Bandai Namco's wacky Taiko no Tatsujin series sees another couple Japanese releases make their way west and this Rhythmic Adventure Pack provides a gameplay experience different to what most fans of the franchise would expect.
In previous games, you're presented with a list of songs to rock out with via your drum peripheral or controller and this pack also offers this with over 130 songs yet there's a fun RPG experience to give it more structure. It includes both Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure games originally released in Japan so let's take a look at how the first title fairs and what the second one improves.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure 1 Switch ★★★☆☆
In Rhythmic Adventure 1, you follow Don and Katsu as they travel through time looking for pieces of their new friend Ticky in order to save the world. Needless to say, the story has strong Bill and Ted vibes as you'll meet many famous characters while you travel through the 7 chapters of the simplistic RPG campaign such as Marie Antoinette when you visit France and Cleopatra in Egypt. After arriving in a new time, you walk around as Don while looking for treasure chests and the odd side-quest that often challenges you to a rhythm game with a unique requirement such as hitting a certain number of notes with a Good rating or getting a high score.
Battles are random and every time you defeat an enemy, you have a chance of recruiting it. There's a good variety of monsters to recruit and I had a lot of fun with this aspect, especially given how silly some of the monsters are. Walking around the map is pretty tedious as the areas are small and you can pull up the map to guide you at almost any point to make sure you don't miss anything which makes it even easier. On the odd occasion, you'll have to solve a simple puzzle but they really aren't challenging. Thankfully, each area is relatively short so you won't feel like you're getting stuck in monotony because you'll be on to the next chapter before you know it.
The battle system is what you'd expect from a Taiko RPG as you damage enemies via rhythm gameplay where you tap 2 buttons to hit the right notes at the right time with the odd prompt to go crazy mashing buttons. Depending on the characters that you've recruited and assigned, you'll do a certain amount of damage per note. The enemies you encounter determine the song that's played and with each area being quite short-lived, the songs never get repetitive. You'll also play boss fights at the end of each chapter which follow the same gameplay except each boss has a unique skill which usually involves obscuring the screen at the most inopportune times.
For a game that's not exactly known for its story and variety of gameplay, Taiko no Tatsujin pulls off its first foray into incorporating RPG elements quite well yet it leaves lots of room for improvement, too.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure 2 Switch ★★★★☆
The second Rhythmic Adventure improves on the first in various ways and follows an almost identical structure. This time, you're looking for special items that need to be kept safe in their rightful place but have been stolen so it's up to Don and Katsu to find them and save the world yet again. One noticeable difference is that enemy encounters are no longer random. You'll see 3 different enemy sprites floating around the map and depending on which one you bump into, a battle with certain amounts and difficulties of enemies will ensue. Whether or not you prefer these non-random battles depends on taste but I found it a little harder to beat the bosses at the end of the chapters because I frequently unconsciously avoided enemies too often and therefore missed my chance to level up adequately.
You'll end up visiting lots of fun environments with similar yet slightly lengthier maps based on places such as Greece and Easter Island. There's also a large amount of side-quests dotted around the villages to keep you entertained. Plus, the battles themselves have definitely evolved from the first game. For starters, you can now have up to 9 characters participate in a given battle. Party members are placed on a grid and each can be 1 of 6 types that can focus on melee, mid-range, and ranged attacks based on either weapons or spells as well as defense and healing. Placing defensive characters at the front helps protect the healers at the back and placing the healers in the right spot allows them to ensure that HP is kept high on those who are more vulnerable to hits. Setting up your party placement requires a little strategy when facing bosses but most encounters are beatable purely through your rhythm skills alone.
Just like in the first game, characters are recruited randomly after battles but you'll also acquire more by picking up coins then dropping them in a special fountain. If you happen to get a repeat character, you might want to use them in fusion. This is new for Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure 2 as well and it allows you to sacrifice enemies to strengthen others with the added possibility of evolution. The ability to decide what you want to happen when your magic gauge fills up is new, too, as you can choose to unleash a powerful attack, heal your party members, or perhaps have the battle auto-play for a few seconds to give you a break; it's all up to you.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure 2 provides some welcome improvements over the first, especially when it comes to the battle system and monster recruiting. Even though it's great fun, it still remains a fairly simplistic RPG.
Of course, Taiko no Tatsujin has to feature a plain old Taiko mode. First, it would have been cool to have the Taiko mode include both games' songs seamlessly in one collection but instead, you have to go back to the main menu and switch between the 2 games to enjoy the full lineup. Regardless, it's the classic rhythm game that you're used to where you pick from a selection of songs and complete them with your controller of choice. Although I don't own the drum peripheral myself, I've read that story mode cannot be completed with it but Taiko mode allows you to do so. If you don't have the drum, you have the choice of a variety of button combinations or detaching the joy-cons and playing with motion controls. You can also calibrate if you're consistently hitting the prompts slightly off.
In Taiko mode, there's a stamp collection to fill out and doing so will unlock more costumes so you can dress up your drum as silly as you want him to look. I always get a lot of joy out of doing this and in the RPG modes, some outfits even provide boosts to party members when worn which is a nice treat. With all of that being said, I wish that you could enjoy Taiko mode with others yet there is no multiplayer whatsoever in this whole pack which is a disappointment, especially because that's where the gameplay really shines.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack is an enjoyable collection of over 130 songs to bang your drum to with 2 story campaigns that provide a fun alternative to the typical gameplay even if their overall formula remains a bit too simplistic.
- + The RPG campaigns are a nice change of pace from the standard Taiko formula
- + Monster collecting is a fun addition
- + Great variety of songs to enjoy
- - Switching between the 2 games to play all of the songs is a little annoying
- - Campaigns are short and quite simplistic
- - No multiplayer whatsoever