A first look at the Switch ‘Taiko no Tatsujin’ Release with English Language
Bandai-Namco Entertainment’s dangerously cute drumming game has arrived on the Nintendo Switch and we’ve gotten some hands-on time with the new release in Japan – now with English thanks to the latest patch! After giving the Japanese version a bash, we can confirm it contains both drums and fun. If you’ve been to Japan, you’ve probably seen a Taiko no Tatsujin machine somewhere. Since the series first started in the early 2000s, the arcade games can be easily found in game centers, shopping malls and even the movie Lost in Translation.
Playing Taiko no Tatsujin is simple: notes scroll across the screen and players need to hit the giant drum in front of them with the proper timing. One note’s red and the other’s blue, so players need to alternate between hitting the center and the rim of the drum. Perform well enough to fill the bar in the top corner and you’ll both clear the song and get a big dance party at the bottom of the screen. The whole idea of playing a Taiko drum is appealing, especially to overseas gamers, since they’re rarely used outside of traditional Japanese music. These days you’ll most likely hear taiko drums played at a festival, so the games have a colorful festive style with plenty of cute characters. Everything is so cheerful that even the musical notes are smiling as you hit them!
The appeal of the game is its simplicity. Especially at the time it was released, arcade rhythm games weren’t as approachable. Games like Beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution either demanded a high level of skill or a lot of stamina. Then along came Taiko no Tatsujin, a title that anyone with arms and a slight sense of rhythm can play. Given the simple controls, cute characters, and large number of childrens songs it’s no surprise that it’s a hit with the youth. Heck, my local arcade even has a box so that even wannabe drummers who can’t reach the taiko can get a bit of a height boost.
At the same time, even adults can see the fun in pounding a giant drum to the 1986 J-Pop hit ‘Dancing Hero’ (sadly not in this Switch version). The arcade games have grown over the years to the point where there are hundreds of songs, including ones with devilish “Oni” difficulty charts that’ll put anyone’s rhythm game skills to the test.
There have been a lot of console conversions of the Taiko no Tatsujin games over the years but they’ve all needed to make compromises. From the button-based PSP ports to the dinky little drum that came with the more recent PlayStation 4 version, banging those drums just isn’t the same as the arcade version. Now along comes the Switch version of Taiko no Tatsujin, which adds a unique control scheme.
The new ‘furi furi’ controls, as the game calls them, involves swinging the Switch’s Joy-Cons as drumsticks. Swing down for the red notes and wave to the side to hit the blue ones. It’s a fun approximation of the arcade style, but the accuracy leaves a bit to be desired. My first impression of the controls was that they worked well – a little too well. Some experiments with waving the Joy-Cons in the same direction showed that the position doesn’t really matter – sometimes it’ll hit every note even if they’re different colours. It’s a little trick that make it seem like the ‘furi furi’ controls are more accurate than they really are. This means that anyone can jump in and enjoy air drumming, but you won’t want to use the Joy-Cons for more complicated songs.
Of course there are plenty of other, more responsive, control options. Players can also opt to use buttons or the touch screen, which both made it easy to complete songs with a full combo. This new Taiko title also launched alongside another drum peripheral that brings it closer to the feel of the arcade game. I haven’t personally gotten a hands on with this new ‘Tatacon’, but it’s reportedly a lot more responsive than the model released for the PS4. You can even slot in a pair of drink bottles behind it for a sturdier feel and some quick hydration.
Taiko no Tatsujin contains a large songlist for this version, which includes tracks from two Nintendo Switch hits: Jump Up, Superstar from Super Mario Odyssey and a medley of songs from Splatoon 2. The likes of Kirby and Splatoon’s Inkling also show up as playable characters. It’s not just for Nintendo fans, though, as there’s also a lot of music from other Namco games. This jam (below) from Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, which is unique to Taiko no Tatsujin on the Switch is an unexpected highlight.
The song list is boosted by a bunch of hidden tracks and, if Bandai-Namco’s previous practices are anything to go by, a lot of DLC songs. At least the DLC is a lot more reasonably priced than previous entries. Not only is there a free track and character from the anime Shinkalion (it’s a Shinkansen that transforms into a giant robot and a friend to everyone), but there are also packs of new songs in the works. First up is a collection of five Studio Ghibli songs, including tracks from Ponyo and My Neighbor Totoro priced at 500 yen for the lot. Knowing Bandai-Namco, I doubt they’ll stop there with the DLC, so it might be a good idea to stock up on Japanese eShop credit.
This Switch version also includes a long list of minigames. Whether players are copying sushi orders, slicing incoming objects, or collecting honey, they all involve keeping the beat in some way. It’s a lot like the minigames in Rhythm Heaven, only with a multiplayer twist and somehow even cuter. Both drumming battles and minigames can be played with a single Joy-Con, making it perfect for some drum-smashing local multiplayer.
This Switch version of Taiko no Tatsujin is set to release overseas with the subtitle ‘Drum ‘n’ Fun. But of course, if you want to play it right now or get a physical copy, you can’t go wrong with the Japanese version. It even recently released a patch that entirely translates the text and menus. While it seems like the overseas version will contain many of the same songs, there are some niche picks that likely won’t make it overseas. Check out the import version if you’re after a lineup of anime and pop songs that’ll appeal to your inner weeb!
Taiko no Tatsujin is so perfectly suited to the Switch; it’s nice to have a Taiko party that you can take anywhere. The game comes packed with an enjoyable lineup of songs and minigames, plus some fun Nintendo fanservice. The ‘furi furi’ Joy-Con controls could have worked better, but there are no problems with the other control schemes. Air drumming at least makes for a good workout! This Taiko no Tatsujin entry is definitely geared more towards younger gamers than the PlayStation 4 version, but it still makes for a fun party game. Just make sure you keep that wrist strap on so you don’t wind up with a Joy-Con through your TV!