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Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (DS) artwork

Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (DS) review


"Intelligent gamers around the globe imported Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan when it was released in 2005. Iím not that smart. Elite Beat Agents had to smash its quirky brilliance into my brain to make me realize that its Japanese predecessor could be anything more than a foreign novelty. This is, after all, a game where a male cheerleading squad inspires people to overcome lifeís tribulations. Some of Ouendanís signature humor is lost without translation, but this rhythm gameís pr..."



Intelligent gamers around the globe imported Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan when it was released in 2005. Iím not that smart. Elite Beat Agents had to smash its quirky brilliance into my brain to make me realize that its Japanese predecessor could be anything more than a foreign novelty. This is, after all, a game where a male cheerleading squad inspires people to overcome lifeís tribulations. Some of Ouendanís signature humor is lost without translation, but this rhythm gameís principal appeal comes through in the universal language of music.

The two counterparts donít share any audio or visual content, but the gameplay basics are exactly the same. As a dramatic narrative unfolds on the top screen Ė told through manga-style panels Ė an appropriately paced song accompanies the action. On the bottom screen, series of numbered circles appear with the music, and you must tap, drag, and spin with your stylus in time with the beat in order to guide the story to a happy conclusion.

Achieving that joyous resolution takes some practice. The cheerleaders inhabit the background of the lower monitor, and their movements are deliberate and mechanical. In contrast, your hand has to fly around to keep pace with the frantic patterns, lest your life meter run dry and the episode end early. There are always timing rings present that contract around the circles, giving an accurate measure of when to tap. On the first difficulty level, the rings appear well in advance and close in slowly. By the fourth and final setting, these move at lightning speed, and the targets are smaller and more plentiful. By that time, success will only come if you can memorize and deftly master the choreography.

The hardest part of the entire experience may be acclimating yourself to the foreign beat; Ouendan is naturally packed with J-Pop and J-Rock. Individual styles vary within, but the overall sound is just different from Western music. Ready Steady Go!, featured in the anime Fullmetal Alchemist, is the only widely recognizable tune. Other than the unfamiliar intonation, though, this version actually feels slightly less taxing than its American companion. As always, the patterns you must follow on the touch screen are beautifully intuitive, guiding your motion instinctively from one target to the next. But it also feels as if there are a few more lazy drags and spins here, covering up crowded passages of the melody that would have added extra challenge.

The unusual cadence may give you fits, but at least you wonít need to comprehend the Japanese language in order to enjoy this game. Even if you donít have previous knowledge from EBA , Ouendanís menus are really easy to navigate because there just arenít that many options. Once youíve selected a difficulty setting, you choose from the fifteen songs and scenarios by navigating a simplistic city pictoral; no words are required. Of course, lack of fluency affects you occasionally. Thereís one story where a dead man tries to make contact with the girlfriend he left behind. Iíd love to be able to read the heartfelt words they exchange at the end.

Otherwise, the emphatic art style conveys plenty of information about the events (all the speed lines will make you dizzy), and it's more apt to conjure laughter than tears. Some stories invigorate ordinary life, like how a cook struggles to get his new ramen shop up and running. If you fail him, he winds up on his hands and knees, weeping in front of his eternally closed storefront. Others are more fanciful. An overworked salaryman must literally rise to protect his city from a fifty-story monster mouse; he grows to match its size, and they exchange haymakers in the street. You even get a revised history lesson, learning how a fatty Cleopatra slimmed down in time to seduce Mark Antony.

Unfortunately, Ouendan lacks one of EBAís nicer extra features. In Elite Beat you can save your best performance of every song, either to watch later or to use as a competitive ghost in multiplayer. This lets you see even more silly scenarios exclusive to the two-player settings. Ouendan, though, doesnít preserve your achievements. So to take advantage of the versus and co-op modes, you need another person. And another cartridge. Thereís no download play or wi-fi available.

But if you can convince someone else to buy this game, they should thank you later. Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is a completely enthralling experience. The careful layout of the touch screen elements flows perfectly with the music, and the Japanese songs expose you to a new and even exotic kind of sound. The stories are odd and outrageous enough to grab your attention and elicit some laughs, but also simple enough to follow without the benefit of dialogue. And the varied difficulty levels provide a challenge to players of all ability levels. Ouendan is a game with universal appeal that should find a place in your collection. If youíre smart.

Rating: 9/10

woodhouse's avatar
Featured community review by woodhouse (April 05, 2007)

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