, this part was a bit frustrating. Te best way to play the game is to make sure that all of the hits are on target and hard enough. Tapping the skin of the drum as if it were a super sensitive touch pad just won't do it so be sure to take out some aggression, but be a little careful, and bang out some songs.
With the 31 songs to choose from there are a few that are pretty strongly dependant upon taste. Do you want to hear "Love Shack" again and again? Is it cool to hear a cover of "I'm a Believer"? There are only a couple of songs that you're likely to be familiar with and like so the strength here is the basic drumming and, well, that's pretty much it. Not to say that that's a bad thing, it's not, but this is truly best as a drum simulation.
Aside from the single-player game which is fun by itself, there is also the two-player option for playing through the song at the same time with a friend. This is more like a double single-player game since the scores are just tallied up at the end. Sadly, the game pretty much ends there since the extra modes are pretty sparse. There are no extra games where players can mess around with each other or even any good games that go beyond the musical drumming.
There are three mini-games here, but they're all easily seen and done within a couple of minutes. One is about eating watermelons, another is for lighting fireworks and the third is balancing a large stack of dogs. They're all pretty inane and provide just the slightest of distractions from the main game. While the drumming itself is still cool, it's disappointing to see a lack of extra ideas and rhythm games that could have been incorporated to help develop the skills that get used in the regular play. Instead of working on timing, these games use the normal hand-eye coordination of just about every other game with the only difference being that a drum is a controller.
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