Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! – Rhythm Party Paradise
It’s finally here, and it is glorious. For Australian rhythm game fans, this is a momentous occasion as we receive not only one but two localised Taiko no Tatsujin title courtesy of Bandai Namco. Originating in Japan in 2001, Taiko no Tatsujin boils rhythm gaming down to a simple two-note form, paying homage to most traditional forms of cultural drumming including that of Japan. For those on PS4, you can pick up Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session, a slightly different game with a bigger emphasis on solo play. Here at Player2, we requested to cover Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun, the Nintendo Switch release which is more focused on multiplayer.
I say without hesitation that Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun, as its title suggests, is some of the most fun I’ve had on my Nintendo Switch. This is in no small part thanks to the quality of the Joycons which, when combined with HD Rumble, finally make me feel like motion-controlled rhythm gaming is a viable option and not just an almost forgotten Nintendo meme. If you happen to be on a crowded train, by all means, keep those Joycons attached to the main Switch unit – playing with the face buttons is still a viable option and no doubt where many of the highest scores should be chased. Anywhere else and you owe it to yourself to set both Joycons and your spirit free, air-drumming your way along the rainbow coloured pathway Taiko no Tastujin will lead you down. Whilst there was a physical Taiko drum controller available to purchase exclusively through the Banda Namco EU store, it sold out very quickly. The set can still be sourced from a number of websites, albeit at a fairly inflated price – personally, I’m going to give these Joycon attachments a crack and see how I go.
Lead by the series’ iconic characters Don and Katsu (who double as the two types of notes played) Taiko no Tatsujin seems somewhat barebones when first loaded up, with only three modes to choose from. Taiko Mode doubles as the standard arcade mode in single player, but also allows either Co-Op or a VS match between two players. There are over 60 tracks to choose from and more to unlock, covering a range of genres including both original and licensed tracks ranging from classical pieces to the Japanese language version of ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from Disney’s Moana. To be honest, the tracklist is not going to please everyone – if you can dig the multi-coloured visuals and have a passing interest in J-Pop, you’re probably good to go. If the last few sentences aren’t to your tastes, then Taiko no Tatsujin should probably be a hard pass. Most rhythm games live and die by their song selection and Bandai Namco has (rightly) chosen to give the west the full Japanese Taiko no Tatsujin experience rather than localising the music as well as the text.
It might sound like only two notes would be a walk in the park, unlike the standard 4 to 8 button modes of contemporaries like DJ Max and Musynx but the harder difficulty modes will test even the most seasoned of rhythm players, especially if some of the many modifiers like invisible notes and swapped note charts are enabled. For anyone who wants to throw the game up on their big screen via the Dock, you’ll be pleased to know that unlike Gal Metal, there are a plenty of options for lag compensation in Taiko no Tatsujin with the HD Rumble in the Joycons making it a breeze to calibrate for any particular display.
Elsewhere, the Party Game Mode allows anywhere from 1 to 4 players to participate in rhythm inspired mini-games which are a great way to break up the standard gameplay of Taiko Mode for those flying solo. Whether it’s competing to order sushi or working together to carry a shrine, these Rhythm Heaven-esque sequences are a blast with a partner or group and are the sort of thing that, with a spare set of Joycons, should get the whole family crowded around the Switch for months to come. Local Wireless Multiplayer is also an option and allows for Versus and Co-Op play, but if you’re anything like me you’ve got more chance of winning Powerball than you do finding someone to play this game locally with.
In the space of a year, the Nintendo Switch has set itself up as the premier choice of console for rhythm gamers, with Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun the most polished of the genre on the system and my personal recommendation as the best place for newcomers to start rhythm gaming period. Hopefully Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun does well enough for Bandai Namco that our first Australian release of the series isn’t our last.
It was whilst toiling away in the bowels of the now mythical Australian Gamer forums that Stephen del Prados attempts at writing were recognised by then up-and-coming Matt ‘Hewso’ Hewson as “not terrible”. Since then Stephen has contributed to such sites as The Age’s now defunct Screen Play, the recently retired Black Panel and currently serves under Editor-in-Chief Hewso for Player2.net.au, at least until the pattern of decline obvious in his previous engagements is picked up by Hewso and he is exiled from games journalism forever