Taiko Drum Master Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

PlayStation 2
Release date:
October 26, 2004
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Taiko Drum Master

Namco's digital music title ends up skipping a few notes of fun.

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
November 30th 2004

Music and gaming are a combination that just can't seem to get old. Whether it's something simple like Parappa the Rapper, artsy like Rez, or physical like Dance Dance Revolution, timing action to music just seems to make it more rewarding. It's a shame, then, that Taiko Drum Master has most of the right elements but falls apart in the end due to technical difficulties.

Taiko Drum Master has all the requisite bits required for good music gaming- clear graphics that let you know exactly what to do and when to do it, a decent song list (which, like the game itself, has a fatal flaw in it), and fun stuff going on in the background that doesn't have anything to do with the game but is cute to watch when you aren't the one playing. It's even got a small handful of mini-games to round things out. The game's real problem, though, is also it's biggest gimmick, and that's the taiko drum controller and drumsticks it ships with.

Gameplay in Taiko Drum Master adopts the conventional standard that's easy to learn, but ultimately difficult to master. There's a bar running horizontally across the screen and symbols on the bar. Small red circles mean you hit the drum, small blue circles mean you hit the rim, and large red/blue circles mean you hit with both sticks at once. There are also two drumroll symbols, one an extended bar you can just drum away on to your heart's content while it scrolls past and another that's a balloon requiring a number of hits before the next beat show up for it to register as a success. It looks simple until you play a song on hard and then realize that "simple" and "easy" aren't exactly synonymous.

Like any music game, solid gameplay can be derailed by a meager songlist, thankfully, Taiko Drum Master manages to mostly avoid the problems of, say, Donkey Konga, by having a strong selection of classical and Namco original tunes on there as well, including Katamari Damacy's "Katamari on the Rocks". At this point I'm going to have to admit that 99% of my experience with this game is with these tunes, seeing as playing the Dragon Ball Z theme song would cause my speakers to self-destruct, and by self-destruct I mean beating on them with an axe to make them stop hurting me. It's not all bad outside of the classical/Namco songlist, Killer Queen will always be a fun tune, but the real flaw in the songlist is that, though they licensed the songs, they didn't actually license the original recordings of them. The second-rate covers of the tunes aren't as bad as, once again, Donkey Konga's, but they're nowhere near as good as they should be. So my time has mostly been spent with Carmen Prelude, Don Rangers, Katamari on the Rocks, and about a dozen others.

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