Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session Review

Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session (TnT) is a drumming game made for use with a drum controller that's not available in the US. American gamers will have to use their PS4 controllers to tap out beats in time to a variety of tunes, most of which they won't recognize unless they are into J-Pop. In spite of this you can still have some fun tapping buttons to the beat for a bit, although TnT isn't the kind of game you'll sink countless hours into or keeping coming back to after the initial novelty has worn off.

Gameplay is centered on a scrolling track on which circular symbols move across the screen from right to left. When a symbol reaches a spot on the left side of the track, you need to hit a button based on the type of symbol. Small red circles indicate that you need to strike the drum's surface while blue ones indicate that you should strike the rim, but since you'll be playing the game without a drum controller these correspond to hitting the X and Circle buttons. Larger red and blue circles indicate that you should do the same, but with both drumsticks at once. Again, this means to hit the X or Circle buttons. Yellow bars indicate drumrolls, which you'll simulate by rapid tapping of the X button. There are also orange, balloon-like notes that take rapid tapping in order to fully inflate and pop for maximum points. TnT may be a drumming game, but without the drum controller it's really just a two-button rhythm game.

Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session screenshot 1

Your score is based on the timing of your button presses, with being right on time earning you more points than being a bit early or late. The game places an even bigger emphasis on consecutive hits, so it's more important to keep a streak going than it is to hit each beat perfectly each time. When you complete a song, the game pops up a "bingo card" in which each square corresponds to a challenge for the track that you completed. If you manage to complete the squares that form a line or column, you'll earn coins that an be used to purchase cosmetic upgrades.

You may be wondering what kind of cosmetic upgrades would come with a drumming rhythm game. Well, while you're concentrating on your drumming the rest of the screen is overflowing with Japanese cuteness. In the upper left of the screen sits an anthropomorphic taiko drum that happily beats itself as you play your way through a track. Meanwhile dancing animals and creatures occupy other parts of the screen, doing high-energy cute things to encourage you to stay on beat. It's all an explosion of sugar-rush cuteness overkill that the Japanese specialize in, and you can spend you coins to customize it to your liking. However, when you're playing you'll be focused on the note track and all of the antics will be occurring in your peripheral vision, so they will be more entertaining for someone watching you play than for you.

The game comes with a good-sized soundtrack, but outside of a few classical numbers, a video game track or two, and a Japanese language version of "Let it Go" from Frozen, I wasn't familiar with most of it. I found a couple of the J-Pop tracks interesting, but to be honest I found most of the other ones to be highly repetitive and quite similar to each other. There are additional tracks available for purchase, but the store has about the same mix of genres found in the game and is heavy on the J-Pop.

Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session screenshot 7

TnT can be played competitively in a few ways. First, a few tracks include AI-controlled guest players such as Hello Kitty and Pac-Man. They'll compete against you on their own track that will sit just below yours. The AI characters are good enough to provide you with a challenge, but are beatable if you're on your game. You can also compete against another player locally, as well. Online competition is possible as well, but instead of competing against a live opponent you'll play against a ghost recording of their performance.

When you get down to it, Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session is a two-button rhythm game with an obscure soundtrack. It certainly has a lot of personality, but there's just not enough to the game to hold your interest once the novelty wears off. Perhaps it would be different if you had the opportunity to play it with a drum controller, but we're not being given the opportunity to find that out for ourselves.

Final Rating: 68% - A two-button rhythm game in search of a drum controller.


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