Sept 19, 2007
No other rhythm action game on DS has yet to use the touch screen as a single, real instrument, for the duration of the game. In Rhythm Tengoku you're banging objects, shooting arrows, and punching cans. In Ouendan you're tapping a few random balls whose shapes are abstract rather than musical in nature. In Taiko No Tatsujin DS, however, as in its former arcade incarnations and Donkey Konga (made by the same team), the game is all about a real instrument. Styluses become drumsticks, and the DS is your actual drum.
You're not just listening to a song and tapping random shapes on the touch screen in time (not that that can't be fun). More like Guitar Hero than Elite Beat Agents, there's an extra level of immersion because the premise is that you're playing the hardware as though it's a real instrument. The fact that you play it all out to insanely catchy J-pop makes it all the better.
Staggeringly, there are only four basic moves: tap the drum with one stylus, tap the drum with two, tap to the side of the drum with one stylus, tap to the side with two. But with differing hardness levels between tracks, not to mention differing hardness settings overall, the gameplay builds into a frenetic smash and thunder of drums as you hammer the song home through a combination of single and double taps, and lengthy combos like drum rolls or special object beats.
And it's not easy. You have to get over 80% in order to get a completion for each song, and some are virtually impossible until you're more familiar with them. Because the drum itself doesn't move on screen, you feel completely in control, and the play is intuitive. Once you've properly got into a groove, you can feel yourself relaxing, and your moves becoming fluid - you're allowed that extra breathing space for a few seconds where you can forget, or pretend to forget, that you're playing a game. Now, we're not idiots - two teeny bits of plastic aren't the real thing, but for a glorious few seconds of bashing joy, it's the closest, most fun thing we've got.