Taiko No Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack Review – Play to the Beat to Beat Your Foes

RPG Stands for Rhythm Playing Game in Latest Taiko Title

About a month or so back I picked up a cute little drumming game called Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum N’ Fun while it was on sale for Nintendo Switch. It was my first introduction to the Taiko series and as a past Guitar Hero/Rock Band fan, I really enjoyed my experience with the game, but felt like one thing was lacking—a story mode. Conveniently enough after a few days of playing Drum N’ Fun, I learned that the next entry in the series was coming out in just a few weeks, and that it would be a full-fledged RPG. Needless to say, I was excited to give the Taiko No Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack a try and am even more excited to share my thoughts here. 

For those unfamiliar with the Taiko series, it is a rhythm game based on the Japanese taiko drum. The gameplay appears rather simple for a rhythm game as there are only two real inputs. The red notes are called Don, and the blue notes are called Ka. Your basic Taiko gameplay consists of hitting your Don’s and Ka’s while rocking out to all your favorite Japanese songs. You want to be as accurate as possible as your hits can be either “Good”, “Ok”, or “Bad”—each of which has an effect on your score. 

Drum Your Way Through Time and Save History

The Taiko No Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure games add an additional spin to this otherwise simple gameplay loop—a story mode with full-on RPG mechanics. There are two versions of the game, aptly named Rhythmic Adventure 1 and Rhythmic Adventure 2. The two titles can be purchased on their own or together as part of the Rhythmic Adventure Pack.

You might be thinking this is a bit of a Pokémon Red and Blue scenario, but in fact, the two games are pretty different. The layouts, available modes and options are all exactly the same, but there are some key differences between the game’s stories, gameplay mechanics, and music. 

Rhythmic Adventure 1 follows the series’ protagonists Don and Katsu who run into a time-traveling bunny named Tocky. Tocky is trying to find all of his clock friend, Ticky’s, missing pieces. Don and Katsu set off on an adventure through time where they will meet some of history’s finest figures from Marie Antoinette to the Wright Brothers, in hopes of finding Ticky’s parts before the evil Professor Timedyne. 

Rhythmic Adventure 2 follows a similar formula. Don and Katsu meet a magical girl named Tia and her not-a-monkey buddy, Popo Kaka. I know, it’s a great name. The two duos set out to collect all of the OOPArts, a mysterious treasure created to protect the world, before the evil Sorcery Society Hexaglia can use them to do the opposite of that—destroy the world.

If you are thinking that these games have some wild plots, you would be right. The two stories are definitely a bit out there and never really get too deep, but are fine for what it’s worth. The characters are likable and the plot is cute and appropriate for all ages. I definitely wouldn’t say there’s anything groundbreaking here but as someone who wished Drum N’ Fun had a story mode, the plots did a good enough job at filling the void I felt the previous title had. 

While making your way through the story mode, you will come across all kinds of unlockables. There are level thematic outfits available to customize Don however you see fit. You will also be able to recruit new party members outside the plot-centric characters you are guaranteed to meet throughout the journey. 

Combat is exactly what you would expect from a Taiko game: Taiko battles! You will drum along to a track while your party of up to four members will go head-to-head in combat with a group of enemies. The better you play, the better your party will fight. Building up combos and successfully hitting notes “good” will cause your party to attack, while missing notes or hitting obstacles such as bombs, will cause the enemy to attack and for your team to take damage. It’s a combat system that is completely skill-based. Party members will sometimes unlock special abilities that can aid you in battle, from self-healing to additional damage. 

Chapter 4 of Rhythmic Adventure 1 introduced puzzles to the game. While puzzles are normally very common in RPGs, they felt a bit out of place in this one. They only get introduced almost halfway through the game and there aren’t very many more present beyond this point. The puzzles that are present in the game are relatively simple and fun enough, but I personally could take them or leave them. I also appreciate that these puzzles are skippable for those who may struggle with them.

Two Games With Unique Incentives to Play

There are quite a few small differences between the two titles, such as the introduction of Clash Attacks in Rhythmic Adventure 2. Battle encounters are completely random spawns in Rhythmic Adventure 1, similar to the encounter system in the older Pokémon titles. However, in Adventure 2 you can see encounters coming, similar to the encounter system in Persona 5. Another additional feature added into Adventure 2 is a more defined party system. Instead of just choosing two to four party members like in Adventure 1, you can now place party members in either the front, mid, or rear position—each with their own risks and benefits. Characters now have a battle type, making them more or less suitable for each of the different battle positions. Despite the two releasing at the same time and in the same pack, it really feels like Rhythmic Adventure 2 is the sequel to Rhythmic Adventure 1

Each game also has its own library of tracks to play, and while that adds a nice touch of variety and incentive to get both titles, it is a little annoying. Now that there are essentially three Taiko games on Switch, it’s got me wishing for one thing, and that is for there to only be one Taiko game on Switch. No, I’m just kidding…well sort of. I am happy to have more Taiko games to play, especially since each of the three have a great deal to offer, but I do wish there was some way to have one master library with every track from each of the three games; something similar to the ability to transfer songs from Rock Band to Rock Band 2.

Songs range from popular Japanese pop music, anime tracks, and classical music, to Bandai Namco originals. The variety is really nice and ensures you’ll definitely find some tracks that you enjoy. Keep in mind though, all the audio in the game is in Japanese—this includes songs and the story mode’s voice acting. Each area has a small selection of songs for you to fight along to. It would be nice to have a bit more variety in these sections, as you will have to play the same songs multiple times while making your way through each chunk of the game.

For those who just want to drum and skip out on all the story mode’s dialogue, there is taiko mode. Taiko mode is essentially your traditional Taiko gameplay—just drumming without the waves of dialogue to get through. While there are a variety of tracks unlocked in taiko mode from the very beginning of the game, more songs will be unlocked as you play through the story mode or successfully beat songs in taiko mode, giving you greater incentive to keep playing. Unfortunately, there isn’t a multiplayer option in this game like there is in Drum N’ Fun, which is a real loss—especially since you can’t transfer the tracks from Rhythmic Adventure to Drum N’ Fun, leaving you with no option to play these songs with an opponent.  

Taiko offers plenty of choices in how you want to play the game. Unfortunately, I don’t have $100 to drop on the official taiko drum accessory, though I would absolutely love one. For those that do, the drum is seemingly the most authentic drumming experience available, as you hit the centre of the drum to strike your Don’s, and hit the sides to strike your Ka’s. The Switch version also offers the option for motion controls when decked or in tabletop mode, as well as touch screen controls when played handheld. Touch controls are fine, but a bit difficult and isn’t necessarily any more fun than the traditional button input option. The motion controls, however, is one of my personal favorite ways to play the game. Don’t get me wrong, the input for the motion controls are janky as hell and are really difficult to calibrate correctly. I had a good setup for Drum N’ Fun but had a much harder time getting it setup in Rhythmic Adventure. Despite the difficulty and the fact that it might not be the most accurate way to play, it is one of the most fun control options aside from actually owning the drum accessory.

You Might Find Yourself Beating Your Head Instead of the Drum

Here is where my biggest gripe with the controls comes into play: You cannot use any of them in story mode aside from the traditional button input option. It’s really cool to have the option to use motion or touch controls in the game, both of which are pretty much exclusive to the games available on the Nintendo Switch, but for whatever reason the story mode doesn’t allow you to use either option. I even heard in a few videos I watched about the game that the drum accessory doesn’t properly work in story mode, and that’s an official product made for the Taiko games. 

Aside from the difficulty when calibrating the game, there is also a distinct lack of accessibility options. Don or Ka is written under each note by default which is likely an okay solution for color blind folks. However, there aren’t really any options to customize your game experience. There is no way to increase text size in story mode, and few options to remap controls. It might not be the most inaccessible game out there, but the lack of options could definitely be a barrier to entry for some in need of alternative solutions. 

Overall, I had a great time with the Taiko No Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack. The storylines aren’t groundbreaking and the game did leave me frustrated in some regards. I would have loved to play through the story mode with motion controls, and a master library of songs would be awesome to have available in taiko mode. No multiplayer is a real loss though.

The game gave me what I expected, what I wanted, and nothing more, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. If you’re wondering whether you should only get one version or if you should get the adventure pack, then I’d probably recommend the pack if budget isn’t a major concern. It’s a better bang for your buck, as it offers a bit of a discount from getting the two games separate, and each game offers a unique incentive for you to play with two different storylines and song lists. If you are only interested in getting one over the other, I suggest you pick whichever storyline sounds more interesting to you or which game has the better sound list, though if I had to choose, I would say Rhythmic Adventure 2 gives you the more complete experience. Regardless of what you decide to buy, the Taiko No Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure games are a lot of fun and are great titles for both new and returning Taiko fans alike. 

***A Nintendo Switch code for the game was provided by the publisher*** 

The Good

  • Classic Taiko gameplay you’d expect
  • Story mode adds a fun spin
  • Great song lists

The Bad

  • Lack of options
  • No alternate control schemes in story mode
  • No multiplayer mode
  • Two separate song libraries is annoying