Like your music/rhythm games to have a little more substance? You ought to give Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack a try.
The Rhythmic Adventure Pack, available exclusively on Nintendo Switch, bundles two games into one: Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure 1 and Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure 2. Both games started out life as Japan-only 3DS releases: Taiko no Tatsujin: Don and Katsu’s Space-time Adventure, which released in 2014, and Taiko no Tatsujin: Dokodon! Mystery Adventure from 2016. Now, albeit with less interesting names, they’re finally available in the west. And if you’re a fan of classic RPGs and rhythm games, they provide an interesting amalgamation of the two.
Both games play very similarly, and will see you controlling anthropomorphic drums, Don and Katsu, as they make their way around a colourful world. There’s a separate story in each, so you can jump into them in any order you choose, but it makes sense to start with Rhythmic Adventure 1. There, you’ll find yourself thrown into a story that sees you travel through space and time. Pocket watches Ticky and Tocky have the important job of protecting history, but Ticky has been kidnapped by the evil Professor Timedyne. It’s up to you to travel through time in order to rescue Ticky and save history.
Rhythmic Adventure 2‘s story is equally zany. This time, treasures known as ‘Ooparts’ – that protect the world – have been stolen by a nefarious organisation. Once again you’ll find yourself jumping to various locations, only this time it’s in order to retrieve the Ooparts and save the world.
Both stories are ludicrous, but they’re exactly the sort of over-the-top narrative that a game like Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack needs. Delivered through cute animated scenes, dialogue is equally extravagant, but it’s entertaining enough to keep you moving through the game.
As you explore, you’ll find yourself coming up against enemies to ‘fight’ against. I say fight, but combat plays out in typical Taiko no Tatsujin rhythm style. You’ll fare better if you’re already familiar with it; having played 2018’s Drum ‘n’ Fun! first, it was easy to get into the swing of things. But Rhythmic Adventure Pack doesn’t do a great job of explaining how the rhythm games work; if you’re completely new to the franchise, it’s worth jumping into either title’s ‘Taiko’ mode before tackling the story. There, you can get to grips with the rhythm gameplay without getting your ass handed to you.
It’s likely you will get your ass handed to you if you jump into either of Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack‘s games without practice. While in combat, you’ll need to press buttons in rhythm to a music track, and as you chain together notes your characters will attack their opponents. Miss a note, or not get a ‘good’ hit, however, and it opens you up to attack. But even if you play perfectly, it’s often not enough to defeat your opponents. Even if you play on ‘Easy’ difficulty.
You see, you also need to have a strong team in order to succeed. As you defeat enemies, you’ll sometimes get the option to add them to your team. In Rhythmic Adventure 1, your team is limited to four members, and you’ll need a full line-up in order to succeed. In Rhythmic Adventure 2, however, you can have up to nine active team members at any one time. In both games, your party can also be strengthened by equipping hats and outfits, all with various benefits. Each party member will also have some sort of perk, and consumable items can be used to further increase their stats. You’ll need to forge your team with the best members possible, and ensure you keep them equipped with the best skills.
Outside of combat, you’ll get to explore the world, which is littered with chests containing various useful items. You’ll also meet NPCs, some of whom will challenge you to a Taiko no Tatsujin battle, or task you with a sidequest. The meat of the game, though, is most definitely combat, and it’s punctuated by epic boss battles. These boss battles are much tougher than standard battles, and you’ll need to bring both your rhythm skills and a strong team to the table.
Perhaps the most important part of a Taiko no Tatsujin game, though, is its music, and the selection on offer in the Rhymic Adventure Pack is just as wonderfully eclectic as you’d expect. There are original songs here, mixed in with some classical tunes, some Vocaloid numbers, and even songs from other games. Tracks from Pokémon, Kirby, Monster Hunter and more all make an appearance here, with both games having unique soundtracks. There’s over 130 songs in total, and they can be enjoyed by themselves in Taiko mode if you simply want to indulge in rhythm gaming.
When you hear the songs in battle, however, you’ll find yourself playing through the same tracks again and again. Each individual area in the game seems to have its own limited selection of tracks, so don’t be surprised to hear the same song several times in a row. It is a little irritating they’re not more randomised, considering there is a huge library available.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack is a lot of fun. It’s a unique combination of rhythm game and RPG, presented in a way that only a Japanese video game series could be. It’s over-the-top, silly and in-your-face, but that’s what makes it so endearing. It would benefit from better tutorials for newcomers to the series, and songs should be more widely randomised so you don’t end up battling to the same tracks again and again. Even so, this pair of games is the sort of thing you can’t help but play with a big, silly grin on your face.