Elite Beat Agents
It's the best game you've never played. No, not Hello Kitty Island Adventure, but Ouendan, a typically goofy Japanese rhythm game that arrived with little fanfare in the Land of the Rising Sun when it was released on the DS last year.
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But for all it's difficulties in Japan, Ouendan gained cult status as importers brought the game here to the U.S., obsessed with the bizarre comic-book storytelling of an all-male cheering squad that travels Japan helping citizens with their daily lives and the rhythmic J-pop stylus-tapping that follows. Sound odd? You bet; and it's one of the best games you can own for the DS.
Agents Are GO!
PROTIP: It's hard to master a song on a first try, so use it as an opportunity see where markers are and what sort of rhythm it has.
Now Nintendo, likely seeing the potential for a American-bred hit in the vein of Ouendan, has released Elite Beat Agents in the U.S. But does it match the deft combination of humor, catchy music, and slick cartoonish presentation that Ouendan offered? Surprisingly, yes, but not exactly.
Thankfully, the most important elements of the game remain largely intact: fun rhythm gameplay, in which you essentially tap markers that go along with the music; off-the-wall, and at times hilarious stories told in comic-book format; and great replayability with a large number of levels and variable difficulties. You'll find yourself furiously tapping your DS with precision strikes as you try stay timed to the music. But even when you fail, and you will, frustration is replaced with sheer determination to overcome your bizarre musical challenge; the game is just too darn fun.
PROTIP: Build up combos as often and for as long as you can to keep your life meter full.
But remember where I said "not exactly"? Right, that's because for all that Nintendo got right, they made a few glaring mistakes. The worst offender is the song selection; it's a veritable cornucopia of musical variety, some great, like David Bowie's "Let's Dance" or The Rolling Stones "Jumping Jack Flash", and some ear-bleedingly bad; think of such gems as "La La" by Ashlee Simpson or Cher's "Believe". Granted, for those as indiscriminate in their musical tastes as a fat kid is when ordering at McDonalds this won't come off as a problem, but for the rest of us, it's jarring to find such quality mingling with what few would qualify as "music".
Purists would say that Ouendan's humor, J-pop soundtrack, and Japanese dialogue make for an overall better game. While it's true some of the quirkiness of the humor is better conveyed in the Japanese counterpart, Elite Beat Agents is no slouch, and is an overall very fun game. For those who already own Ouendan, you'll find Elite Beat Agents retains much of what made the Japanese original so much fun. For those new to the DS rhythm game experience, Elite Beat Agents is a great introduction to a series we'll hopefully see more of on the DS.
PROTIP: Don't get distracted by what's happening on the top screen, otherwise you're timing might get off.