Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! is more than just a simple music rhythm game.
While much has been made of the game’s library of over 70 songs and the option of buying it alongside a nifty drum peripheral for the ultimate arcade experience, I feel its biggest selling point is its roster of party games. Honestly, they’re something very special indeed, but we’ll get back to them later. First, let’s go over the core Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! experience: Taiko Mode.
Tasking you with hitting a drum in time to a whole varied range of music tracks, Taiko Mode in Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! is indeed quite simple. Even on harder difficulties, it’s a doddle compared to the likes of the Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA series. The only thing that you really need to worry about when playing is whether a note is red or blue, as it determines which button you need to press or how to move your arm to play it. Other than that, most other prompts that appear on the screen just require to drum like a madman (or woman).
It’s Taiko no Tatsujin‘s simplicity that makes it so appealing though; anyone can pick it up and have some fun, no matter how skilled they are. The type of fun it provides differs depending on how you choose to play it, too. Using the Joy-Cons as drumsticks is quite crude, for example, frequently registering hits on upswings as well as downswings, but for a laugh with friends it’s perfectly serviceable. Those playing the game with the aim of smashing high scores, however, will find that nothing beats playing with a pro controller. And then there’s the option of playing with a physical drum; having not been supplied one along with review code, I can’t comment on whether it makes the game more fun or not, but I’ve found myself close to buying one on eBay a few times now so I’ll probably find out soon enough.
No matter how you choose to play, you’ll find Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun!‘s Taiko Mode song list to be exhaustive. Some songs you’ll have no doubt heard of over the years even if you don’t know them by name, such as Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Others you’ll recognise from games like Super Mario Odyssey or Ridge Racer. Most, however, will be totally alien to you, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t fun to listen to or play through. In the unlikely circumstance that you find a song in Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! that you hate, you can just ignore it; you’re not forced to play anything to unlock any specific content.
Starting out with a massive selection of songs and a small selection of characters to play as, more of both become available as you meet certain conditions. You don’t really need to worry about what they are though; you’ll unlock most, if not all, of the locked content naturally as you play. While unlocking new songs is nice, it’s the additional characters that you gain access to which are more noteworthy. They each come with a range of special abilities, you see, changing the gameplay in subtle ways to keep it interesting. And if you find yourself having a hard time, there are some that even make the game easier to play.
While playing online is not an option in Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun!, Taiko Mode does allow two players to play cooperatively or competitively on a single Switch. Local wireless play is also available for two to four players, but I haven’t been able to test it. When you have one or more friends around and want to have fun with Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun!, however, the best way to do so is to fire up Party Mode.
In Party Mode, you don’t play though songs, drumming your hearts out. Instead, you take part in a range of minigames that range from simply fun to absolutely hilarious. You might have to take part in what is effectively Simon Says with drums, for example, repeating the rhythm in which a Sushi chef calls out his dishes. Another has you hitting the drum to slash branches and dumbbells thrown at you by a dog. There are 20 minigames available overall, the majority of them pitting all players against each other. There are some that are cooperative, however, and some that you have to play in teams.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun!‘s Party Mode minigames elevates the package from being a simple but exciting music rhythm game to a must-have party title. You’ll rage and laugh at each other as you try to catch fish and hit baseballs, using rhythm as your cue. And whenever the base version of each Party Mode game has become too easy you can tackle the expert versions that you unlock, providing yet more fun. Honestly, Party Mode is a game-changer; turning a niche game with limited appeal into one that is simply essential if you like to have fun with friends while sat on a couch.
At first, I thought I’d have a hard time wholeheartedly recommending Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! due to its high price and simple gameplay. Playing Party Mode for hours on end changed that though. As a package, Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! is a formidable one; on your own, you can spend ages playing though all the songs on offer while also unlocking new ones, and with others by your side you can play some of the funniest minigames I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in recent years. If you have a Switch and like enjoying yourself – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – then you need Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! It’s not cheap, but then what’s the price of laughter and happiness?