Many, many months ago, I wrote here about the game that lured me into caring about the Nintendo DS – a highly original, visually intense music title called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Illustrated with classic Japanese manga-style artwork, the game was half comic book, half rhythm and percussion, and 100% rockin. To this day, it’s one of the best titles to demonstrate the DS’s unique double-screened, touch-sensitive design and audio hardware.
It took more than a year, but Nintendo and original developer iNiS have just released Elite Beat Agents, a thorough remake of Ouendan designed to appeal – well, more – to American audiences. Elite Beat Agents (EBA) preserves Ouendan’s gameplay, art and storytelling styles, and even its key theme – various people in troubling situations call out a team of three guys to help rock them out of their blues. You use the touchscreen to tap your way through a number of songs, each increasing in number and speed of beats as you go along, and watch the scenarios play out on the top screen while you’re tapping or taking a breather. As a brief recap of our prior article, a number appears on screen with a concentric, ever-shrinking circle; you use the DS’s stylus to tap the number at the second the circle directly overlaps the number, keeping the beat. A mediocre but explanatory video can be found here.
During this trip to Japan, EBA has been receiving more than its fair share of attention relative to the iPods we’ve been carrying. It’s taken me several days worth of airplane, subway, and train rides to beat just the beginner level version of the game, which was more than modestly entertaining throughout its entire run thanks to both the scenarios and music. There was the babysitter who’s forced to take care of kids while on a date of sorts, the Paris and Nicky Hilton wannabes marooned on a desert island, the washed-out baseball player, and the bankrupt oilman with the big-spending wife – all short comic-strip presentations, set to songs recognizable by Westerners. David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Jamiroquai’s Canned Heat, Avril Lavigne’s Sk8tr Boi, and The Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash are just a handful of the tracks.
The nice surprise here: unlike Nintendo’s earlier Donkey Konga drum title, which used almost repulsively bad remakes of the featured songs, EBA’s versions are close enough to the original songs that you won’t mind any of them – they actually sound good enough to just enjoy while you’re tapping through the game. And even having finished the Beginners’ version of the game, complete with a real and exciting ending, there were tracks – such as one from the Jackson 5, and one from Madonna – that I hadn’t heard yet. All the more reason to replay, which I intend to do as we prepare to fly to Singapore tomorrow.
Elite Beat Agents is the sort of game the iPod needs if it wants to be a credible game playing device – a nice mix of music and art that takes advantage of a unique control scheme and keeps you rocking. It’s definitely one of my favorite DS titles, and hugely worth your time if you have a system – otherwise, a good wish list item for the holidays.