Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (DS) review
"Nintendo's Ouendan is the feel good, surprise hit of the year. Coming straight out of left field, it's infectious good will and high spirits are guaranteed to make a believer of anyone dissatisfied with life. Like the way its hapless characters find themselves confronted and confounded by everyday troubles, players will no doubt identify with the situations they face."
Nintendo's Ouendan is the feel good, surprise hit of the year. Coming straight out of left field, its infectious good will and high spirits are guaranteed to make a believer of anyone dissatisfied with life. Like the way its hapless characters find themselves confronted and confounded by everyday troubles, players will no doubt identify with the situations they face. Be it the lonesome student who's studying for an examination, or a violinist trapped in a crowd as his bowels turn slowly to water, these examples represent our life as a whole, albeit poured through a looking glass of absurd lunacy. For you see, what separates Ouendan from reality is the way three young, Japanese punks answer the assorted cries for help, not looking to capitalize on misfortune so much as to cheer our heroes onwards to victory.
Let the fires of justice burn young man. Today you'll reach your dreams... Ouendaannn!
When I first brought my Nintendo DS, I had certain expectations for the unit, none of which included musical gaming. But what did I know? Jammin' with the Band was Nintendo's first crack at the genre, Eletroplankton then picked up the slack, raising the bar with its user created ditties and hypnotic good times. Ouendan on the other hand harkens back to a Space Channel 5 style of gaming, presenting players with a series of musical prompts that are thusly tapped out in time to the beat. And though such simple gameplay may appear formulatic, be under no illusion that it's still as addictive as ever.
Ouendan begins innocently enough then, as players are presented with a bird's eye view of a small Japanese city. Moving the stylus across the screen reveals the presence of a local population, all of whom it seems are struggling with a crisis of confidence. A budding ramen chef for example has just opened up shop, yet outside of a cat that occasionally urinates on his door step, his business has been doing rather poorly. But that's ok, enter our aforementioned punks, their eyes full of determination and a song in their hearts. The music starts, your feet begin to tap, and it's...
San, ni, ich... GO!
Utilizing both screens, the DS presents the main action across the lower portions of the unit with the upper display being used to show the effects you're currently having. As the ramen chef returns to work with renewed vigor, your dancing, cheering troupe of Japanese punks move in time with the music. A meter then keeps a track of how well you're doing and should you miss too many prompts, you'll find yourself unceremoniously ejected to the main menu. When a song finally clicks however, everything falls into place, and the sense of accomplishment is further amplified as your skills continue to develop. There's a challenge to be had alright, particularly across the higher skill levels where an inhuman level of touch screen dexterity is expected.
But admittedly, typed out like that, Ouendan doesn't seem like very much at all. Just another, run-of-the-mill musical action game, the likes of which you've seen before. If the truth be told then, that's exactly what Ouendan is, but that's not to say you won't be having the time of your life. You see, Nintendo have infused each of the game's "chapters" with some great visual humor, and what it lacks in originality it easily makes up for with style and heart. You can't help but feel victorious when a character is finally able to rise up against the odds, achieving their dreams or simply making it to the bathroom on time. And it's with a smile on your face that you'll push forever onwards, challenging the next stage and a personal best.
If the gameplay holds nothing new then, prospective players may be interested to learn how Ouendan features a full, CD-style audio soundtrack... something I didn't think the DS capable of. The sugar coated sounds of Morning Musume's Koi no Dance Site feel surprisingly apt, and sit well next to Urufuru's Gatsu Daze and the classic JRock beats of Linda Linda. Better yet, Ouendan has none of the musical filler that spoiled Donkey Konga's subsequent outings, the assorted Mario/Zelda themes have not been included. Yet as good as it gets, it's disappointing to note how the DS seems incapable of doing the tunes justice. Tinny, hollow, and lacking in bass? Yes, I believe that's exactly right. Keep a pair of headphones on hand though and you'll do just fine...
The question however is this, should you import Ouendan immediately? The words, oh hell yes spring to mind. For if Nintnedo ever granted it a Western release, I believe much of the experience would be lost in the process. Our English songs may be more readily identifiable with the common Joe, but what we have here is a game so uniquely Japanese that it demands to be played with its native sounds intact. Furthermore, players with zero Japanese ability shouldn't have too much of a problem navigating the game's basic menu structure. The highly comical situations encountered will be perfectly understandable, with the resulting bridge between both Japanese and Western cultures seemingly all the smaller for it.
If you need some cheering up, Ouendan is the game for you.
If you need a good laugh, Ouendan is the game for you.
If you just need to just get down and shake your grove thing, Ouendan is definitely the game for you.
Check it out!
* Ouendan will leave you smiling
* With two skill modes, even the most uncoordinated of players will stand a chance
* The touch screen works a treat
* Simple, pick up and play gaming
* There's some fantastic humor to be had
* Fantastic, anime-esque visuals
* Ouendan features a great play-list of Jpop classics
* Nintendo have infused the game with a great sense of emotional achievement
* Multiplayer anyone?
* The game system is quite unforgiving
* JPop may not be to everyone's taste
* The DS' speakers make the music sound tinny and hollow
Staff review by Michael Scott (July 31, 2005)
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