Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!

I'd post the following on epinions, except they don't have this import only Nintendo DS title listed anywhere, and as far as I could tell no timely way of adding it to the list. So, my review of the game goes here. It is likely that later my review of Jump Super Stars will go here as well, as I didn't see that either. But I digress...

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is like any good Anime in that explaining the basic concept of the game doesn't endear it to anyone, despite the actually quality thereof. I will do so anyway. The basic plot of Ouendan is that you control a trio of male cheerleaders (decked out in black trenchcoats) who, by their cheering and dancing to popular JPop tunes, allow people in need and desperate situations to succeed. Situations such as a high school student trying to do his homework while his uncaring family make a lot of noise and disrupt his studies.

Honestly, were it not for the demo I was able to try out I wouldn't have laid a finger on the game. I'm glad I didn't abstain.

The mechanism for the support you give the needy people relies entirely on the DS's touch screen. No direction pads, no A or B buttons, nothing save the start button for pausing. Everything is done via the stylus. Basically, each level has a Japanese Pop song connected with it. In line with the beat of the song buttons appear on the touch pad screen which you must hit with the correct timing. The buttons are numbered for proper order, and the timing is noted by a circle which slowly shrinks around the button until it matches the button's size (which is the bullseye point to hit the button). The proximity to the bullseye timing will determine whether you score 300, 100, or 50 points for your timing in addition to points for actually hitting the button properly. If you hit it far too soon or late (or not at all) a nice big red X crosses out the button letting you know you failed. The key to hitting these buttons is in the music, as all the button's bullseye timings line up perfectly with the beat of the music.

Getting the timing down on these buttons takes a little work. I experienced early on issues in that the instant anything appeared on screen my instinct was to hit it immediately, resulting in utter failure. After some practice, you begin to get the hang of hitting the buttons, which is extremely important to getting good scores. Because of the number of buttons that eventually pop up in a given level, and given that the more buttons and other functions you get in a row without missing acts as a multiplier for your score, hitting them (and especially dead on) consistantly is critical.

There are two other mechanisms that come up during songs you must deal with. The first is very similar to the buttons. A circular button with a number on it appears, along with the familiar shrinking circle. But this button is connected to a visible path. In addition to hitting the button, you must follow a ball which rolls along the path (which appears and begins to roll once the bullseye point of the button is reached). Sometimes, a marker on the end of the path indicates you will need to follow the ball again, but in the reverse direction. This reversal can happen many times.

The other mechanism is a wheel which takes up the entire screen. It resembles a ying yang, save that it has three parts. You must spin the wheel by tracing a circular motion around the touch pad. As you spin the wheel, volume meters slowly build up on the left and right sides of the screen, which you must maximize before a shrinking circle encloses the center of the wheel. If you manage to spin the wheel more than necessary, you get bonus points.

The game sounds complicated, but there is a very nice tutorial which, though in japanese, explains everything visually very nicely. Thankfully, the tutorial is accessible even after your first play, so any friends who want to try won't require a deep explanation of everything from you.

The music in the game is excellent. This is extrememly important, as you will be hearing a lot of it. The music can't be called background music because of how important it is to succeeding. However, if you happen to have an aversion to JPop, that's a very good reason to stay away from this game. Addicting as the gameplay is, it isn't worth forcing a despised genre of music down your throat. Still, if you are indifferent, or uninformed, the music is varied and somehow fits the situations very well. If you love JPop, these are excellent examples of JPop, though performed by soundalikes.

As mentioned just before, the gameplay is very addicting. There are easy and normal difficulty modes to begin with, as well as an unlockable hard mode. Within a difficulty mode there are a about a dozen levels, which are unlocked in sets of about three. Each set is harder than the last, which provides a nice progression from difficulty to difficulty.

Each level consists of scoring via the three mechanisms detailed earlier. However, there is more to it than that. There is a 'health' meter on the top of the touch screen which is a measure of how well you are doing. As the song progresses, a marker which rests on the right end of the meter slowly moves left. If it reaches the end, you lose the level and must either try again or give up. With each miss, it moves left faster for a time. With each successful hit, spin, or roll you refill the meter. The meter is split into a red left half, and a yellow right half. If you fall into the red, the person you are trying to help (depicted on the top screen) will falter, and fail to achieve goals which will lead them to success. Each level is split into three or four goal sections (achieving something such as the approval from Dad for studying, or the respect of your brother), as well as one final section leading to the end of the song. If you're in the red, you'll fail the goals. This doesn't prevent you from succeeding overall, but does factor into your grade. Your grade is given after completing a level (you don't get one if you fail). Whether you completed goals, how many buttons you missed, and how accurately you hit the buttons factor into your grade (C, B, A or the coveted S. There may be a D grade, but more often than not I just failed outright rather than barely, barely pass).

The gameplay is addicting to say the least. When you first begin a level, you'll struggle at first to even complete the level. Then you'll struggle to complete it with all the objectives successful. Then to complete it without missing a beat. And finally to achieve an S grade.

Overall, the game is extremely good. I find myself liking it very much, even after repeated play. I unfortunately haven't had the chance to try out the multiplayer options, but there is a mode which allows for people without Ouendan carts to play as well, a large bonus for a game not traveling overseas. The hard difficulty is just that, hard (enjoyably so). The anime styled situations are humorous to say the least, and sometimes ridiculous (and hilarious). After the inital homework level, you'll be doing overtime work at the office, cleaning up a ramen shop to drum up business, and even helping a race horse to win a derby and stop a robber on a motorcycle (and that's just the tip of the iceberg). It is extremely difficult, however, to take enjoy watching what the people you're helping are doing while you are playing. Fortunately, you can watch a replay after completing a level, allowing you to focus more on the top screen then what you did on the bottom.

The game only fails in that being so addictive, it can cause severe muscle pain. Because of all the spinning, tapping and rolling you'll have to do, playing this game for hours on end will result in some sore arm muscles. I played the game for five hours straight the day I bought it (my host parents were late coming home and I was worried), and wasn't able to play the game for two days afterwards because of a sore muscle just behind my elbow.

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! was exactly the unique, japanese, zany import game experience I was looking for. I would highly reccomend this game to anyone who asks, or reads this. Most of you will get a shot at it when I come home, so fear not.

Overall Rating:9

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There isnt just a "Hard" mode, there is a second unlockable mode, "Very hard/insane". And multiplayer is superfun, the versus mode has different storylines, while the coop is even better. I still need to try it with more than one more person though..

but, do you happen to know WHAT the robber is actually stealing?