Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! (PlayStation 4) Review

By Az Elias 04.11.2018

Review for Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! on PlayStation 4

Eighteen years ago, Namco got people up and banging drums in front of screens in Japanese arcades, giving birth to the Taiko no Tatsujin series. With the only release in the West being Taiko: Drum Master on PlayStation 2 in 2004, Taiko has been extremely limited for those outside of Japan, and especially so for Europe, which has waited patiently (or imported expensively) for a bit of drum-banging fun. At last, though, and in tandem with a Nintendo Switch game with a slightly different track list, Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! arrives on PS4 for an international release, hopefully reigniting the series outside of its homeland.

Remember Donkey Konga on GameCube? A joint collaboration between Namco and Nintendo, the three-title series (whose third entry remained in Japan), was effectively a Taiko no Tatsujin spin-off. Replace the drum with the bongos, and it's more or less the same game as the one Namco is so famed for. Big difference in this PS4 title, though? Er, there's no drum.

Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! is a digital-only release, and there are no options to buy a Taiko drum for the game - unlike its Nintendo Switch variant, which does have bundles available physically. Maybe a dedicated player could import one, but officially, there is no option to buy one here. That means this version plays exclusively with the DualShock 4 controller.

It's not necessarily a massive problem, though, since, when all is said and done, this is a rhythm game, and it is often easier to play any rhythm game without any special gimmicks; good old buttons should get the job done efficiently...even if it does take away from the magic of it all, and, of course, the series' core selling point.

Screenshot for Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! on PlayStation 4

There are a handful of control types to choose from, although it is always a wonder why a fully customisable option isn't offered in games like this. Generally, the inner face of the drum is represented by face and d-pad buttons, whereas the outer rim is assigned to the shoulder buttons. The slight confusion can come due to the fact there are left and right inner and outer notes that require both left and right inner or outer buttons to be pressed, such as L1 and R1 at the same time. It can get quite tricky to manage the fingers and thumbs depending on the control setup and how accustomed you are to which buttons do what. It may take a few trial songs to find the best suited control type.

As far as rhythm games go, it is very easy to understand, as inner and outer (or red and blue) drum notes flash past the screen, requiring a correct hit as each one crosses over with the marker. Larger notes indicate the aforementioned simultaneous left and right side button press, and there are a couple of note types that urge you to go nuts and mash the buttons for a drum roll. Simple, and all pretty manageable on the normal difficulty...until you try hard or extreme. The sheer volume of notes - even if they are at a reduced speed - can be overwhelming to say the least on the higher difficulties, and it does make you wonder whether having the actual drum kit would make things that bit more practicable.

Screenshot for Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! on PlayStation 4

Needless to say, practice makes perfect, and with the excellent training mode, which allows you to skip ahead and replay parts of songs that are causing you to tear your hair out, you can spend as long as you like mastering the tricky sections, even going so far as to reduce the speed if need be. The less rhythmically inclined don't need to fear, though, as there are a few optional tools that can be turned on to help you complete tracks, such as allowing more leniency to hit notes in time. Namco has done plenty to ensure this is as user-friendly and accessible to all levels of players.

As for the 70-plus track list, it is heavily Japan oriented, so the average person may not be familiar with the vast majority of what is on offer. However, there are a few recognisable tracks in the pop section, namely Babymetal's "Gimme Chocolate!!" and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's "Ninja Re Bang Bang," alongside a number of anime themes from the likes of Attack on Titan, One Piece and Neon Genesis Evangelion," plus game music featuring Tekken 7 and Tales of Berseria. Pleasingly, there is some Vocaloid stuff from Hatsune Miku and Kagamine Rin, on top of the famous classical tracks you will have heard (but don't know the names of), and original music from Namco's side. A Japanese rendition of Frozen's "Let It Go" will be sure to amuse many.

It makes for a very Eastern line-up that sprinkles variety here and there, but it goes appreciated for sticking to its original Japanese listing. A little touch of more familiar Western songs may have upped the appeal, but having so many Japanese licensed songs overseas at all is something to be grateful for.

Screenshot for Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! on PlayStation 4

Unfortunately, there are no unlockable tracks. What are unlockable are customisable gear, faces, hats, and more for your cute little Don-chan mascot, who appears during all songs to happily bang along to the beats. Sound effects, titles, and greetings can also be found through completion of missions (such as achieving a certain score in a song, or keeping under five "bad" notes), or from the treasure boxes purchased through coins obtained from completing songs. Each song's missions and the countless Don-chan costumes keep replay value pretty high.

Some songs can be unlocked through special events in the online mode, though. During limited time "festivals," playing online and beating others' ghosts can reward in special points that unlock unique costumes, titles, and songs that are available during this short period. Those dedicated enough will likely build up the required points without much trouble, but the whole limited time thing to get people playing during the specified time slot (the first event looks to run for about 11 days) can be a bit frustrating in itself, sort of pressurising players to play and play just to hopefully get the points they need in time. It provides a bit of incentive to go online and challenge strangers' and friends' best scores, but it would have been nice just to have festivals stick to costumes and allow the songs to be made unlockable during normal gameplay outside of the time limit.

Screenshot for Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

It is great to finally see the Taiko series released in Europe, even if it is at the cost of having the drum kit available to play it with...which was kind of the whole big selling point of it all. Without having the drum to test out, it is difficult to tell if Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session! is an inferior game without it, but it is still most definitely a fun rhythm title in its own right with the regular controller. With only a few note types - and, therefore, buttons - to remember, this is simple to pick up, and the support options make it highly accessible to rhythm casuals. The higher difficulties and plentiful options to add handicaps allow experts to test themselves freely, too. For a very Japanese themed rhythm game that is chock-full of tracks, Drum Session! is well worth a beat.

Developer

Namco Bandai

Publisher

Namco Bandai

Genre

Rhythm

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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