When Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack was first announced during a Nintendo Direct Mini earlier this year, it immediately struck a chord with me not just because I love rhythm-based video games but because it also combined it with another genre you’d never really expect, the JPRG. Of course, mixing two crazy elements together just for the sake of it doesn’t guarantee a winning formula so does the drumming-based gameplay of the Taiko no Tatsujin series go together with an RPG adventure like peanut butter and chocolate or more like water and oil?
The Taiko no Tatsujin series on paper sounds like it’d be a walk in the park, the two inputs required from the player either hitting the skin of a drum or tapping on the rim. Compare that to the four pads and a foot pedal of Rock Band or six buttons and strum bar in the latest Guitar Hero and its hard to argue that initial assumption. Sit down with the game for five minutes and you’ll soon discover that isn’t the case. Whether you’re playing with traditional controls or the drum peripheral, the Taiko no Tatsujin formula offers a challenging time but more importantly a satisfying and fun one.
What you’re essentially getting with Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack are two games both delivering a pretty similar package, an RPG-style adventure and a more traditional arcade mode where you’re free to play through the 60-plus song list aiming for the highest score. Let’s focus first on the first and to be honest more intriguing of the modes.
Whether you’re playing the first Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure or its sequel, the story modes deliver a very similar experience – albeit with the sequel offering a few more quality of life adjustments – both mechanically and from a narrative perspective. You’ll follow taiko-drums Don and Katsu as they travel through time and around the world making squeaky noises and meeting a whole cast of other cute, colourful and equally squeaky characters. I’ll be honest, the story of both games wasn’t something I found myself particularly invested in. They’re simple tales with characters that often talk for far too long even with when you’re using the skip button to try and hurry them along.
Each location you visit is presented as an open (but relatively straightforward) map with the odd splitting path often yielding the player a chest full with bonus goodies. As you wander around you’ll come across enemies to battle and this is where the game blends in its rhythm-based gameplay. To attack enemies you’ll want to drum along to prompts as a song plays, the better your timing, the more damage you’ll do. Mistime your hits and the enemies will fight back. Defeating enemies will earn you experience (just like an RPG) and even sometimes see them joining your party where you’ll then be able to level them up through battles and even unlock abilities usable mid-fight such as healing your party.
The general idea is certainly an intriguing one, however, it does fall into a number of problems that hold it back. Songs repeat far too often for example with each location limiting the pool to a select few and repetition setting in long before you move onto the next environment. The difficulty too can prove problematic especially between its ‘normal’ and ‘hard’ settings. The former offers little challenge and as a result, can make fights feel more chore-like while the latter far too tough killing any momentum the adventure has as you lose fight after fight. The worlds themselves are also devoid of much character and liveliness making them rather dull to explore.
It’s also surprising that the drum controller can’t be used in either of the story modes especially since it’s fair game when playing in Taiko mode. A strange omission and one that would have helped elevate the adventure a little more.
All in all both adventures certainly offer something truly unique taking the gameplay of a rhythm game and injecting RPG-like elements. Unfortunately, the end result, while weird, feels far too uneven to be considered a straight-up success.
Thankfully, Taiko mode is also available for those who just want some traditional arcade action. With over sixty songs in each game ranging a number of genres, there’s a good amount of content to sink your teeth into just don’t expect to play any of them against a friend. It strikes me as super odd neither game offers any form of multiplayer options especially since the previous Switch effort supported up to four. I’ve always enjoyed playing music games with others and it’s a huge disappointment to find I’m stuck on my own even in Taiko mode.
It’s great to see more Taiko no Tatsujin games making their way over to our side of the world but Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack feels like a disappointing step back after the highly enjoyable Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun!. The story modes while certainly quirky fumble things when it comes to the RPG elements and a lack of any multiplayer options is simply bewildering but if you’re after another 100 plus more songs to drum and tap away to Rhythmic Adventure Pack has you covered.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment