Review: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Inis | System: DS | Genre: Rhythm Action

Ouendan!

During the trip to Japan it wasn’t the white PSP or the Game Boy Micro that stole the show, but a little rhythm action game on Nintendo’s dark horse, the DS. Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (roughly translated as “Support! Fight! Cheer Squad”) sets you up with Ouendan, a male, apparently omnipresent, cheerleading squad dressed in black trenchcoats. Whenever people need support or inspiration a cry of “OUENDAN!” will bring them running, ready to cheer them on with a strange mix of kung-fu and semaphore to a selection of J-rock songs. What starts with the fairly mundane – a boy needs help with his homework because there’s too much noise in the house – soon moves on to the unusual (helping a concert violinist fend off an attack of diarrhea until the end of his performance) and the frankly bizarre (inspiring a salary man to grow to gigantic proportions and fight off a fifty-foot mouse that’s invading the city).

So far, so Japanese. I wasn’t convinced when I saw it running and read the Edge review (8/10) as it sounds like any number of quirky rhythm action titles that I’ve seen, but based on Eynon’s constant recommendations in Japan I picked up a copy of my own. It wasn’t like I was drowning in DS titles so I figured it couldn’t hurt. That’s where I was wrong – it did hurt, but only the cramps from holding the DS and stylus for so long. Like I said, this game stole the gaming show, being constantly on the go with someone and spawning a new battle cry – a call of “Ouendan!” whenever anything remotely challenging came up.

I love quirky titles and always find rhythm action games entertaining when I play them, so it’s not surprising that I liked this game, but there are other reasons why I love it. The music in one of these games has to get its claws into you for the game to really hit, and this certainly does. Most of the lyrics are in Japanese but you still find yourself trying (and failing) to sing along to words you don’t even know and whatever song was the last you heard is impossible to get out of your head. With this competing with the Katamari Damacy soundtrack that I bought the hotel room became a hive of infectious music. It’s the annoying-but-in-a-good-way music which makes the game fun to come back to even when you finish the fifteen standard songs and find the unlockable hard and insane difficulty modes suicidal to attempt.

The other really great thing is the art style. While you’re concentrating on the little coloured circles on the bottom screen there’s some often hilarious animations going on at the top. The one that springs to mind is the aforementioned diarrhea attack, when the top screen shows pitchfork-wielding viruses attacking the digestive system until the immune system, anthropomorphised as men in capes and pants, fight them back. At first they’re only fist-fighting, but by the final stretch they’ve literally brought out the heavy artillery as they fire bazookas at each other across lines of infantry, which really can’t be good for the already-tormented internal organs. The fact that most people won’t even see these little gems makes them even cooler.

I can’t understand most of it because I can’t read kanji, but it almost seems like I shouldn’t understand it. It just seems all the more weird when you can’t, and it seems like knowing what on Earth was happening would take something away from the charm of the whole thing. There are translations of certain stories around the Internet, but when you know what’s happening you find that it’s as weird as you thought while taking away from that unpenetrable oddness. All this just means it’s very import friendly, so together with a menu translation you’re not going to miss anything if you’re not familiar with Japanese.

In short, buy this game. You won’t regret it, especially if you’ve been looking for a way to justify the dust that your DS has probably been gathering.

5 Stars