For the uninitiated, Taiko no Tatsujin is a rhythm game series, based around the Taiko drum. Console releases in the past have had optional drum peripherals available, mimicking their arcade counterparts, but whereas the PSP games relied solely on button input, Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigi na Orb (which translates as "Litte Dragon and the Mysterious Orb") follows on from the DS versions in taking advantage of the touchscreen, allowing the use of the two stylui that are included in the box to provide an experience more akin to the console and arcade versions via a virtual drum on the bottom screen.
As notes pass from right to left, the correct button or area of the touchscreen must be hit as they pass over a marker. Red notes relate to the face of the drum or any of the d-pad or face buttons, with blue ones being mapped to the outer edge of the drum or the L/R shoulder buttons. Larger versions of these notes require both stylus' to hit a section of the drum, or alternatively, pressing any two directions or buttons simultaneously. Yellow "freestyle" notes round out the input options, allowing frantic bashing of touchscreen or buttons in order to increase the overall score. This is a series that is perfect for sharing with those who don't usually play games as it can be picked up and learnt almost instantly.
So what is there to attract long-term series fans? The main draw is the adventure mode that is inherant to the portable versions. Each one has been slightly different over the years, but essentially they boil down to being a story mode where battles are fought with enemies via playing songs in the usual way, albeit with some alterations to keep things interesting. Here, our intrepid Taiko drum travels across several regions with the titular Chibi dragon in tow, facing off against foes until a boss appears. Once defeated, one of the games seven Mysterious Orbs are awarded, each able to be used in the battles as an elemental power up. Before battle, the choice of orbs that have been captured is given and brought into the fight. Some, such as the fire orb, see the dragon attack the boss with a powerful attack in the middle of the song. Others are more tactical, such as the orange one which sees the larger notes deal out more damage. Whilst it's by no means a complex or particularly deep mode, using the right orb against the right enemy will see them taken down faster and more efficiently, in turn affecting the score, something that is all important in what is, at the end of the day, an arcade experience.
Unsurprisingly, it's the 3D effect that is the most noticeable change to the game. When fighting bosses, they will use a variety of attacks that cover or distort the scrolling notes, making them harder to see and easier to miss. Whilst this is the same formula as in the previous games, the 3D really stands out, making it both more pleasant to look at (it's mostly "pop-out" 3D) and frustrating in equal measure.
The songlist is always going to be something you'll either love or hate, depending on how much tolerance you have for J-Pop and the like. The usual offering of anime and game themes, kids songs and classical numbers are here with the standard difficulty levels ranging from almost insultingly easy to the sort of challenge that makes the chanced of 3DS meeting wall all the more likely.
It's not just completing the adventure mode and trying to earn a gold crown (awarded after a no-miss run) on each song though, as there is plenty to unlock. New songs are awarded once bosses have been defeated, and new costumes that give Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai competition for most ridiculously cute game on the system are handed out once a certain amount of crowns have been earned. It's not going to add months to the replay value, but it does provide a nice – and sickeningly cute – reason to replay songs, other than attempting to beat previous high scores.
In the end, long-term series fans will want to check out the new track list and adventure mode and those with an import 3DS will probably be the sort of people that this game will appeal to, with its very Japanese nature. Whether the songs on offer are better than past entries is up for debate, but the 3D effects definitely add something to the main mode, making it one of, if not the, best that has been seen to date.
- Fantastic adventure mode.
- Some nice 3D.
- Varied tracklist. Should be something for everyone.
- Evolution, not revolution of the usual formula.
- Those not as versed in Japanese Pop-Culture won't get as much from the game.
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Other Versions: N/A
Version Reviewed: Japanese