Despite it being the third entry in what is to non-Japanese eyes a niche series on a dead system, Taiko no Tatsujin Portable DX is one of those games for which the boxart will likely be recognisable to anyone who regularly imports or keeps up with Japanese releases, whether they have played any of the multitude of titles in the series or not.
Taiko no Tatsujin is a series of rhythm action games that has appeared on platforms as diverse as PS2, Wii, DS, PSP and also in the arcade. Although usually a game played with the Taiko drum controller peripheral, the PSP games are limited to D-pad and face/shoulder button inputs. Some may argue that this takes some of the fun and spectacle away from the game, but they stand on their own as a more traditional way to play the game.
The controls are simple red and blue symbols flow from right to left across the screen and must be pressed in time whenever they enter a circle the D-pad or face buttons for the red and the L or R shoulder button for blue. Bigger versions of the coloured symbols will also appear and in this case, two D-pad/face buttons or both the L and R buttons must be pressed simultaneously. Yellow sections indicate a freestyle section of sorts, where any buttons presses count and there are a couple of others where the buttons must be pressed rapidly. It lacks the more in-depth controls of something like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, but it is simple to pick up and play.
Adding depth are multiple difficulty levels, each representing quite a step up in challenge from the last. The player's performance is rated at the end of each song and gold, silver and bronze crowns awarded accordingly. The draw of mastering each song on each difficulty and obtaining a full set of gold crowns is certainly a good reason to keep coming back for repeat plays, as is the high-pitched cry of full combo! upon hitting each note in a song.
As well as the standard single player mode, a story mode helps to bulk out the content and provide a reason to come back once all the songs have been mastered. Story mode sees players command an army of Taiko drums, selecting areas on a map and facing off against enemies in an attempt to take over that area and eventually the map as a whole. As the player successfully hits notes on time, their on-screen character will play out a battle against the enemy in an attempt to see who has hit the most successful notes and therefore gained the most ground by the time the music stops. The player starts each battle with an overall number of drums in their army and, during the course of each song, this number will deplete depending on how well or badly they performed. There are separate short challenge songs available which, if performed successfully, will replenish the players total amount of drums, giving them more of a chance during the map battles. This is a mode that will really appeal to veterans of the series as it provides more reason to play than just getting a high score in each song and has the potential to add a few hours onto the overall play time.
Rhythm action games live and die by their song selection and this is where the game will either pull players in or push them away. There are sixty nine available from the start, with more available as unlocks and DLC. They encompass a wide variety of genres but, as in all Taiko no Tatsujin games, are loosely categorised into J-Pop, TV themes, anime, games and classical. It may be the case that only the most dedicated connoisseur of Japanese Pop-Culture will be able to recognise them all, but of special interest are the ones taken from games and these include the likes of Monster Hunter, Idolmaster, God Eater Burst, Project Diva 2, Ryu ga Gotoku Of The End and, perhaps most brilliantly, a rendition of the classic Magical Sound Shower from the original Outrun. Seeing a cast of colourful characters dance along adds some charm to songs that players may recognise from some of their favourite games. Song repetition is something of an issue as quite a few have made appearances in one or more of the recent games in the series, but the new songs feel for the most part like worthy additions, making it a non-issue for all but those who are constantly playing the prior games.
Charm is what makes Taiko no Tatsujin Portable DX stand out amongst the others in its genre. Even going into the game with no knowledge of either the songs or the series as a whole, it would take a heart of stone not to be attracted to the enthusiastic shouting, bright colours and catchy, incomprehensible songs it is a game that almost guarantees that the person playing will come away with a smile on their face. After all, who can really resist a hyperactive Taiko drum with Hatsune Miku hair and Idolmaster ribbons?
- Lots of songs and a story mode add longevity.
- Bright, colourful and happy.
- Easy to pick up and play.
- Song selection won't appeal to everyone.
- Some songs that appear in previous games.
- Mechanics may be too simple for some.
Buy this at PlayAsia