Elite Beat Agents follows in the footsteps of the popular Japanese rhythm game for the Nintendo DS, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. Like its predecessor, Elite Beat Agents utilizes various touching actions on the Nintendo DS's touch screen to carry out the gameplay. iNiS has made this spiritual sequel entirely geared towards the western market, rather than making a direct port of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. As such, Elite Beat Agents features an overhauled soundtrack comprised of western pop music, as well as new characters and voice acting. The game has gone on to receive almost universally positive critical acclaim, and received a handful of 2006 gaming awards from various publications.
In Elite Beat Agents, players take control of members of a fictional government agency called the Elite Beat Agents. Their mission is to help inspire those who have cried out for help in overcoming a crisis. The agents then arrive on the scene, attempting to cheer on the persons in need via song and dance. If the mission is successful, the agents have succeeded in inspiring their target to overcome their obstacle. Failure in either song or dance leaves those in need doomed to remain without proper inspiration, thus failing whatever task that was troubling them.
Each mission features its own song and stand alone plot, completely unrelated to the plots of the other missions (small cameos aside). The only exception is the two part finale. The actual story is carried out in a comic style on the top screen, while the gameplay is relegated to the touch screen, along with the dancing agents. A few scenes set up the story before the song starts, then unfolds as the player gets to work on the touch screen. Each mission features occasional breaks in gameplay, where the unfolding story on the top screen reflects the players performance. Good or bad things happen to the characters involved depending on the players' progress.
Elite Beat Agents is generally comical in tone, and uses randomness throughout the story to create humorous moments. For example, after a professional baseball player loses his spot on the team and is relegated to janitorial duty, a giant fire breathing golem comes out of nowhere and attacks the stadium. He calls for the agents' help in defeating the golem. Most of the stories are equally nonsensical, and radiate a generally quirky, lighthearted tone. However, to effectively break up the wackiness, in the middle of the game, the song "You're The Inspiration", provides a heartwarming, serious tale which nicely sets off the insanity of the rest of the game.
Elite Beat Agents is a rhythm game, and focuses its gameplay on touch screen based rhythm actions. These actions attempt to time themselves with the song of the given mission. In essence, there are three different actions that the player must perform.
Touch Screen Actions
- Tapping - Small circles appear on the bottom DS screen known as "Hit Markers", with a ring closing in around it. As the ring closes in close to the circle, the player taps the circle, which goes along with the song's rhythm. Based on how closely the tapping went along with the song, the player is awarded 300, 100, or 50 points. Missing entirely nets the player 0 points, resets the combo, and drains some of the 'Elite-O-Meter'
- Sliding - Continuous sounds of a song are represented by long strips on the DS screen, known as "Phrase Markers". On these strips, the player will need to follow a ball with the stylus, going along with the song. Small dots on the strip give points if the stylus is on the ball while it goes over the dots.
- Spinning - Occasionally, a spinner will appear on screen, which are called "Spin Markers", forcing the player to spin the stylus around in circles on the screen very quickly, racking up points with each revolution of the spinner.
As players hit the various beats during the mission they receive points. A perfectly timed hit is worth 300 points, a mediocre hit is worth 100 points, and a sloppy hit is worth 50 points. Missing the beat earns no points. Connecting multiple beats in a row earns the player a multiplier that continues to build as the streak grows. Players can receive bonus points by scoring what is called a "Beat" or an "Elite Beat". All the beats are colored, and they change color every few notes. If the player hits every successive beat of one color with a score of 100 or 300 each, it is considered a "Beat". Hitting every successive beat of one color perfectly, scoring 300 on each beat, is considered an "Elite Beat".
A separate "Elite-O-Meter" is always present at the top of the touch screen, and represents overall performance. It remains filled if the player does well, but begins to empty as the player's performance drops. If the meter empties, then the player fails the mission. At the end of the mission, the player is rewarded a grade. From best to worst, the possible grades are S, A, B, C, and D. An S rank is extremely difficult to achieve, and requires the player to not only hit every single beat, but also score 300 points on a high percentage of them. There are also multiple endings to each story based on the player's performance, and the player's score from each mission gets culminated into an overall "Agent Rank". The player will earn up to three bonus songs as the "Agent Rank" increases.
Elite Beat Agents has four levels of difficulty, and also sports a replay saving feature. Players can save one replay per song, and these replays can be accessed at will, as well as shared between different players.
Elite Beat Agents supports multiplayer play. Up to four Nintendo DS systems can connect to each other using one or more game cartridges (more songs are available for multiplayer play if everyone has their own copy). In this mode, each participating player plays the same song simultaneously, competing for the higher score. There is also a "star meter" that players can fill up by completing "Elite Beats". When a player fills the star meter they unleash an attack on their opponents, shaking their screen and making the beats shrink, thus becoming more difficult to hit. At the end of the song the player with the highest score wins. This mode can also be played in single player against a saved replay. There is also a separate cooperative mode, in which players alternate who's playing during the song. In this mode the score is shared, and if one player fails, everyone fails.
Trio of Mayhem! Love and Boyfriends!!
- Song: Walkie Talkie Man
- Target: Jane, age 17 (She loves eating cookies).
Trio of Mayhem perhaps best represents the insanity that is Elite Beat Agents. Jane is a babysitter whose football star of a boyfriend, Don, has to help her babysit. She wants to go steady with Don, so this proves to be a problem. The agents have to help Jane and Don babysit a bunch of bratty children, with the end result being the two getting together.
Red Carpet Premiere! Smash Hit or Box Office Crash!!
- Song: Makes No Difference
- Target: Chris, age 36 (Thinking about his speech for the awards ceremony).
Red Carpet Premiere is the story of Chris, a director whose career depends on his latest movie's success, titled Romancing Meowzilla. This is a tale of love, Meowzilla, and more love. In the end, Chris manages to direct a well-received movie, and becomes the talk of Movieland (Hollywood).
Magic Meets Madness! The Show Must Go On!
- Song: Rock This Town
- Target: Thomas, age 36 (Has a doctorate in mathematics).
Thomas is a magician working at a casino who, after gambling off all of his and his assistant's money, must save the casino from a robbery by a strange group of criminals possibly inspired by Alice in Wonderland. After using his exceptional magical abilities, Thomas and his assistant are awarded a fortune in gold bars by the casino.
Art and Beauty! Love and Happiness!?
- Song: I Was Born to Love You
- Target: Leonard, age 27 (His cap collection is said to be the largest in the world).
Art and Beauty is the untold story of Leonardo da Vinci and his love, who he, in turn, paints as the Mona Lisa. Leo is constantly flocked by women due to his great painting skills, but once he meets his love, she consistently rejects him. After getting her tickets to a concert, building a flying machine, and saving her from bulls, she finally falls for him.
A Pug's Life! 400 Miles from Home!!
- Song: Highway Star
- Target: Sam, age 3 (Buried a biscuit last week in the backyard).
Sam is a dog who is separated from his young owner. The agents dance to Highway Star to lead Sam back to his home, from hitchiking to begging for food. Sam eventually makes his way home, and reunites with his owner.
Hey, Taxi! To the Hospital, and Hurry!!
- Song: Sk8er Boi
- Target: Jack, age 32 (Has his coffee with eight sugars).
Jack is a taxi driver with a road rage problem. As soon as someone hops into the car, he changes into a madman intent on reaching the destination. This particular story follows Jack as he takes a pregnant woman to the hospital. After the police realize that he has a pregnant woman in the taxi, they clear the way, and Jack gets off free.
Ahoy, Mates! Sunken Delights and Adventure!!
- Song: Y.M.C.A.
- Target: Captain Brooke, age 61 (Says he's married to the sea).
Captain Brooke and his parrot are at sea, searching for undersea treasure. Brooke finds a beautiful underwater cave filled with mermaids and treasure, and then finds a sunken ship filled the brim with gold and jewels. He lives happily for the rest of his life in riches, and at sea.
Cry Wolf! Meteorology and Parenting!!
- Song: September
- Target: Sofie, age 34 (Has a black belt in karate).
Sofie promises her young son that she will go on a picnic with him, but (being a meteorologist) is fully aware that the forecast calls for rain. On air she says that the forecast will be sunny weather, so she won't disappoint her son. She resorts to rituals with animals, directing fans towards the clouds, and having the air force clear the clouds.
Family Honor! Introducing the Secret-Weapon Ninja!!
- Song: Canned Heat
- Target: Ken Ozu, age 21 (Has a world-class collection of RC planes).
Ken Ozu is the son of a wealthy automobile industry owner, whose secret car plans were stolen by a competing company. Ken Ozu is typically lazy, but he is called up by the family heritage to be a ninja. Ken manages to sneak into the competing car company's headquarters and reclaims the plans.
NURSE!! Gold Medal Hero or Zero!!
- Song: La La
- Target: Cap White, age unknown (Just what the doctor ordered).
While this scenario follows Cap White, she is actually a white blood cell of an athlete struggling with a virus. Cap White and the rest of the athlete's immune system must cope with the virus singlehandedly, and without the usage of any medicine. Cap White manages to fight off the virus, and the athlete goes on to win the race.
Survive! Celebrity Lives and Desert Isles!!
- Song: Material Girl
- Target: Carrington Sisters, age 24 (Feed diamonds to their cat).
This scenario follows the Carrington sisters, two super-celebrities who are suddenly and without warning thrust onto a desert island. This scenario chronicles their adventures, as they use their celebrity talents to manipulate the wildlife to do their bidding, and eventually get them off the island.
A Christmas Gift
- Song: You're the Inspiration
- Target: Lucy, age 7 (Wants to marry someone like her daddy).
The only serious, and possibly most well-known scenario in Elite Beat Agents. This scenario is without much of the silliness and insanity that the rest of the game includes. Lucy's father promises to be back before Christmas when he leaves for an extended business trip, but when we see the family several months later (and days before Christmas), it's clear that Lucy's father died in an accident. Lucy refuses to believe it, and, in the end, her father's ghost returns to the house, along with a teddy bear for Lucy.
Batter Up! Home Run Hero Makes a Comeback!!
- Song: The Anthem
- Target: Hulk, age 28 (Named "Rookie of the Year" 10 seasons ago).
Hulk was a star baseball player, until he just stopped making home runs. He works as a janitor in an amusement park, until a large rock monster is attacking a group of children. He uses the skills he picked up as a baseball player, which grants him a place on a professional baseball team again.
Rags to Riches! Go East Wildcatter!
- Song: Let's Dance
- Target: Colonel, age 40 (Serves his wife breakfast in bed daily).
In Rags to Riches, Colonel is an incredibly wealthy multi-trillionaire who has acquired his wealth through the oil industry. One day, the industry fails and Colonel's entire wealth (save for a few billion) is lost. The remainder of his money is left to his wife, but she is outraged due to the fact that they can no longer afford private islands. She kicks him out of the house until he regains his wealth. After finding Atlantis, founding an amusement park, inventing a specialized drill, and finally striking more oil, Colonel's wealth is regained, and everything is back to normal in his household.
No More Music!? The Last Hope!!
- Song: Without a Fight and Jumpin' Jack Flash
- Target: Unknown
The grand finale of Elite Beat Agents, Without a Fight and Jumpin' Jack Flash take on the two part story of an alien invasion. When the aliens attack Earth, they completely ban all music. This causes depression all over the world, with many familiar characters from other acts lamenting the lack of music. So, in a last ditch effort, the numerous characters met over the course of the game let out a scream of "HEEEEEEEEEEELP!!!", summoning the Elite Beat Agents.
In the second part, the aliens have managed to freeze the Elite Beat Agents in stone, but the cheering of the people brings them back to finish off the aliens once and for all, through the combined power of dance and song. Nearly every character that has been seen in the game thus far participates in the final battle with the aliens, destroying them.
Aspire! Dancing to the Limelight!
- Song: Believe
- Target: Amanda, age 26 (Still loves country music).
In the first of the three bonus songs, Amanda is aspiring to be a dancer. Instead, she is a waitress in a restaurant. Her unsupportive brother doesn't help either, merely discouraging her from learning to dance. Despite these obstacles, she works hard to become a dancer, even dancing while waiting tables. She overcomes the difficulties, and becomes a fantastic dancer; in the end, her now supportive brother attends her debut performance in front of a large audience.
Here, Kitty, Kitty! Baby Hijinks!!
- Song: ABC
- Target: Max, age 5 (Smells like apple pie. Reason unknown).
In Elite Beat Agent's take on Jackson 5's ABC, a cat--Max--is left to babysit a baby. His owner promises that his reward will be fish if he manages to take care of the baby. However, he doesn't notice the baby climbing out of the fire escape. After chasing the baby down scaffolding, rollercoasters, and electric fences, Max manages to save the baby. In the end, he gets his fish as his reward.
The Last Laugh! Just a Peanut Matter!!
- Song: Survivor
- Target: Jake, age 36
The final bonus song in Elite Beat Agents follows Jake, a serious peanut deliveryman. When a polka-dot zombie outbreak occurs, spreading by kisses, Jake arms himself peanut-loaded weaponry. By taking advantage of these weapons, and a general lack of emotion, Jake manages to survive the zombie outbreak.
The Elite Beat Agents agency has many members, which the player can control access at some point in the game. They are:
- Agent Morris - background singer on all but the highest difficulty
- Agent Derek - background singer on all but the highest difficulty
- Agent Spin - lead singer on the easiest difficulty
- Agent J - lead singer on the second easiest difficulty
- Agent Chieftain - lead singer on the third easiest difficulty
- Elite Beat Divas - the three singers on the highest difficulty. Led by Agent Starr.
- Commander Kahn - the leader of the Elite Beat Agents. He assigns the missions, and is also an unlockable playable character.
Elite Beat Agents consists of 16 main missions, and 3 bonus missions. Each mission has its own song, making 19 total tracks. All songs in the games are covers.
The main tracks are:
- Steriogram - "Walkie Talkie Man" (by Jason Paige)
- Sum 41 - "Makes No Difference" (by Vinn Lombardo)
- Avril Lavigne - "Sk8ter Boi" (by Angela Michael)
- Queen - "I Was Born To Love You" (by Paul Vician)
- Stray Cats - "Rock This Town" (by Mark Latham)
- Deep Purple - "Highway Star" (by Kaleb James)
- Village People - "Y.M.C.A." (by TC Moses)
- Earth, Wind, and Fire - "September" (by TC Moses)
- Jamiroquai - "Canned Heat" (by Jason Paige)
- Madonna - "Material Girl" (by Melissa Garber)
- Ashlee Simpson - "La La" (by Laura Jane)
- Chicago - "You're the Inspiration" (by Julian Miranda)
- David Bowie - "Let's Dance" (by Delaney Wolff)
- Good Charlotte - "The Anthem" (by Kevin Ridel)
- Hoobastank - "Without a Fight" (by Kevin Ridel)
- The Rolling Stones - "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (by Billy Fogarty)
The bonus tracks are:
- Cher - "Believe" (by Lynn Ross)
- Jackson Five - "ABC" (by TC Moses and Brittany Kertesz)
- Destiny's Child - "Survivor" (by April Harmony)