taiko no tatsujin 9

a review of Taiko No Tatsujin 9
a videogame developed by namco, ltd.
and published by bandai-namco games
for the arcades
text by Brendan Lee

1 star

Bottom line: Taiko No Tatsujin 9 is “The ninth one of these.”

. . . or, perhaps much more appropriately, Mavis Beacon Teaches Nothing.

There is a certain fun-ness about hitting things!

And that is pretty much the rhythm genre it its entire moldering nutshell. I used to think – – god, I used to think – – that the rhythm genre was more or less slouching towards some sort of apex; I figured that there would be a time not too far away where people would shuffle up to some sort of Great Machine, slot a couple of coins, and start slouching their way up Rockstar Mountain, one flashing jittery headrush at a time.

I mean, how could they not? I seen kids up there in Utsunomiya, up there in the Tochigi-ken, where I’ve got to admit there isn’t a whole hecking lot to do, but whatever there is to do they take it pretty damn serious, whether it’s drinking straight vodka until they vomit 3/4 of the way up their esophagus or practicing bubble-era Para Para moves in front of any and all available reflective surfaces. I seen a guy play Drummania like he had a book report due on Treasure Island in 7 minutes and his mother was on fire. That’s gotta be a transferable skill, huh? I mean, huh? You can’t seriously have your own sticks that you wrapped with your own grip tape, have the gloves and everything, and the bravado and the girl on the side clapping and jumping up and down with the pigtails and bubblegum and the mouthing the words to the song as you pound away. I mean, can you? Huh? At some point, you’re going to go into the studio, and you’re going to take everything you learned and ball it into a mental burst of white-hot static, and Atomic Love is going to shoot out of your hands, and you and your best rebellious mates will be off on their way to chauffeured limousines and maid-shaped swimming pools, right?

The thing is, right now I’m pretty sure no, uh-uh . . . No. Not. Ever. I’ve seen these games pretend to be pretty much everything to all people – – and thusly, people pretending to be pretty much everything to all these games . . . people pretending to rap, or dance, or hallucinate some kind of plasticky balls-in-hand jamfest to Huey Lewis (and the News!)’s Power of Love. I’ve seen them pretend to stroke the shamisen and rustle the maracas like a juicing epileptic with nervous polio. I’ve seen them pump their fists in the air and finish off a perfect behind-the-back leper jam on Magic Music Magic. I’ve seen them pretend to DJ in a way that would make a real DJ start reading The Watchtower and shop for slacks at the Farm and Fleet.

Those people will never do those things in real life (if they didn’t already do them before), because picking up and playing an instrument will never give the same kind of dime-bag-o’-meth-behind-the-Pick-‘n’-Save-style kicks that pre-recorded crowds can give you. That young rebel-without-a-clue picking out Smoke on the Water in his rented apartment over a struggling bowling alley can squint out his dirty cracked window and see the crowds, feel the crowds, blow an invisible kiss to the front row HOney in the ragged Slayer tank top . . . or he can pick up Elite Beat Agents and be a superstar right hecking now.

The ninth one of these, Namco.

Number nine.

They’re all synchronized with all of Namco’s other properties, too, don’t worry, so you’ve got your Idolm@ster in there . . . and whoever else Namco’s got their tongue into. You got your Mario Brothers in there, you got your Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. And when you make it, you can stand out in front of S@y in Akihabara with Two Drums Guy, drawing chuckles from dimpled conflagrations of gently sagging real estate conferencers from Brisbane, laughing and smiling and pointing at someone who has put an awful hecking lot of yen into becoming the best that there is at one of the most purely cynical forms of entertainment in existence.

Someday, I hope, long after Jesus Christ has returned in his Golden Impreza and the righteous have called shotgun, they’ll find one of these things ditched in some prehistoric landfill, and they’ll soak off the corrosion and re-rubberize the drum heads and synthesize some wooden-analogue sticks and jimmy the coin slot and have themselves a go at this. And I think I can say with some degree of certainty that they will shake their heads, and wonder (with a cybernetic archeologist’s encyclopedic knowledge of ancient pop culture):

These people really wanted to be good at something, I guess. And when they couldn’t be – – when they couldn’t muster up enough juice to actually put on their hecking sandals and shuffle over to somebody with talent and patience . . . well, I guess they found a machine to go ahead and tell them that everything would be okay, that they were good enough as they were, and that they deserved a cheering crowd as much as Steve Vai or Menudo.

Then they will go off and have some fantastic nachos, which will be free in the future, come in easy-to-apply patch form, and require the death of an unborn Micronesian infant who never learned how to dream.

–Brendan Lee


7 Responses to taiko no tatsujin 9

  1. tim rogers’ official comment on this review:

    you know, i was hoping you would have suggested that yeah, for the people of the world who simply don’t possess the balls / urge / dream / idiocy to become a real-life music superstar, the least insulting thing namco could do is stop hecking numbering the games.


    why not just call it “taiko no tatsujin — now with new songs!” or “2007 edition”? it’s pretty hecking obvious that they’re just adding new art to the old cabinets, and replacing the boards and chips inside or what have you. the drums are still tattered — or maybe they sling some new tops over them.

    the only apparent reason for numbering the games is so that namco can induce COMPLETISM in players. players playing taiko no tatsujin 9 might be inspired to track down and play EVERY OTHER game in the series. that’s kind of cruel. they make it seem like a series. that’s one thing you can give the maddens of the world — at least they have the man-balls to admit that each installment is just an upgrade, “this year’s version”, or a replacement for the copy of last year’s or two years ago’s version you’ve got lying around.

  2. The DDR games at least have the courtesy of being called “7th mix” or whatever, which less implies continuity and more communicates, in a straightforward way, what the game is. It’s a new mix of songs, some old favorites with some new ones, a few extra wacky modes thrown in for good measure. Usually when they come stateside, though, the numbers are dropped indefinitely, probably to prevent confusion that would arise from the fact that maybe 25-50% of DDR games actually make their way over here.

    Also is this a secret un-review of Guitar Hero?

    Do they even have that stuff in Japan?

    It’s actually really really good! Though hell if it’s not even MORE guilty of the “Mavis Beacon Teaches Nothing” thing than Taiko Drum Master.

    On the other hand, I’d reckon that at least Guitar Hero does a decent job teaching you fingering techniques and rhythm necessary to play a real instrument. It really is kind of revolutionary in the ways in which it’s mind-blowingly better than most of the bemani series (of which, admittedly, taiko drum master is not a part, though I’d argue that that series is largely inferior to most bemani titles), and I’d almost go so far as to say that it doesn’t belong in the same category.

    What I mean is, the whole “bemani” thing can be summed up as “games which use music” where guitar hero is more like “music which uses a game”, if you catch my drift.

  3. Well, I guess I can go along with them being good for rhythmic hand/eye coordination . . . but that just reminds me of the descriptions next to the NES in old Sears catalogs. Generally, that skill is just going to be dumped back into another round of a rhythm game. No GH in Japan (maybe at Hollywood?). I’m sure it’s extremely fun. I’m thinking we strip it down, though: just have one big button that says YAY, and when you push it you get a picture of Luigi eating a fistful of pie.

  4. I’ve never played a rythym game, so maybe this is just naiveté, but is the genre really so necessairly vapid? Hasn’t there been or couldn’t there be a game that added to the experience of listening to music? Whose mastery would foster an intuitive understanding of a song’s structure, something akin to a painter copying masterpieces for practice, a writer reconstructing passage from his favorite novels, or a mathematics student working proofs for well known results? Maybe some players aren’t looking for an opiate; they’re just close readers, is all.

    (toups, is this what you mean by “music which uses a game?”)

  5. Well, this stuff ain’t Rez. It ain’t even Frequency. It’s just a bunch of sticky hand clapping.

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