Title: Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Amusement Inc.
Release Date: September 23, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
The Taiko no Tatsujin, or Taiko Drum Master, if you want to translate the series’ name literally, has been very popular in Japan for a long time. However, since Drum’n’Fun and other versions of the game being released here in the West, Bandai Namco has since removed the barrior, allowing more players to enjoy the art of taiko drumming with the cute little Don-chan and his friends.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival is the latest entry of the Taiko series, released on the Nintendo Switch. Here, you are welcomed to Omiko City, a city full of everyone’s favorite Taiko elements gathered into one place. Together with the titular DON-Chan and his friend Kumo-kyun, players aim to become a Taiko Master. The city is divided into five segments, so we’ll go through each in order.
First, we have Thunder Shrine, where you’ll find your way through the game’s songs. Included in the base game are 76 tracks, divided into various categories. You can also adjust multiple gameplay options, such as having the game restart the song from the beginning if you miss a note or even change how you’re graded on your performance, allowing for greater flexibility on how you want to challenge yourself.
A practice mode will divide your chosen track into five segments, allowing you to get accustomed to its beat map. In a sense, that alone makes this game extremely accessible to beginners who have always wanted to get into the series.
Next, we have Taiko Land. It’s not as feature-rich as Drum’n’Fun, given that there are only two minigame-styled attractions to play, but well, it can provide some decent time-killing. The first of the modes is called the Great Drum Toy War, where you play against an opponent and attempt to strengthen your toy army by playing a given track as accurately as you can. At some points, you can even disrupt your adversary’s playing field by adding some fake notes or forcibly speeding up their notes.
And then, we have Don-Chan’s Band, a four-player mode where each Don makes a harmonious four-instrument concert. Each player utilizes a different instrument with varying beat maps as well. It can be challenging, especially if you don’t notice when it is your cue.
As you go through each of the game’s different modes, you’ll increase your Drum Level. Doing so will unlock new costumes and even a story mode…ish. Honestly, the story was a cute bonus, but it just didn’t feel exciting; if I’m being honest, I can understand why because this is not the type of game if you’re looking for a story.
You can buy various items from the in-game shop using the accumulated coins. The things you can obtain include instruments that change the sound of your rhythm and even costumes for Don-chan. Uh…sure? Honestly, I’ve been used to the classic taiko drum sound for so many years that it felt jarring to play with these other instruments.
And lastly, there’s the online functionality, where you match with other players worldwide and see if you are a better drummer than them. You can either challenge someone to a ranked match, where each person chooses a song they “excel at,” and the one with the most points at the end wins, or just a no-competition attached friendly match where each of you select a difficulty and have fun doing your Dons and Kas together.
This title does feature an ace up its sleeve, however, and this is the fact that nearly all of the features and attractions I’ve talked about are compatible with the brand-new Taiko Music Pass subscription service, which gives you access to a massive collection consisting of 582 songs.
This includes tracks from previous Taiko no Tatsujin games, bringing the total of accessible songs on release to one that’s nearly seven times bigger when compared to the base game, with literally all of the One Piece anime openings and even Hacking to the Gate. I’m not one to usually vouch for subscriptions, but this has the potential to become one of the most extensive song lists in a Taiko game I have ever seen yet.
Still, even without the Music Pass, you can access a decent-enough selection of tracks. You can even purchase song packs individually from Nintendo eShop, which makes me think that both methods will be regularly used in future updates to further expand the song list, which is really cool, especially if we keep getting more and more tracks from the less-known arcade versions or the now-defunct Wii and Wii U releases that never left Japan.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival is a great game, and I would argue that this is the best entry point for beginners to the Taiko games. Perhaps the only thing that prevents it from being a perfect title for everyone is the lack of a diverse minigame selection and the fact that you’re almost required to sign your soul in a subscription model to expand your playtime. Still, otherwise, it has a solid music selection with online support, making it a respectable and formidable package for both new and old fans of the series.
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