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Old 01-20-2009, 06:07 AM   #1
Leizerbeam
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Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

HIGH: Hearing my Japanese host mother comment 'kawaii!!' after I showed her a level of the game.
LOW: Almost doubling the amount of scratches on my touch-screen due to excessive and forceful spinning.
WTF: The instance where the Ouendan somehow manage to travel back in time... When Japanese male cheerleaders start inexplicably using time travel to help a distressed Cleopatra, I laugh.

I recently experienced my first trip overseas, to a humble little country called Japan, and, though I was satisfied in some ways, in many others my disappointment was palpable. All the reports I’ve been given of the Land of the Rising Sun thus far have indicated a country of infectious madness, where the most popular television show focuses on live beetle-wrestling and where the English is always hilariously mistranslated. Alas, it appears I was duped, as it was normality, not beetle-wresting, that reigned supreme. By the end of my trip, I had just about resigned myself to the sad fact that Japan is merely another modern country, but them I stumbled upon a wonderful souveneir at the local game shop; Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!

In Ouendan, I have found my own little piece of infectious Japanese insanity, to be taken with me wherever I wish. The basic concept of the game runs as follows: The Ouendan (“cheersquad” in English) are a group of serious and stylish aiders of humanity. Whenever a downtrodden citizens find themselves in a situation beyond the limits of what they can bare, they shout ‘OUENDAAAAN!’ at the top of their lungs. In response, three burly men dressed in black trench coats arrive on the scene, the renowned Ouendan. Armed with cheer routines and a catchy J-Pop soundtrack, their job is to use their cheering prowess to motivate these poor citizens to success and better fortunes, whilst the player’s is to enjoy funky touch-screen rhythm action in conjuction with such ridiculousness.

This set-up is a bit odd (who are these strange, coated men, and why are they dancing?) but, gosh darn it, it’s infectious. In comparison to the lifeless locales of other rhythm-action games, Ouendan’s presentation shines like a supernova of enthusiasm and encouragement. Each of Ouendan's songs boasts a 2D-animated story based on a unique character's plight, which progresses on the top screen whilst the actual game is played (and the Ouendan cheer enthusiastically) on the touch screen. It's a fine formula, and one that has quite a bit of staying power if the popularity of the game's equivalent in the West, Elite Beat Agents, and the quick release of Ouendan 2 are anything to go by.

The fact that the game is in Japanese (a language I have only just begun to learn) has not detracted from its goodness in any way. All of the scenarios are easily understood on the basis of the storyboards alone, and if anything, the stylised Japanese fonts and enboldened onomatopoeia only serve to heighten Ouendan's energetic craziness, which in turn heightens the player's passion for the game. After all, who needs more motivation to rhythmically tap circles than the prospect of helping strange men in black cheer on member of the Japanese workforce so that he can win a battle against giant, Godzilla-esque rat? The foreign sentences flashing all over the place are just the icing on the cake.

Whilst it is very easy to get swept away by Ouendan’s charm, behind all the razzle-dazzle lies a simple, albeit fun, rhythm-action game. The game presents the player with three different actions; tapping circles to a proper rhythm, dragging circles to a proper rhythm, and zealously spinning giant spinners to no rhythm (unless I were to refer to the sounds of my wrist breaking as ‘rhythm’). Performing an action too early or too late or, failing to fill up a spinning meter brings a ‘Game Over’ ever so much closer, whilst stringing together successful combos keeps the everything high and dry. Survive for the duration of an entire song and victory is yours. It's a simple set-up, but an effective one.

The basic mechanics of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan are near perfect. Whilst the spinner action is gimmicky and unnecessary, and caused severe pain both to my hand and to my DS screen, it is fortunately but a minor hiccup. The game’s idea is pure, the stylus is a great interface method and the rhythms all coincide well with their respective songs. Each tap leads smoothly to the next and, to top everything off, the game is genuinely addictive. I was also very impressed by the way the developers managed to effortlessly display rests in its rhythms, by way of strategically spacing hit boxes further or closer to each other, depending on how much time lies between them. A nice touch.

It also doesn’t hurt that the game’s soundtrack is wonderfully catchy and very well-chosen. Each of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan’s 15 songs come from the inviting musical genre of Japanese Rock/Pop, wherein, if this game is anything to go, every song is required by law to have an awesome melody and an insanely catchy chorus. Whilst most of the tunes all carry the same upbeat, guitar-driven sound, there are a few exceptions that do add that little bit of variety to the proceedings, in particular the game’s signature love song, “OVER THE DISTANCE” and its final, most difficult piece, the epic ‘READY STEADY GO’. The sound quality is great, the beats are pumping and the harmonies are lovely. I never thought my scratched, mutilated first-generation DS could rock this hard, but Ouendan has made it so.

I think by now it would seem that I am quite taken by this little game, and I am. Indeed, I would very much have liked to declare the game to be an undisputed handheld rhythm-action masterpiece, if it weren't for one major oversight on the part of its creators: there's simply not enough of it. 15 songs across four difficult levels is all the game offers, and for me, this was just not enough to prevent repetition and, occasionally, boredom. There is no training mode, nor is there a music gallery, (I can't even count the number of times I've wished to hear the songs by themselves) and, on top of this, there is absolutely nothing to unlock. True, not all games need unlockable doodads to be of a good quality, but after conquering the final level of the game (a feat that might be referred to as 'insanely difficult' by some) and receiving nothing in return, I knew that a little part of my soul had died forever.

So, as a full game, Ouendan is substantially lacking. Now that this is noted and acknowledged, I may now impart my final, most significant message; it's also maddeningly addictive. There have been far too many mornings that have begun with ‘OK, just a few songs before breakfast,’ and an even greater amount of nights where playing Ouendan has spontaneously become more important than sleep. Whilst I’ve never considered it to be brilliant, genius or any other superlatives I use to make wasting my time seem like appreciating art, there’s something in Ouendan that twitches me to pick it up again and again. Even though the initial zaniness has lost its pull, the challenge of the harder difficulty levels and the satisfying feeling of completing songs perfectly has kept me compelled for a far greater amount of time than I could ever have expected from what I originally thought to be merely a 'play-and-discard' piece of software.

And so it is that, a full month and a half after my returning from Japan, whilst my other Japanese souvenirs sit dejectedly on my shelf, pitiable figures beckoning dust, I still play Ouendan daily. It is a quality game, there's no doubt about it, not to mention a great treat to show one's friends. A few more modes and songs would have made the game a much richer experience overall, but ultimately, when a game is fun, addictive and well-made, someone must sing its praises, and I seize this role eagerly. Not only is Ouendan a lovely little souvenir, it's also an example of just how much fun a rhythm game can be and the newly-proclaimed pride and joy of my DS collection. All together now: OSU! TATAKAE! OUENDAAAAAN! Rating: 8.5/10

Disclosures: This game was purchased via retail in Sapporo, Japan, and played for an estimated time of 18-20 hours to the completion of the single player mode.

Parents: The content of Ouendan is suitable for all age groups. It features no violence nor sexual references, and is consistently bright and cheerful throughout. Having never been released outside of Japan, the game has not received an ESRB rating, but it's Western equivalent, Elite Beat Agents, carries an E10+.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Being a rhythm-action game, music is an integral part of the experience, and so, for the game to played and enjoyed properly, sound is required for all points during gameplay. The game offers no subtitles for lyrics, nor does it offer any visual indication for the music beyond each level's hit boxes.

Last edited by Leizerbeam; 01-30-2009 at 01:35 AM. Reason: Fixed up a few sentences here and there
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Old 01-20-2009, 09:10 AM   #2
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

Great review overall, Leizerbeam. Green light from me, but I have a few suggestions.

I like the set-up and the overall message you're delivering, but I'm finding it a bit hard to read at times, with a few run-on sentences. You don't have to say "in my view" because the review is, after all, *your* view. I might also make a passing reference to Elite Beat Agents, since that's what Ouendan turned into when it came over here. Finally, it needs a score.
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Old 01-23-2009, 10:47 AM   #3
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

Liezerbeam,

I had a lot of fun reading this. As David said, there are some run-on sentences and minor grammar hiccups, but overall, great review. Greenlight from me.
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Old 01-23-2009, 10:42 PM   #4
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

Thanks for the comments, Tera and David, I can indeed see the occasional wordiness and grammar niggles. What are run-on sentences, though?
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Old 01-23-2009, 11:01 PM   #5
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

A run-on sentence is one that goes on far too long with either no punctuation, or could be split into multiple sentences. Here's an example:

"So, as a full game, Ouendan is substantially lacking, but, now that this has been noted and acknowledged, I can impart my final, most significant message; it's also maddeningly addictive."

Other times, the sentences are simply long-winded, like this one:

"Whilst I’ve never considered it to be brilliant, genius or any other superlatives I throw around to make wasting my time seem like appreciating art, there’s something in Ouendan that unfailingly twitches me to pick up again and again."

Also, and I'm sure I'll get flak for this: what's with "whilst?"
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Old 01-24-2009, 06:43 PM   #6
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

Tweaked a few sentences here and there.

As for the 'whilst' thing, well, every tongue has preferred routes and I suppose mine just lead me to 'whilst' more often than not.

Last edited by Leizerbeam; 01-25-2009 at 04:53 AM.
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Old 01-25-2009, 10:32 AM   #7
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

"every tongue has preferred routes"

I think that's one of the best sentences ever written on these forums.

At any rate, let me give you some concrete examples of what I mean. Here's a big run-on you have at the outset:

"Whenever a downtrodden citizen finds himself in a situation beyond the limits of what he or she can bare, they shout ‘OUENDAAAAN!’ at the top of their lungs, and, without fail come three burly men dressed in black trench coats, the renowned Ouendan, armed with cheer routines and a catchy J-Pop soundtrack."

This is a prime example of a run-on sentence. This should be broken up into multiple thoughts. Also, if you're going to pick a gender (i.e. himself) you must commit to this gender (no "he or she"). It's not politically incorrect to do this, despite the PC reform of the late 90s.

"Whenever a downtrodden citizen finds himself in a situation beyond the limits of what he can bare, they shout ‘OUENDAAAAN!’ at the top of their lungs. Without fail, three burly men dressed in black trench coats (the renowned Ouendan) arrive, armed with cheer routines and a catchy J-Pop soundtrack."

But, again, we're still mixing gender, by switching to neutral partway through. This is probably the most correct:

"Whenever downtrodden citizens find themselves in a situation beyond the limits of what they can bare, they shout ‘OUENDAAAAN!’ at the top of their lungs. Without fail, three burly men dressed in black trench coats (the renowned Ouendan) arrive, armed with cheer routines and a catchy J-Pop soundtrack."

Also be careful with words like "their" and "they're." The sentence immediately following the example fell into this trap.

While I didn't catch any misuse of apostrophe, I would urge any potential writer to please Google "Bob the Angry Flower's Guide to the Apostrophe".

I apologize if this seems like nit-picking, but, for me, expressing without voice means that the words must be doubly clear.

Last edited by David Stone; 01-25-2009 at 10:38 AM. Reason: Added extra clarification
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Old 01-27-2009, 10:59 PM   #8
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

I fixed up that particular sentence using my own unique, stylized edit. In future, I'll have to intensify my editing process, it seems.
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Old 01-27-2009, 11:32 PM   #9
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

Please don't misunderstand me, Leizerbeam. I really love what you're saying. I just wanted to give some advice on perhaps a clearer way to say it. Your reviews are very well thought out, and generally well written.

To be honest, I used to have that problem myself - separating my thoughts into clear, related ideas with nothing dangling or changing. I guess I saw some of the old habits I had and wanted to help you pull out of it in less time than it took me.
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Old 01-29-2009, 10:29 PM   #10
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

Thanks, David. I'm always down for some informed, funky, well-intentioned advice, so don't worry about it.
I'm really digging this community review scene, actually. Feedback, good vibe, encouragement...Fine stuff. Are there any more requirements I need to fill to have this review published?
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Old 01-29-2009, 11:07 PM   #11
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

You've still got a few runons here and there, but overall I really like this review. I'd say that you're ready for this one to roll, and I give it my green light.. Dave, what say you?
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Old 01-29-2009, 11:19 PM   #12
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Re: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Review - Please Rate This Review

It ain't perfect, but it never is.

I'm sure that you'll take what we've talked about here for the next review. I definitely give my green light, and can't wait to see what you write next.

By the by, if I can address anyone else who reads these comments other than the author: The level of reader-submitted reviews that I've read is really amazing. I'm so happy to see the level of care that readers have with their thoughts. If I ever speak up, I want to make sure that people know it's with the best of intentions and constructive criticism. I know it's hard to convey this with text alone.

Please keep 'em coming!
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