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REVIEW: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (Nintendo DS)

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is quite possibly the most obtuse game I have ever played. But also one of the best games I have ever played on the DS. As a member of your local ‘helper squadron’, you are dispatched to help people in your neighbourhood who need your support. Your support however is slightly different to what you might expect. You are for all intents and purposes, a male cheerleader. Simple as that. So why does a game with a premise like that deserve such attention? Read on…

The game can be played no matter how little Japanese you understand (if any). The game starts with a tutorial that is self-explanatory and runs you through the controls. The game is controlled solely on the touch-screen, with the whole gameplay restricted to that screen. The top screen displays an animation of the specific character in need. To play, you hit the numbered panels on the screen with the stylus in time to the music. Sometimes you have to roll a ball (dragging) between two points, and sometimes rotate a dial as fast as you can. Sounds boring, but like most games where you have to folow the music, they work better in practice.

The game has a good pedigree too, coming from the makers of Gitaroo Man, the PS2 music-action game. With a large selection of J-Pop music (15 levels, 15 songs) it sounds as good as it plays, the music perfectly selected for each level. Ah yes, the number of levels. 15 levels, each as long as their songs. So, all in all, around about 80 minutes of game play, yes? No. Hitting the ‘hit markers’ takes a little getting used to, and you’re scored on how close you were to hitting it on time, so you can hit one early, but lose points as a result. Miss a hit marker, an you and your fellow helpers fall arse-over-tit.

To add another level of accuracy, you have a meter at the top of the screen. Split into red and yellow sections, the meter is continually ticking down to zero. Hitting the hit markers bumps the meter back up, but miss one and you lose out on precious time, and getting back into the rhythm of the game after missing one is hard, as you lose the beat. If the meter reaches the red zone, the story on the top screen takes a turn for the worse. If the meter runs out, game over. In other words, it’s quite easy to mess up, and consequently lose, thus restarting the levels becomes a regular occurence. Also, each game you play is ranked, egging you on to retry the levels just to get a better ranking. Add in two characters to play as (same storylines, but different patterns of hit markers, so you play 1-player mode twice), wireless multiplay and an engrossing storyline (even when it’s in Japanese), and you have a very different, but very entertaining game, if a little short-lived for those unconcerned over A-rankings across the board.

Conclusion: Easy to follow, simple to start, harder to finish, this is yet another game showing exactly where Nintendo are going with the DS. If you come across it, get it!
Price: £30 from the usual Asian importers, about the same on eBay.
Score: 4 out of 5.

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