I am bad at rhythm action games, however, I will happily gorge myself on any one I come across simply because I find them so fun. From playing Dance Dance Revolution in the arcades to tapping away with Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, I genuinely adore the genre. So, when I heard that the legendary Taiko No Tatsujin series was coming to Switch, I simply had to play it, even if I was going to be terrible at it.
There are two main modes to explore and tire yourself out with both on your own and with others. The Taiko Mode is simply a collection of songs with more unlocked as you progress, divided by somewhat vague genres such as Pop, Namco Originals and Variety. This is arguably where the gameplay is at its most simple and also consistently enjoyable. You can choose between multiple characters that each come with their own modifiers on the gameplay making certain beats easier or aiding the player with timing.
This mode essentially sees up-tempo songs flinging cute little different coloured circles with faces across the screen, with movements of the player linking to a particular timing to nail each beat. These beats are mainly split into ‘Don’ or ‘Ka’ beats, which appear as red or blue respectively. The ‘Don’ beats involve hitting the central part of the drum, or swinging the Joy-Cons directly down. Some difficulty levels distinct between left and right ‘Don’ beats, but you will likely find yourself most destroying one arm.
The ‘Ka’ beats are more tricky, requiring a diagonal swing downwards, which is far easier to consistently succeed with when using the actual drum peripheral than with the Joy-Cons, but more on that in a moment. The final things you will need to get your head around are the drum rolls, which are just as enjoyable and tiring as that sounds, and the larger ‘Don’ and ‘Ka’ beats that require both Joy-Cons moved in the same way at the same time to hit successfully.
From a technical standpoint, the Joy-Cons are not quite the right fit for this game, despite their motion sensitivity. A lot of the movements required to succeed with the songs are needed to be too precise in a limited timeframe, this leads to the Joy-Cons seeming getting confused as to whether the player is attempting a ‘Don’ or ‘Ka’ beat. As I said, it is most definitely the most fun way to play the game, beyond any reasonable doubt, but can be frustrating when movements don’t register.
Luckily, there is the option to play every song with the beats mapped to buttons on the Joy-Cons, which is a far easier whilst still retaining the difficulty of the game. The best part of this is that it removes any need for precision of movement, instead relying on timing, which feels a little more fair. However, this is a noticeably less fun way to play, especially when it comes to multiplayer in which fierce competition branches out into furious waving of the Joy-Cons.
Speaking of which, Taiko Mode can be played with two players, either cooperatively or competitively. The Co-Op Session just has both players attempting the same song, at their chosen difficulty. The others will judge your performance, and declare a winner, based on whatever criteria you choose whether that be your total score or on total of successful hits. Or, if you’re feeling particularly flippant, you can choose Random Match which will randomly chose the win criteria.
Where the fun really begins with the game is in the Party Game mode, where up to four players can compete in a series of crazy rhythm-based mini-games across three main categories; Versus, Team Versus, or Co-Op. You choose a character to represent you in these games and jump straight in, playing with whatever method you wish to play with. If you get a high enough score in each, you will unlock the Expert version, where the difficulty sharply increases.
What you are doing in these games differs between each one; but you’ll be competing in such wild activities as setting off fireworks, hitting daruma, or training to be a ninja. My personal favourites of all of these are the Flag Raising Contest and Noodle Bowls. The first has the player copying the flag raising pattern and rhythm of Cat and Shaxy, upping the ante when Cat turns round messing with the player so they have to focus on colour instead of side the flag is raised on.
The second is possibly the most fun I had with my entire time with the game, which tasks the player with slurping noodles from your bowl before it is taken away, remembering to blow on the bowl if the bowl is ramen. It’s chaotic, ridiculous, and incredibly fun to play. This is the wonderful thing about the Party Game mode, there is something for absolutely everyone and at least one game you will be able to succeed in (I personally hate the Daruma Knockdown, I just cannot seem to get the timing right).
Finally, from the main menu, you can look at your play records, alter any game settings (including synchronising the beat timing if you need to), access the Nintendo eShop for downloading more songs, or even compete with other players that have the game over Local Wireless connection. Sadly I wasn’t able to test this during the review period, but if I ever get the opportunity in the future I will update this review.
Visually, the game is an absolute treat, practically melting your eyes with bright colours, insane visual flair and a sizeable amount of quirks like dancing dogs on screen. The music selection is incredible – as it should be with a rhythm action title – bringing in music from anime, vocaloid tracks, and even music from Namco and Nintendo titles (yes, that includes ‘Jump Up, Superstar’ from Super Mario Odyssey). All of the presentation of this game all comes together in a markedly wacky package that kind of has to be experienced to be believed.
In truth, I had an absolute blast playing Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘N’ Fun. It is a tremendously fun and engaging rhythm action title that proves once more why the Taiko games are considered to be the kings of their genre. With a large amount of mini-games to play through, and obviously the classic Taiko Mode, there’s a lot to keep any future parties you might have busy for a long time.
I would happily place this game up there with Super Mario Party with the best games for a party scenario, especially as you can play the game four player using button controls with just two sets of Joy-Cons. Albeit there isn’t much for single players to sink their teeth into outside of unlocking characters (this can be done just as easily in multiplayer), which could be considered a massive detriment to the game, but Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘N’ Fun nails all of the beats it’s trying to hit.