fishdalf's Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo DS) review

One of the best rhythm games on the market today.


Welcome to the craziest, most peculiar yet addictive rhythm game you could ever wish to experience. The Elite Beat Agents are a band of secret agents who wouldn’t look out of place in the next Men in Black movie, infact you even get to play as agent Smith who doesn’t look all that dissimilar to Big Willie himself. The premise is simple yet disturbing. Somebody faces an utterly bizarre problem and shouts for help, then its agents to the rescue as they attempt to dance away any obstacle that stands in their path. Apparently looking stylish and shaking your groove ‘thang’ is the key to solving all the worlds’ problems; if only.

You won’t be all that surprised to hear this is based on a game by the name of Osu! Tatkae! Ounden! A game released in Japan last year which featured some crazy superhero cheerleaders who also danced their woes away with some tight moves. The game was never released over here, probably because of its strange Japanese audio but thankfully they kept the core gameplay and decided to remold the game into something that would appeal to a wider audience.

The game is presented through some superb anime-style comics, with every song featuring its own outlandish story and unique problems which need solving. One of the levels for example features a weather broadcaster who can’t get home to her son until the weather improves (don’t ask why). As you successfully complete each section of the song she changes the weather to bright skies with the help of some jungle creatures (don’t ask why) until finally she achieves her goal. It really is hard not to laugh at some of the random thing’s that occur in these cut-scenes, you have to wonder if they’re intended to be this way or something was lost in translation. It’s also pretty hilarious watching the agents swinging their hips and waving their arms in time with the music as you attempt to play the game, a little off-putting but all makes for a beautifully bewildering experience.

The game plays out on the touch screen and requires you to hit numbered circles in time with the music, the timing is depicted by wider circles which descend into them. Once one overlaps the other you tap it with your stylus and move onto the next number in any given sequence. Where it starts getting complicated is when you have multiple colour-coded sequences immediately following one another. The game also implements other game mechanics such as dragging a ball along a track with your stylus, this is used to represent prolonged notes in most cases. There’s also a spinning wheel which pops up from time to time, this requires a pretty rapid spin of your stylus to fill a meter on screen. While it’s fun at first over time it will have you fearing for the safety of your touch screen, I guess it’s a little reminiscent of some mini-games found in WarioWare.

Elite Beat Agents is simple in principle but can get incredibly fast-paced and frantic at times. There’s also little room for error which makes things extremely challenging and takes a lot of practice to perfect. The game is split into four difficulty settings and even on the easiest (1 star) you won’t get an easy ride, by the time you reach 3 and 4 stars you will probably struggle to keep up. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this is even after you’ve played through a song for the N’th time it doesn’t get frustrating and keeps you coming back for more. Even after you’ve completed every song the game offers there’s always that urge to go back and achieve a better ranking.

There are an initial 16 songs to play through with a further 3 bonus tracks coming available once you rank high enough. Increasing your rank depends on the combined scores from every level the game offers so replaying them is paramount to completing the game in its entirety. Obtaining the perfect score isn’t based solely on achieving 100% though, that would be much too easy. If you want a ranking of ‘A’ or higher you are required to hit each note in perfect time with the rhythm. The tutorial may explain the basics but unless you have a good sense of timing you will struggle with this game considerably.

The soundtrack is insanely varied and makes little sense, you have dance classics such as ‘YMCA’ and ‘September’ in there but at the same time you have contemporary covers of Good Charlotte and Sum 41 songs. Personally I welcome the sporadic nature of the track list but I’m sure many won’t be as appreciative. Ironically in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience they’ve probably alienated large portions. Plus none of the songs are originals and while a few of the covers are spot on some of them are just plain awful.

The multiplayer has both Competitive and Co-Operative play but neither should hold your interest for very long. Competitive Mode sees up to four players competing in teams to hit all of the notes while Co-Op shares the notes between all players as you work for an overall score. The game also has the option of download play but only allows you to play through a handful of songs, it also has pretty dire loading times.

I know tapping circles and spinning wheels doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable experience but between its crazy cut-scenes and those funky men in suits Elite Beat Agents is one of the best rhythm games available. It doesn’t try to over excel itself with complex game mechanics, it keeps thing’s fun and simple and that’s just the way we like it.
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