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
. . . 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.
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.