Don’t let that little face fool you, behind that kawaii drum smile is the biggest workout you’ve ever had playing anything rhythm-action related. You may have seen these drums before, Taiko No Tatsujin has been knocking around for years now, populating both arcades and consoles the world over. With a drumstick in each hand you pummel, you pulverise, you nigh on destroy a plastic peripheral as you drum along to a track, hitting both “Don” and “Ka” notes, the head and the side of the drum respectively.
Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘N’ Fun! is a Switch exclusive that brings over 70 tracks to the table, ranging from Vocaloid and Anime themes to Classical ditties and Nintendo songs, like the Splatoon theme, Kirby’s Dreamland and Mario Odyessey’s Jump Up Superstar. As you hit these notes and others, you build a spirit gauge that allows you to pass the stage, character icons with Session Skills there to aid you. Including Kirby himself and a Splatoon squid, these guys cheer and woop for you as you play, aiding you with these skills as you ignore the myriad characters and colours that fly past as you play, these notes taking precedence over the rest of the show. One such skill for example renders the two types of notes equal, perfect for newbies or younger players, whilst others support your gauge – it’s also totally fine to go in with no Session Skill if you’re a Taiko purist.
I opted to play on Intense Difficulty at the Bandai Namco event, aptly selecting the classic Overture from Orpheus in the Underworld. As myriad yo-kai flew past the screen along a flurry of notes, I knew they weren’t kidding. A floundering, frantic, feeble attempt followed alongside the lowest grade possible. My arms ached, but my smile was huge. That’s the magic of Taiko No Tatsujin, regardless of how you do, the intensity and very nature of the game is a thrill, far more raw and far more visceral than any Guitar Hero offering. With only 2 notes, the intensity and pace at which you hit them completely wraps you up, slamming along to Bad Apple!! of Touhou fame or even Moana’s How Far I’ll Go is a totally unique experience, the song list catering far more to its eastern origins with a few western bits thrown in.
An honest workout, the game can instead be played with joy-cons utilising the HD Rumble for full effect, angles at play for the correct notes, or even be played handheld with buttons and a touchscreen. The true, traditional Taiko experience however can only be had through the drum peripheral, a version launching with and without on launch day. There’s no word yet of extra DLC tracks, but Japanese versions do so it’ll make sense if the western release gets the same treatment. With a wide array of songs to hammer out alongside 20 party games, Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘N’ Fun is a must for any Switch owning rhythm-action fan.
Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘N’ Fun launches exclusively on Switch November 2nd.