0
Review

Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival Review

If you‚Äôve ever been lucky enough to wander through the confines of a Japanese arcade, you‚Äôll have likely heard the iconic thwack of a Taiko no Tatsujin drum. Rhythm Festival is the latest entry in the series to make the jump to home consoles, and whilst it doesn‚Äôt provide any particularly ground-breaking additions to the franchise, it‚Äôs a joyful and accessible music game with plenty to offer. 

The core Taiko no Tatsujin gameplay remains the same. Notes scroll towards you horizontally, tasking you with hitting one button for red icons and another for blue. Bonus points are available for big notes that require two hits at once, or special sections denoting drum rolls, but that’s all there is to it in terms of mechanics. Compared to some other rhythm games, this is extremely easy to jump into, but it never becomes boring or stale.

That’s not to say the game is easy. Some of the notation on higher difficulties is devilishly tricky, with complex patterns that will have your hands and your mind scrambling to keep up. There is a tendency for the game to take this too far, with some convoluted notations that illogically placed red and blue notes in unusual spots and patterns seemingly just to increase difficulty without consideration of whether those placements make sense from a rhythm or sound perspective. Thankfully though, there’s room for all skill levels to play, and a comprehensive practice mode allows you to hone your technique on those trickier tracks. 

You have four control options to choose from. The default button option works well enough, even if it does feel a little bland for this type of game. Using motion controls via the joy-cons to act as virtual drumsticks is another choice, but the occasionally iffy motion sensing and a lack of tactile resistance on hits make this the worst way to play. Surprisingly, the best option available out of the box is using the touchscreen in handheld mode. Plopping the Switch down on your lap and tapping away on the screen provides the most authentic-feeling recreation of drumming you can have and has the bonus of bypassing any input lag your tv might suffer from.

Of course, if you want the true Taiko experience you can splurge on the official drum controller designed for the series. It won’t come as a shock that this is the best way to play. Having the tactile feeling of hitting an actual drum with sticks makes the game infinitely more fun and makes progressing through the difficulty settings incredibly satisfying as you master control of an actual (albeit miniature, simplified and plastic) instrument. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s hands down the best way to play, to the extent that I would suggest either adjusting my review score up or down by half a star depending on whether you’ll be playing with one or not. 

So, what music can you enthusiastically smash some buttons/touchscreen/drum skin/mid-air to? Quite an eclectic variety of songs, it turns out. Nearly one hundred songs are included covering a broad spectrum of musical genres. In addition to a host of original songs created for this series, there are pop hits from BLACKPINK, classical compositions from the likes of Beethoven and Schubert, and even Vocaloid songs from Hatsune Miku and other virtual superstars. Then you have the even zanier categories which feature recognisable tunes from Demon Slayer, Attack on Titan and Frozen II, videogame themes from Mario and Zelda, and the aptly named Variety category featuring everything from chiptunes to the Pirates of the Caribbean theme. 

Whilst you‚Äôre highly unlikely to love everything here, you‚Äôre bound to like something, and the broad mix of styles gives plenty of opportunities for different rhythms and drumming styles to shine. If you still haven‚Äôt found songs you want to tap along with, a Taiko Music Pass can be purchased from the eShop. For a reasonable $6 for a month or $15 for three months, almost 600 extra songs can be yours to drum through. It‚Äôs a library that puts most music games to shame, and that‚Äôs not even mentioning the DLC songs you can buy to keep. 

Thankfully you‚Äôre provided with a few different modes to keep you banging through the setlist. The main option where you‚Äôll spend most of your time is Taiko Mode, which acts as a free-play mode for one or two players. Every song you play and new accomplishment you complete increases your drum level, unlocking rewards and advancing the loose narrative that ties everything together. It‚Äôs superfluous, but it at least grants some sense of progression to go along with just jamming to your favourite songs. 

Elsewhere in the menus you’ll find two alternate takes on the traditional Taiko gameplay. The Great Drum Toy War lets you assemble a crew of toys to launch at your opponent to interfere with their music lane to help you win. I was reminded of Guitar Hero III’s boss battles here, and I enjoyed playing through the structured missions to unlock new toys that you could then use in local and online multiplayer. 

Lastly, we have DON-chan Band for up to four players. This cooperative mode has you and three friends (or bots) play a song with different instruments and note charts. Be prepared for electric guitars, shouts, and a cacophony of other noises to bleed together, along with some special team sequences that require successful hits from everyone for maximum points. The selection of songs here is smaller, but if you’ve got a big group this is the best place to go. 

It all combines for a package with no shortage of content, and that’s without going into the immense level of customisation and unlockable accoutrements for everything from instrument sounds to avatar decorations. Everything looks crisp and vibrant too, and the characters are rather adorable. Well, adorable to look at anyway. Their high-pitched chirps as you hop through the menus quickly grew irritating and found themselves at the mercy of the Voices volume slider in the options menu. Overall, the parts where you’re not playing is a tad frustrating, with some slightly clunky menu layouts and just a touch-too-long loading times often resulting in some tedium until you get back into the action. 

Minor quibbles aside, you’ll have a great time with Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival if you’re a fan of music games and have a penchant for percussion or rhythm in general. With a vast and exotic music library and multiple ways to play, it’s easy to get swept up with the beat. Playing with a drum controller elevates the experience to another level if you can swing it, but there’s still plenty to be enjoyed here without it. 

Rating: 4/5

The Good

+ Taiko gameplay is a blast, especially with a drum controller
+ Enormous soundtrack
+ Plenty of modes and options

The Bad

- Loses a bit of magic playing with just buttons
- Cutesy sounds can become overbearing
- Navigating menus can be a chore

Our Verdict
Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Overall
Final Thoughts

Minor quibbles aside, you’ll have a great time with Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival if you’re a fan of music games and have a penchant for percussion or rhythm in general. With a vast and exotic music library and multiple ways to play, it’s easy to get swept up with the beat. Playing with a drum controller elevates the experience to another level if you can swing it, but there’s still plenty to be enjoyed here without it. 

Our Rating
User Rating
8 ratings
You have rated this
What's your reaction?
Awesome
57%
Oh wow!
0%
Great
0%
Fresh
0%
Hmm
43%
Disappointing!
0%
Grrrr
0%
About The Author
Andrew Searles
I like to write. I do reviews and other bits for @vooksdotnet. Still playing Pokemon Go. Will probably buy Resident Evil 4 again when they release it on my fridge.

You must log in to post a comment