Here at bemanistyle, we have been fans of Taiko no Tatsujin for as long as we could tell. I remember playing the arcade version at TGA (Tokyo Game Action) in Woonsocket, RI back in 2004/2005 and fell in love ever since. The simplicity of the game, matched with the adorable-ness played a huge factor. Since its first entry on PS2, there have been over a dozen of these games on a variety of systems, on top of the arcade machines that are still going to this day in Japan and at a few Round1 locations throughout the United States as well.
Even though this is the second game available in English since the start of the series, the general public looking at the box cover would simply turn a blind eye. In good ol’ living in USA fashion, I imported myself a copy of the game and drum bundle and prepped for an amazing time with having to reintroduce myself to a home version. As a note, Both Japanese and Asia versions of the game contains four languages: Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. The language is automatically set based on the system language on one’s PS4 console, and the game will set in English if the console’s system language is set to anything other than the above mentioned system languages.
The simple, yet visually stunning play area can still fool you of course. The gameplay is simple, notes of two different colors (Red-Orange and Blue) appear on the screen and you must hit them with the correct timing once they hover over the white faded ring close to your character. Two notes to hit sounds pretty easy until you venture out onto the harder difficulties which we’ll get to in just a sec. Speed mods are available, as well as changing the way the drum audio can be heard. From bells, to whooshing noises.
Visuals are super crisp and the audio has zero flaws. There’s an option in the settings that somehow uses a microphone plugged into a DualShock 4 controller to automatically detect the visual delay to use – which is some next level shit for rhythm games. The game features a single player, ranked online matches and local multiplayer. Ranked online matches lets you play 5 placement songs matched with the ghosts of other players globally. Depending on your numbered rank after the placement matches, you’ll be matched with ghosted players again to try and outscore them. Win a match and earn a coin. Earn 5 coins to rank up. Lose a match and a coin gets taken away. Local multiplayer works by two players starting a game and simultaneously unlock content while playing together. This arcade is not without its faults, however. There’s not a huge amount of content, with no single-player story to speak of or RPG mode like the Vita version. Each song has multiple bingo cards filled with various objectives, and each line you complete gives you a coin. When you have at least two coins, you can unlock new customization options like costumes, sound effects, greeting messages and more.
The drum controller by HORI is a great piece of hardware, but maybe not a ‘must have’ for everyone. The issues are still there, dating as far back as the PS2 and Wii versions. You can absolutely play the game with a DualShock 4, and it’s actually easier to hit notes quickly using one, but the experience isn’t the same. You need to slam down on the drums surprisingly hard for the notes to register, but the build quality is quite solid so I never felt like it was going to break. The blue notes, which require you to hit the outer rim of the drum, and the red-orange notes you hit the center. The drum plugs into your PS4 via USB, and can also be recognized by PC!
The most amazing thing about Taiko Master: Drum Session is its natural progression of difficulty. There are four different difficulties for each song plus one secret difficulty for a select number of songs. Easy is insanely easy and better suited for children or people who have never touched a rhythm game before. Normal has a wide gamut of difficulty depending on the song of course, ranging from barely harder than Easy to a decent challenge. Hard can be a challenge on most songs, and where I usually settle for regular play. I can clear Oni charts which are the hardest standard chart for songs, but Ura Oni is a secret difficulty which can get pretty insane. No matter how much you play, there’s a difficulty that’s satisfying at your skill level.
No other game could have me smile from ear to ear upon playing and seeing this damn game and it’s merchandise. Match that with excellent tracks such as Japanese audio of Let It Go (from Disney’s Frozen), the ending theme song to My Neighbor Totoro, DokuLO CANdy♡ from t-pazolite and even Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen (PPAP). You can play against and unlock a few characters such as Hatsune Miku, Hello Kitty, Pac-Man and more after playing their specific song. 74 tracks are included with the game, with more DLC depending on your region.