Taiko: Drum Master Nintendo Switch Version! Import Review

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Bandai Namco’s newest addition to the Taiko series brings new music, updated visuals, and all-around fun. Find out about it in our Taiko: Drum Master Nintendo Switch Version! review!

Release Date July 19, 2018
Genre Rhythm
Platforms Nintendo Switch
Developer Bandai Namco
Price ¥ 6,588 ($59.34 US at time of writing)
ESRB Rating CERO A (Corresponds to ‘Everyone’ in the US)
Players 1-4 Players

 

Taiko: Drum Master Nintendo Switch Version!, named for the cultural Japanese taiko drums of the same name, is an extremely fun rhythm game focused on playing a taiko drum. There are two notes played with the bachi drum sticks: a don (by hitting the drum surface) and a ka (by hitting the rim of the drum). While there are only two notes, Taiko: Drum Master NSV! combines them wonderfully to match the sound and feeling of each song you play.

Some of my favorite games to play are rhythm games, even though I’m not particularly good at them. When Bandai Namco announced that a new Taiko game was being released for the Nintendo Switch, I was adamant that I needed it. However, like most Taiko games, they weren’t planning on releasing it to the West, and would largely keep the series to Japan and Asia. So, like a logical adult, I imported it because I just had to have it. For the full experience, I also bought the Hori drum controller.

Now, I don’t know very much, if any Japanese. The hardest part about Taiko: Drum Master NSV! was getting past the first menus in Japanese. These menus, for what I could understand, are safety warnings as well as how to use the Joy-Con controllers’ motion sensors to simulate hitting the taiko drum. Thankfully, the remainder of the menus are pretty self-explanatory with icons matching what actions you make.

Taiko: Drum Master NSV! also features a character select, where each character has a different skill that affects your gameplay. For example, once unlocked, the Bachio drumstick pair makes it easier to hit “Good” quality notes. Starting out, you have access to six characters: a red, blue, orange, and green taiko, a pink squid from Splatoon, and Kirby. A free DLC available now from the Japanese e-Shop contains a new Gundam character.

Taiko Drum Master Song taiko: drum master nintendo switch version - taiko drum master 1024x577 - Taiko: Drum Master Nintendo Switch Version! Import Review
Photo Credit: Bandai Namco

Going through the song list, the first I gravitated to was Jump Up! Superstar from Super Mario Odyssey. Playing on the kantan (Easy) difficulty, the notes scrolled across the screen effortlessly, and after learning the specific timing for both the drum and the controller, hitting the notes was very intuitive, easily switching between the don and ka of the drum and rim. Playing it again on futsū (Normal) difficulty was just as fun. Taiko: Drum Master NSV! features songs from popular J-Pop artists, movies, anime, and games, including the Splatoon 2 theme song and a track from Kirby’s Dreamland. A surprising entry was “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, even though that was also in Japanese. Those importing to the West may be disappointed in the selection, however, since each track is heavily focused on the Japanese market the game was meant for.

Much like other rhythm games, there’s more on the screen than the notes you have to play. Taiko: Drum Master NSV! takes this to a very fun level, with dancing characters on the bottom, flying notes on the top as you hit them (including ghost notes when you hit the drum when there’s no note on screen), and colorful backgrounds with simple themes matching the songs you’re playing. While playing, the backgrounds and movement can be distracting, but not enough that it feels cumbersome on gameplay. As you hit more notes and get more “soul”, designated by the colorful bar on top, the screen fills with more characters and movement, making you feel like the center of a Taiko party where you’re the star.

As I ventured out and played more songs, I also tried to play different skill levels, which are denoted by their difficulty level and number of stars. Many Normal levels contained songs that fell between two and five stars, while the muzukashii (Hard) levels featured up to eight stars accompanied by a large skill gap. The harder levels contained more varying note combinations, forcing you to alternate quickly between don and ka notes, many of them in rapid succession. This seemed to be easier on a controller, but the drum accessory was very intuitive after some practice, even though I still didn’t do very well on many Hard levels. The next highest difficulty, Oni (Very Hard), was almost impossible for a non-practiced beginner like me to play. It was still very fun, and I found myself laughing more than once at my inability to play as well as I thought I could. Without significant practice, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to really play on the Oni difficulty.

Taiko Drum Master Minigame taiko: drum master nintendo switch version - taiko drum master minigame 1024x575 - Taiko: Drum Master Nintendo Switch Version! Import Review
Photo Credit: Bandai Namco

Along with traditional rhythm game content, Taiko: Drum Master NSV! also has a variety of mini-games that can be played by yourself or with up to four people with extra Joy-Cons, Pro Controllers, or drums. These mini-games vary wildly, from a “Follow the Leader” style sushi-making game, a dancing game, and a soba-slurping game where you have to eat noodles without burning yourself. Sporting 20 mini-games, they reminded me of the more fun and interactive Mario Party mini-games we’ve seen over the years, and both new and experienced players will have a fun time with any of these. While playing these, though, I did experience some dropped inputs, which were a little upsetting as the mini-games can be cutthroat at times. This could have been caused by the third-party Hori drum controller, which have been historically known to be less-than-accurate in comparison to the Taiko arcade cabinets. I did not experience any problems using a controller.

For those that enjoy the genre, but can’t get past the Japanese language or potentially uninteresting song choice, it’s been heavily hinted that Taiko: Drum Master NSV! may just get a Western release. Rating descriptions have surfaced for both Australian and European rating sites, as well as a data miner uncovering art for an English language logo. While these hints are unconfirmed by official sources, it lends credence that Bandai Namco is listening to Western fans.

Pros Cons
Good music variety Occasional dropped inputs
Fun minigames Large skill gap
Fun, colorful visuals Menuing can be hard
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