Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigi na Orb (The Little Dragon and the Mysterious Orbs) is one of the many Taiko games (which are essentially drum-based, rhythm games). While they’re not as technically advanced and complicated as other rhythm games such as Guitar Hero, Taiko games do require skill and quick reflexes during some of the more difficult songs, and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
In this particular Taiko title, there area total of 55 songs, split into the following categories: J-Pop, Anime, Variety, Classic, Video Game Music, and Namco Originals. There are three difficulty levels to choose from initially, with one additional difficulty that can be unlocked later. Naturally, each song has its own difficulty rating, so just because you cannot pass a particular song on “Hard” difficulty does not mean you can’t pass the others.
During gameplay the top screen displays notes emerging from the right of the screen and moving left. Upon reaching the circular marker on the left side of the screen, you must hit the respective notes in time in order to succeed and pass the song. The game can be played entirely via the use of the touch screen, or if there is no flat surface around, you can play entirely with buttons as well. There are a variety of notes within the game; small red notes indicate that you must hit the drum on the touch screen; large red notes can be passed by hitting the drum as you would with the small red notes, but hitting the exact centre of the drum provides bonus points (or press two buttons simultaneously if using buttons). Blue notes indicate hitting the area outside of the drum (or using the shoulder buttons), while the yellow bars require you to input as many notes as you can to score extra points. Of course, being a rhythm game, you are graded depending on how accurate you were on passing each note. There are a possible of three outcomes: Great, Acceptable, and Not Acceptable, although the game is rather generous so it’s possible to achieve a “Great” on a note even if your accuracy was a smidge off. To pass songs you must build up the bar on the top screen to at least 75%, and if you’re able to get the bar to fill up completely; you will enter a “frenzy” mode that will give you extra points for each successful note.
As you play more and more you will come across many unlockables; costumes for your Taiko character, gameplay enhancements such as Sudden Death mode, triple and quadruple speed, invisible notes, among many others. Outside of free play mode, there is a “Story Mode” which is set in a fantasy, role-playing game setting. Your quest is to travel across different regions, complete challenges, face off against monsters and bosses, and ultimately help your dragon companion retrieve all of its elemental orbs. The “battles” within the Story Mode pits you against different monsters and plays a song during the battle, and to win you must play the notes successfully in order to reduce your foe’s health bar. Failing to pass notes or accidentally hitting bomb notes will reduce your health bar, and whoever reaches zero health first loses. The “challenges” have different requirements, such as performing a certain combo, or achieving a certain score before the song ends. The “boss battles” are where things get interesting. At the end of each area, you will face off against a boss, who will use “attacks” that will obscure part of the play area in an attempt to throw you off.
There really isn’t much else to talk about. Taiko no Tatsujin is a colourful, solid, rhythm game that will keep you coming back for more, whether it’s to play your favourite song, progress more in the Story Mode, or attempt to beat your high scores. It’s a fun, light-hearted, rhythm game and an excellent alternative to Theatrhythm Final Fantasy if you want more variety in songs.
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