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Taiko Drum Master
game: Taiko Drum Master
four star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Namco
developer: Namco
ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 12:00 AM Sun Nov 21st, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Sun Nov 21st, 2004

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Click to read.Take Dance Dance Revolution and replace the dance mat with a drum and you have a pretty good idea of what Taiko Drum Master is like.  The main difference is that in Taiko Drum Master you can play sitting down and you only have to move your arms.  No exercise for us, just massive forearms.  In all seriousness, Taiko Drum Master is very well put together and is a must buy title for fans of rhythm and music games.  

Taiko Drum Master is really a very simple game.  The set comes with a plastic drum that is 10 inches in diameter and about two inches tall, a three-piece stand that tilts the drum up at an angle, and two drumsticks.  The way you play is you hit the drum in the proper spot when the right icon scrolls across the screen.  Red circles mean you hit the face of the drum with one stick.  Blue circles mean you hit the rim of the drum with one stick.  A big red circle means you hit the surface with both sticks and a big blue circle means you hit both sides of the rim (left and right) with the sticks at the same time.  A long yellow bar or a red balloon indicates a drum roll.  And that is really all there is to it.  

Just like in all of the other rhythm games, higher difficulties present many more icons to clear and much more difficult combinations.  Taiko throws yet another wrench into the works by abruptly changing tempo in some songs.  It is essential to learn how to play with both hands, though, and for some people that might prove difficult.  It is possible to use one hand (except for the big red and blue hits, of course) and be very successful on the easy level, but you likely won't be able to keep up on harder levels.  

Something that proves difficult in Taiko Drum Master is finding a comfortable position to be in while you are playing.  As you play, the drum moves around quite a bit and missed rim hits happen pretty regularly because the drum simply isn't where you expect it to be.  There isn't really a good solution to this problem.  You can use the stand and set the drum on a desk or table (the stand being essential because it lifts it up off the surface so you'll actually be able to hit the side of the rim) but most people don't have a desk or table handy that is at the right height so it is comfortable to play.   Standing and playing is not fun and sitting too low doesn't work either.  You can put it in your lap and sit on the floor or in a chair, but the drum will move a lot unless you get creative with some duct tape.  This is just what people have to put up with when they use specialized peripherals like this, I guess.  The game is still very fun, but you have to fight the drum quite a bit too.

The drum is actually pretty well designed, though, and is very solidly built.  You don't have to baby it like you do a soft DDR pad.  It is meant to be played like a real drum, and that means hitting it hard.  The sensors on the top and sides of the rim won't recognize soft hits, so you have to hit it fairly hard.  This is a great way to take out your aggression after a long hard day.  

One drawback of having to hit it so hard is that it is guaranteed to annoy the people around you.  It wouldn't be so bad if what you played actually resembled a song, but this is a videogame not a drum simulator.  There are a lot of pauses and tempo changes and the different hits you have to make don't exactly make pleasant musical sounds.  If you are in the room watching, it is pretty cool and doesn't bother you.  If you are somewhere else and don't know what is going on, Taiko Drum Master will drive you mad.  Consider your parents or siblings or roommates before you play and everyone will be a lot happier.

Like any music game, Taiko Drum Master is only as good as its soundtrack.  The game features 31 tracks which includes pop, rock, and classical music along with some songs from Namco videogames.  You'll hear sound alike versions of "Are You Gonna Be My Girl", "I'm A Believer", "Love Shack", "My Sharona", "Toxic", "Tubthumping", and many more.  Even the Dragon Ball Z theme is thrown in for good measure.  The game songs are from Soul Calibur II, Ridge Racer and other Namco games including Katamari Damacy (one of my favorite games of 2004).  Overall, I think the music selection is pretty good and you get a lot of recognizable songs that are fun to drum to, but I think it could be better.  Specifically, I would have absolutely loved to have more videogame music available.  

Graphically, Taiko Drum Master has a bright, fun, cartoony look that works very well.  The characters that dance and play onscreen are almost nauseatingly cute, but you are usually so busy watching the beat icons scroll by that you won't notice them.  The graphics aren't very important in rhythm games, but Taiko has a lot of style and a unique look that is quirky and fun and suits the game perfectly.

Fans of DDR, Amplitude, and all of the other rhythm games will have a blast with Taiko Drum Master.  It is well put together, features a decent list of songs, and is a very satisfying game to play thanks to the drum peripheral.  The only real negative aspect of Taiko Drum Master is the $59.99 price tag.  You can't use the drum for anything else and there aren't any guarantees that more games that use it will even come out in the US.  It is a very fun game, though, and having a set will make you the envy of all of your friends, so I would say it is worth it.  If you can rent it with the drum, give it a try before you buy.  I do think it is cool enough and fun enough that it is worth a purchase.

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