"With DS rhythm games winning hearts on both sides of the Pacific, iNiS has developed a formula that works, and Moero Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu Tatakae Ouendan 2 doesn’t deviate from the mold. The musical adventure follows the (mostly) male cheerleading crew introduced in the first Ouendan; you must aid their efforts to boost the spirits of people in need. It then borrows the best technical features from its American cousin, Elite Beat Agents, to offer a subtly improv..."
With DS rhythm games winning hearts on both sides of the Pacific, iNiS has developed a formula that works, and Moero Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu Tatakae Ouendan 2 doesn’t deviate from the mold. The musical adventure follows the (mostly) male cheerleading crew introduced in the first Ouendan; you must aid their efforts to boost the spirits of people in need. It then borrows the best technical features from its American cousin, Elite Beat Agents, to offer a subtly improved interface and a more functional range of multiplayer options. Hardly anything feels brand new, but the result is another rhythm game full of hot, burning passion.
The basic gameplay mechanics remain largely unchanged. Most of your rhythmic skill goes into tapping with the stylus. As numbered sequences appear across the touch screen, timing circles contract around the target, and when the two meet, your hand dances around in time with the beat. Spins mainly manifest to finish of a powerful phrase, and they require you to rack up a minimum number of rotations in a small amount of time. The final maneuver, slides, are better utilized here than in the first Ouendan. Previously, these were long, slow drags that served as a break from the frantic action. Now, many are short and integrated into the middle of passages, varying the pace and upping the challenge.
Still, veterans may be a little bored by the first two difficulty settings, where you peck at the screen only a few times per measure. Upon unlocking the other half, though, Ouendan 2 returns to a feverish clip; suddenly you’re looking at patterns that flow across the screen and cover every beat of the melody. And then, you might not see those patterns at all. Accumulate enough points and you unlock an option to turn off all the guides. The timing rings are no more, and on the top levels, the numbered sequences begin to fade away earlier and earlier. Your memory has to take over to complete these advanced (impossible!) demands.
But the cheer squad faces a new challenge of their own. We’re used to exclusively observing our scruffy band of cheerleaders perform their demonstrative routine in the background of the touch screen. Now, a rival group has arrived on the scene; they’re formal, proper, and clash with our boisterous team. (Thankfully, they brought their own set of cheer girls.) The city has been split down the middle, and each company has claimed a side. Unfortunately, the exact nature of this conflict can’t be fully discerned by non-Japanese speakers.
Easy accessibility was one the best qualities of the first Ouendan. The stories that accompanied each song were laid out in vibrant, manga-styled panels on the top screen. Even without understanding the dialogue, you could easily appreciate each character’s simple plight. With accurate play, you could applaud their victories. If you happened to perform poorly, you could laugh with their comical misfortune.
The same method is utilized here, and you’ll even check in with some familiar faces. The student you helped to pass his entrance exams is now nervously applying for a job. The couple you united now has a son, but he’s having trouble with wetting the bed. Of course, there are enjoyable new adventures as well. A pair of dueling barbers must compete for the affections of their shopgirl. A shoe salesman ventures to the moon to unload his surplus product on aliens. But eventually, a few of the scenarios become so outrageous that it’s hard to tell exactly what’s happening. As with the new rivalry, you’ll probably still laugh; you just won’t understand why.
The music will most likely be unfamiliar as well. The first Ouendan had one recognizable song, at least to anime fans, in Ready! Steady! Go! from Full Metal Alchemist. The sequel doesn’t possess one signature tune, but fans of Japanese music will recognize the sound of popular acts like Ken Hirai, HYDE, SMAP, and Sambomaster. The sound only, though, since these songs are still mostly covers. For everyone else, all nineteen of the upbeat, fast-paced songs offer an excellent sampling to different styles of J-Pop/Rock.
The stories and music may leave the western audience a little in the dark, but the user interface is easy to figure out, and it really helps that Ouendan 2 has adopted some helpful features from Elite Beat Agents. Almost all menu options have a user-friendly icon beside them. For example, single-player shows one cheer member, while multiplayer shows a group. The individual songs are chosen from a city map; the characters jump around if they need help, and hold up a flag if you’ve cleared their stage. When you select one, the game displays your high score and grade, so it’s easy to see where you need to improve most – something not available in the first Ouendan.
Multiplayer is where this game has developed over its predecessor... at least if you’re alone. Ouendan 2 can accommodate four players in both versus and co-op modes – complete with new, hilarious scenarios – but each player will need their own game cartridge. If none of your friends will cheer with you, though, you can still play against yourself. By saving your performances in the single-player game, you can compete with the ghost in multiplayer action.
Ouendan 2 doesn’t break too much ground, but it is superior to the original. Minor tweaks make the gameplay a bit more challenging, and then the new “invisible” mode blows everything away. The number of songs on the soundtrack has increased almost 25%. The inclusion of EBA’s feature set makes the game navigation more convenient and allows you to relive past triumphs. With all this progress, could you ask for anything more?
Community review by woodhouse (July 13, 2007)
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