Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival Review

Become the Master Donder you are meant to be with the best entry in the franchise to date.

by Shaun Cichacki

From the moment you start Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival, you’ll immediately be hooked, finding it hard to put down your Bachi long after your arms have gone numb. With an infectious track list, with hundreds of songs available, to the bright and colorful visual splendor that fills your screen, you may have finally found the answer to your rhythm game blues.

This is going to be a game that speaks directly to a specific audience, and for those out of the loop, you may be missing out if you decide to pass over this one, as you’ll come to find one of the most enjoyable rhythm games that have come out in the past decade. Here are our thoughts on the newest entry in the Taiko no Tatsujin franchise, and why it’s a must-play for all fans of Japan, music, and feel-good times.

There’s Always Fun To Be Had With Taiko no Tatsujin

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If you’ve never heard of or played a Taiko no Tatsujin game in the past, you may be wondering why you need to add this to your ever-growing backlog. Well, no matter the mood you’re in, you’ll instantly get a smile on your face the moment you start this game. Thanks to the bright and colorful visuals that soar across your screen, you’ll always find something new to keep you occupied.

While the designs may feel slightly busy at times, you’ll always be able to keep your mind focused on the prize, while those that are watching you can examine everything else happening. From the mascot of the franchise, Don Wada, to the vast assortment of support characters,  the creative character designs bring this title’s unique flair and style to the forefront. You won’t find another game on the market that can match its frenetic energy, that’s for sure.

The premise of the game is deceptively simple as an easy-to-learn, but hard-to-master experience. You’ll only need to master and control two different notes: red Don notes, and blue Ka notes. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is, until you start increasing the level of play to higher and higher difficulties, where you’ll need surgical precision to nail rolling notes, masterful combos, and having no misses along the way.

You can’t fail out in the middle of a song, so you’ll have a chance until the end to try to save your run, but even for those that are experts in other Rhythm titles, don’t be afraid to start on easy or medium difficulty. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can become overwhelmed by the sheer speed that some of these notes come flying your way, causing you to fumble and lose track of where you are.

However, this is the most accessible entry on the Nintendo Switch, finally including a practice mode that allows you to sharpen your skills and finally nail that song that has caused so much grief.

The Practice Mode will allow you to teach yourself some of the harder tricks in the game; with some patience and skill, you can master any track. Since there are plenty of songs that make “Through The Fire And Flames” look like child’s play, Practice Mode can help you find the best way to master a difficult track, giving you an enormous boost of confidence.

There are multiple difficulty levels that you’re able to choose from — from Easy, all the way up to Oni — which will test your speed, endurance, and skill to their maximum level. Each song is ranked on a number of Stars, with a 1-Star track being very simple and easy to follow along with, all the way up to a 10-Star track to test the best of the best. Blasting beats and burning calories is an excellent combination, and you could argue that you could use this as a bit of a workout at times.

Catchy Beats and Quick Feats

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As you make your way through the soundtrack, you’re sure to find something of interest. Be it a song from one of your favorite titles, such as Super Mario Bros., Undertale, or Persona 5, to original songs created by Bandai Namco, they’ve nailed the tracklist for the base game. However, once you have made your way through the initial 80 songs that are available in the game and mastered them all, what can you do?

This title has introduced something new to the franchise, called the Taiko Music Pass. In the past, if you were looking to add new songs to your game, you would need to purchase DLC packs, which could vary wildly in price, with some offering a few tracks for $4.99, or higher. With this new subscription service, however, you’ll be able to add 500 songs to your game for a low monthly or tri-monthly charge.

While those that are against subscription services may not love this new addition, it allows you to experience a bewildering number of songs for a low cost, rather than needing to drop hundreds of dollars on downloadable content in the future. It’s a great new feature and something that other rhythm games should consider doing in the future.

However, if you’re planning on partaking in just the base game, you’ll still find a very meaty list of tracks to drum along with, from staples like “Night of Knights/Knight of Nights” to the catchy “Katamari on the Rocks,” you’ll lose yourself in an attempt to master every difficulty available.

And this is the type of game that you’ll be able to play wherever you go. You don’t need a dedicated instrument to make the magic happen since there are plenty of different ways to drum. If you prefer button presses or touchscreen input, there are plenty of ways to play if you don’t want to shell out for the Hori Official Drum or a custom-made drum controller.

But, to be frank, you’ll be missing out on a huge portion of the fun if you don’t pick up a Drum controller. As a fan of the rhythm genre for years, the sheer number of plastic guitars, drums, and anything else has become slightly overwhelming, but there is something magical about the Taiko controller that just makes you feel accomplished when you finish your first Oni-level song.

The Most Customizable Taiko Game on Switch Yet

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With the initial release of Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun on the Nintendo Switch, players were able to select a different character, but that was about it. They weren’t able to partake in the customization that the other games in the franchise offered, and that was a bit of a smack on the face of your little Don-chan. But this time around, things are different.

You’ll be able to customize every facet of your character with a unique look that you’ll love to see every time you log in. Tackling the hardest track yet alongside a little drum dressed up like a frog is adorable.

You’ll also be able to customize your general gameplay experience to your liking, as you’ll be able to change the sound of your Taiko drum, making it sound like MappyPac-Man, dogs, and cats, or nothing at all to maximize your ability to zone right in on the action in front of you. If you’re someone that needs to focus on the music or wants to make things as loud as possible, you’re set either way.

Something For Almost Everyone

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When you first load into the game, you’re treated to an introduction and a simple how-to-play segment that you’re able to skip if you’re feeling confident or have played through games in the franchise before. However, you’ll also come to find that the main rhythm game is just the tip of the iceberg, and you’ll have plenty of different activities to keep you occupied for years to come.

You’ll be able to partake in The Great Toy War, which will pit you against other players, or AI opponents in battles to determine who the best drummer is while using power-ups to confuse your opponents, or yourself in the process. This is a very unique battle mode and plays almost like a round of Mario Kart, where you’ll need to keep your focus laser sharp if you want to take home a win.

You’ll also be able to play with up to four players locally or online in the Big Band Mode, which will let players take on songs together, and it can be a great time if you’ve got plenty of skilled players, or an absolute mess if you’re all learning. It’s quite fun and can lead to some big laughs if you’re all in the same skill group, or want to teach someone how to play the game.

Alongside all of the new customization options that you’re able to outfit your character with, and the story mode that you can experience, there is a ton of content here, alongside general online play where you can compete to become the most skilled drummer. There’s even Matchmaking, where you can create a room and fight against those in your same skill level, which is excellent to see.

While it’s a shame that some of the party games from Drum ‘n’ Fun didn’t make their way into this to make it the most feature-rich game in the franchise, you’ll still find more than enough to see and do here, and if you never experienced them, you may not even know that they’re missing.

The Verdict

If you’ve never experienced the Taiko no Tatsujin franchise, this is going to be the perfect entry point for players. With the new Taiko Music Pass, you’ll have access to more music than ever before, and with its abundant customization options for your character and playstyle, you’ll become a master Donder in no time. You’ll need the patience to learn and grow, but once you do, it’s the best feeling around.

While this isn’t a game for everyone, those that have even had the slightest fleeting interest in the series need to take a chance on this game and find out why it’s one of the more unique titles to come out in gaming history. You’ll fall in love with Don Wada, and soon, you’ll become the Taiko Master you were born to be.

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

"loved"
loved

  • Score: 4.5 / 5
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: BANDAI NAMCO
  • Developed By: BANDAI NAMCO
  • Genre: Rhythm/Music
  • US Release Date: September 23, 2022
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "If you've never experienced the Taiko no Tatsujin franchise, this is going to be the perfect entry point for players. With the new Taiko Music Pass, you'll have access to more music than ever before, and with its abundant customization options for your character and playstyle, you'll become a master Donder in no time. You'll need the patience to learn and grow, but once you do, it's the best feeling around."
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