Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun is the latest in the Taiko Drum Master series and the first of its kind to land on Nintendo Switch. It’s set to bring the well known (and often impressive) drum rhythm game to Nintendo’s latest console, but is buying the standalone game worth it, or should you really opt for the drum peripheral?
Now I’ll be completely transparent, Bandai Namco kindly sent us a code for Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun however they didn’t send the drum peripheral. Not to sound too spoiled or entitled, I was slightly disappointed but like any good game reviewer I went in with an open mind and didn’t let this entitlement jade my overall opinion on the game. That being said. I think it was a mistake.
So here’s what I don’t understand about this release. Bandai Namco released two versions, the first, Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun for Nintendo Switch and the second Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum Session for PS4. Now, the Nintendo Switch obviously benefits from the console coming with two controllers with motion detection – the PS4 does not. So it strikes me as odd that they’d release the drum peripheral for the Switch version and not the PS4 version.
After a good number of hours with Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun for the Switch I can almost see why – while the Switch seems perfect for a physical rhythm game there are several flaws in the game’s motion detection that just make the game pretty much impossible – especially when you head into higher difficulties.
We’ve all seen the videos where people play the game insanely and impressively fast and there was a part of me that wanted to emulate that, however using the JoyCons just wasn’t an option. In Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun you’re required to do two types of hits, for a “Don” – the red dot, you hit as you would a normal drum, for “Ka” – the blue dot, you’re required to do some sort of bizarre swipe/chop which, when you’ve got red and blue dots coming across the screen at lightning speed just isn’t easy and quite off-putting.
For more slower songs, or for most songs on “Easy” or “Normal” you can get away with the odd mistake here and there but as soon as you ramp up the difficulty, you’re shit out of luck. Thankfully there’s a saving grace in the form of mascots, little icons you can pick before each game which offer perks. These mascots can be unlocked through gameplay in both the main game mode and the Party Game mode.
One Mascot I stuck with was the Bachio Sense which essentially defines Dons and Kas the same. This allowed me to just go ham with the JoyCons regardless of what hit I’m supposed to do and did instill some fun back into the game. However, the JoyCon’s motion sensors must be quite sensitive as it’d occasionally register hits whenever I’d raise my wrist or move even slightly which would completely destroy any combo I’d built up.
Fortunately in Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun you can opt to ditch motion sensors in favor of buttons which isn’t as fun but it’s a lot more accurate. When using buttons the game feels a lot more like a Nintendo rhythm game, not unlike Rhythm Heaven, and that’s even more evident in the game’s Party Mode which has up to four players either competing or working together in several mini-games.
These games involve anything from repeating a beat on command, slicing sticks and dumbells in rhythm, or bouncing a ball amongst a group of players. This is actually where I found the most fun because I adore Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven/Paradise series. With a good number of games unlocked, there’s enough variation to keep things fresh, what’s more, once you pass each stage, you unlock an “Expert” version which ramps the difficulty up to 100.
One thing that I did find was that it was easy to breeze past the actual instructions as to what to do in each of the mini-games, which was hilarious as we’d end up going in blind and mashing away at the buttons when we thought we needed to. This resulted in a couple of funny moments where our characters would tumble or muck up and pull a silly face making failure in these games less painful and more comical. Seriously, there’s nothing funnier than a taiko drum with four legs splayed out on the floor because it trips over the skipping rope.
One of the more interesting parts of Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun is that, aside from the text, the entire game is in Japanese and it’s this really high-pitched adventure into the world of Japanese culture and I don’t hate it. There’s nothing quite like playing Moana’s “How Far I Go” on Expert with all of the lyrics being sung in Japanese. As someone firmly rooted in Western Culture but has always been fascinated by Japan, it was really interesting to explore the different musical types considered popular in the East.
Hell, I even discovered that YouTube has its own Theme Song – which is actually pretty damn addictive too. While there was nothing instantly recognizable outside of the Classical and Video Game sections, it was a nice change of pace than the usual music games having crappy rip-offs of the latest pop hits.
With the game being on Switch the entire game can be played with more than one player, which is great. Yes, it does limit you on how you can input beats, but it’s nice to be able to load up the game and instantly jump into rhythm games with a friend or family member, regardless. While I have had a good grumble about the inputs, I am actually really pleased with Bandai’s inclusion of multiplayer throughout the game.
Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun and while I can’t speak for the performance of the drum peripheral, I would recommend players consider getting that version as I feel it’d be a much better way to play the game rather than being frustrated with the inaccuracy of the JoyCon. It is, however, a fantastic party game, especially with multiple players and one I’d recommend cracking out at your next party.