When Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (Go! Fight! Cheer Squad) arrived in Japan a while back on the DS, Nintendo was shocked at the high import rate the game carried-word of mouth must've gotten around, because the game was making its way to many Americans. Upon realizing this, Nintendo decided to create an Americanized spiritual successor to Ouendan, and thus, Elite Beat Agents was born. The game is not a translation of Ouendan but rather a completely separate production that is closer to a sequel than anything. The cheer squad from the Japanese game was replaced by a set of slick secret agents garbed in black suits, adorned with 70's hairstyles and given smooth moves to match.
The gameplay of Elite Beat Agents can be summed up vaguely by saying, "Dance Dance Revolution on your DS." It's not as simple as all that, of course. For starters, you're obviously not 'dancing,' you're tapping your stylus along the screen as numbered circles pop up-outer circles will shrink and match the size of the icons right when you're supposed to press them in the same fashion that you tap directions on a DDR dance pad as arrows scroll down. The game presents itself with a very energetic atmosphere, blasting you with audio and visual feedback that's as meaty as a Texas Whopper to make every beat come alive.
The mechanics are fresh and quick-paced, and soon enough players will be jamming to Without a Fight with good timing, a task that would seem impossible when first starting out. The pacing is meticulous, as each new song is just hard enough to be challenging, but not so difficult where players will feel overwhelmed. Even when reaching a song that one can't quite complete, the gameplay sessions are so short and so addicting that it often teases players to try "just one more time." Furthermore, there are four difficulty settings, with each one noticeably harder than the prior, meaning that casual gamers can have light play sessions while core gamers will really break a sweat on the harder difficulties.
A rhythm game wouldn't be much fun if the soundtrack was lame, right? Fear not, as almost all 19 of the songs in EBA are accurate covers that strangely match their given circumstances within the story. The sound output is also handled very well, considering that radio-quality sound is coming out of the tiny DS speakers. While a few of the track selections may feel a bit out of place to some players, they're still fun to play, regardless. The moods of each song line up nicely with the feeling and flow of what's going on in the stories presented, if anything.
Speaking of story, this title has some strong focus on narrative, unlike most rhythm games. The Elite Beat Agents are a fictional government agency whose job is to protect and serve by using their amazing powers of song and dance. By bustin' some mad moves, the agents instill people with inspiration to overcome the difficult tasks set before them. Whether they're as ridiculous as helping a white blood cell combat a virus or aiding a retired baseball player in defeating a lava golem, the tasks are entertaining and will surely induce a chuckle now and again. Others will be more on the touching side, too-I found myself genuinely wanting to help the characters and truly felt for them, especially when I failed. It's essentially the craziness and drama of Japanese manga in a context Americans will actually understand.
The art style and presentation are snappy and very manga-inspired, as well, taking the bizarre stories and making them pop to life. Sometimes there is less animation than one could hope for, but it hardly hurts the proceedings. The agents themselves are some of the most cheesingly awesome protagonists to be found-they're overflowing with style and a quirky "cool factor" that's something you just don't see in video game heroes these days.
Like most rhythm games, Elite Beat Agents is perfect for quick bursts of play, and since it's so fun and challenging, you'll be coming back over and over, striving to hit a high score, or maybe just jamming for the fun of it. It's that enjoyable an experience. There's also a local versus mode via downloadable play if you want to square off dance moves and "totally serve" your friends.
From the first moments of Walkie Talkie Man to the pulsating conclusion of Jumpin' Jack Flash, the game oozes style, emotion, and fun. While many games in the Touch Generation series are aimed more toward casual players, EBA is definitely suited well for the more hardcore gamers out there who are looking for a fresh and addictive challenge-but both sets will enjoy this very approachable title.
Final Verdict - 10/10
In my opinion, this is easily one of the best handheld games to hit us in a long while--it is fresh and addictive, easy to play, and hard to master. Elite Beat Agents comes highly recommended to anyone with an open mind looking for some addictive gameplay.
The Elite Beat Agents are at your service, and they aim to please.