Looking for a little Japanese rhythm game action on your DS, but all tapped out on Ouendan and Band Bros.? Well, perhaps it's time to take a look at Meccha! Taiko no Tatsujin DS: Nanatsu no Shima no Daibouken (translated: Extreme! Taiko Drum Master DS: The Great Adventure of the Seven Islands). The game was released earlier this year in Japan, and like its predecessor, there are no plans yet to officially bring it to other regions. It's a shame if they don't, though, because like the first game, this is a pretty fun experience.
While many of the modes remain the same – quick play, multiplayer, etc. – the newest addition to this series is a story mode. Starring Don, one half of Taiko no Tatsujin's famous main character duo alongside Waka, the player is tasked with freeing seven islands and their dojos from evil masters that have overtaken them. Along the way, Don will have to fight his way through a number of song-based challenges. In some cases, it'll be reaching a certain score or a certain number of hits or perfect hits. In other cases, he'll be tasked with taking on three computer-controlled opponents, with all four trying to finish in first place on a certain objective. Add in the fact that the game features two entirely different levels of difficulty, both available right from the get-go, and there's a good amount of replay value here.
Story mode also opens up new items, like costumes or items to decorate Don with, new songs or new instruments. The costumes actually come into play in story mode, as you cannot access some dojos without being dressed in a certain manner. For the most part, though, the costumes add a nice little customization aspect, as does the ability to change Don's color scheme. Pirates, ninjas, princesses, and cats are among the many things Don can (and sometimes has to) dress up as.
If you've played the first Taiko no Tatsujin DS game, don't expect a huge change in game play — it's all still pretty much the same. Like most rhythm games, your only real objective is to play the right notes at the right time. This can be done via the touch screen and two styli, which Namco includes with the game, or via the face buttons on the DS. These controls translate well to the DS, as the dual-stylus set-up is a natural fit for the handheld. However, the touch screen doesn't always pick up notes correctly, it seems; I'd say the accuracy rate is 98-99% for the most part, but a few times, it registered a tap later than it should have. The face button control scheme eliminates this accuracy problem, but it also removes the precision aspect of the game — the same buttons can be pressed for big and small hits without penalty. In the end, though, these aren't significant flaws, but Namco should tweak this a bit in future Taiko no Tatsujin games on the DS.
There isn't much to talk about in the graphics department, as Taiko no Tatsujin has always maintained a similar, simple graphics style throughout their games. That's pretty much the same here. But what does matter is the sound aspect of this game, and I'm happy to report it is executed quite well. The game features some 50 different songs, plus ones that are unlocked later on, and each sounds as clear on the DS as it would on the Wii or any other console. The library ranges from J-pop to anime and game music to classical music, so there's likely something here for everyone. A number of different instruments are also at your disposal. Some are pulled from reality, like the drum, tambourine, suzu (ball-shaped bell from the Shinto religion), tsuzumi, and mokugyo (both being Japanese percussion instruments). Others are more fun and sometimes a little odd, like the "kendo" instruments featuring the different yells of kendo as musical sounds. However, even the sillier instruments are pretty realistic-sounding, which is definitely a good thing.
Multiplayer also returns in this installment of the Taiko no Tatsujin series, and like the first game, it features up to four competitors facing each other on one song. Through playing the right note on a song, items can be acquired that can help or hurt the player and/or rivals. Items like multipliers and autoplay are beneficial, while items like takoyaki, water balloons and bombs can be helpful in slowing down rivals … as long as they don't end up on your drum. These items must be manually removed from the touch screen drum via the stylus before any further notes will count towards a player's score. There's also a megaphone, which blots out the backing music, making it a bit harder for the affected gamer to match up the notes with the rhythm. Since items are randomized by the game, you'll never quite know what to expect. This keeps everyone on their toes at all times and adds some level of fun to the multiplayer mode.