Surinuke Anatōsu (WiiWare)
Now available outside of Japan as ThruSpace;I covered this game pretty well in my First Impressions article over at Nintendo Life; making a full review unnecessary. Suffice it to say that after a bit more time with it I still regard it as a good game, but it’s lacking something that would make it a more compelling release.
There’s certainly enough modes to keep you busy for awhile and the core mechanics are sound, but it just doesn’t have that “one more go” quality for me. I think that comes down to two factors: lack of customisable controls and lack of a progressive mode.
Like the arcade classic Block Out you’re controlling a geometric object in 3D space. In Surinuke Anatōsu you’re trying to flip and rotate it so that it can slot through various openings: picking up gems and overlaying larger gaps with your shape’s shadow for bonus points; all the while trying to beat the level clock by speeding along down a series of tunnels. In order to do this successfully you really need a good feel for your controls. Even in the slower-paced Block Out this could get confusing since you had four buttons to press: one for rotating on each axis and a drop button. In this game you’d naturally expect a similar scheme using all the face buttons on the supported Classic Controller, but instead you have seven different buttons: two for each axis (to rotate in either direction) and a “speed-up” button (to help beat the clock).
It’s just too much and to make matters worse these are mapped to allow for easy mistakes with x,a and y,b controlling the same axis, R/Zr doing another and speed being L/Zl. Nunchuck and remote isn’t much easier, mapping controls to the d-pad and A/B with my additional issue of the less-precise nature of moving the shape with the analogue stick. Using the d-pad on the remote and A/B buttons at the same time also isn’t that comfortable when it’s held vertically.
Despite the complexity and inflexibility, the controls aren’t a game-breaker and really just made for more errors when the action got quicker. What has really kept this game off my play rotation (ha, ha!) is the lack of compulsion I feel to play it. Speeding through the tunnels and building combos is nice, but each level has a set number of walls to pass through and that’s it: game finished. You can play the endless modes, but you pick one shape at the start and the only progression is a gradual build-up of speed or complexity of hole shapes to pass through. What I’d really have liked is a combination of the two: cycling through the shapes, speed and complexity of the wall openings the longer you’re able to play.
As it stands this is a fun game and if you’re a big fan of puzzlers like me you might not regret it, but I really think a few more tweaks would have made this a much better game. Until Block Out comes to WiiWare this will have to do.
Taiko no Tatsujin Wii
The first in a series (as of this writing the 3rd was just released) of Japanese music-rhythm games on the Wii played with a virtual Taiko drum. Well, it’s only “virtual” if you play with the remote on its own. What you should really do if you want to play this game is fork out the extra dosh for the version that includes the Tatacon: a miniature taiko drum controller that plugs into your Wii remote.
Of course calling the Tatacon “miniature” is relative to the real thing: outside of the Balance Board this is the largest Wii peripheral I own! Looking at pictures of the box online you’d think it was pretty modest in size, but when it comes to your house you’ll be facing a package as big as a boxed Wii! The Tatacon has a clear left-right division indicated on it and is played much like a real taiko drum, with hits detected in the centre and the edge of the rubberised surface using the included sturdy plastic drum sticks.
The game itself is pretty basic: choose a song from a choice of genres and hit your drum in time to the dots travelling across the screen. Although the drum will detect left or right hits, there is no distinction in the game itself (it just allows you to navigate menus using the Tatacon alone). Instead you’re merely expected to deliver regular or strong blows (indicated by dot size) to the surface or rim of the drum (indicated by dot colour). The strength of your blow only need be enough to register; a strong hit is achieved by hitting both sides at once.
In case it wasn’t obvious this isn’t a game to play late at night when the kids are asleep or if you have thin walls between your dwelling and a neighbour’s. In order to get hits to register you have to hit the drum like, well, a real drum! I definitely wouldn’t have minded some kind of sensitivity calibration along the lines of Let’s Tap to adjust the amount of force required, but sadly that’s not available. Of course for quieter play sessions you can play using the Wii remote – which will also save you a big chunk of change on a second Tatacon if you only occasionally foray into two-player games.
There’s a fair number of tracks to play through separated into genres like J-pop, classical, children’s, anime soundtrack and game soundtrack, with the latter two being the main draw for me. Each time you play you’ll get a performance rating in stars which gradually accumulates, unlocking more songs to play along with. I’m pretty sure I’ve not unlocked them all yet, but there’s a pretty impressive number of songs included from what I can see so far.
If you just want to have a bash at drumming without the game structure there’s a free-form drumming mode that lays down a simple background beat upon which you can overlay your own rhythms; also serving as the end to the opening control tutorial. This lasts around five minutes or so gradually building up to an explosive rainbow climax and is fun to play through now and then to exercise (exorcise?) your inner taiko drummer.
As a bonus, occasional animations that play as interstitials can be reviewed later, but I didn’t find them terribly interesting. More compelling is the increasing complexity of the backgrounds if you continue to hit the marks in a song, with various animated characters dancing and parading about in a kaleidoscope of colour and movement.
It’s not something I play a lot of (primarily due to being self-conscious about what the neighbours might think), but it’s certainly fun for a bash now and then. It’s also the kind of game that will only be experienced by importing it, so if you can afford it (after tacking on P+P and the unavoidable customs duty you’re looking at £80-100 for the Tatacon bundle), give it a go!
Oh and if you want a really good walkthrough of the game do check out Josh’s excellent video tour over at The Bit Block – just search for “Taiko Drum Master” in the archives.