Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2
(Burn! Hot-Blooded Rhythm Soul: Hey! Fight! Cheer Squad 2)
Reviewed August 2007 by Alex Lifschitz
Release Date: May 2007 (in Japan)
ESRB Rating: None (not released in the US)
Genre: Music Rhythm
Price: $49.99 import
Oh, has it really been that long since those wacky Japanese dancers graced our DS screens? The land of the rising sun, along with being known for technological innovation and cultural contributions, is also notorious for being responsible for approximately 79% of the world’s weird crap (with the Adult Swim lineup filling in the remaining quota). Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 is no exception (and for the sake of saving space, let’s just go by Ouendan 2 from here on in). But, as with most of the insanity Japan exports, it’s lovably, huggably soft and addictive, designed to bring out the robe-clad, bandanna-sporting cheerleader in all of us. Continue on to learn why all problems can be solved by dancing. Yes, even meteor strikes. Don’t question it!
If you’re unfamiliar with the game concept, you can click on over to the original Ouendan review, or any review of the game’s distinctly American doppelganger, Elite Beat Agents. But, for the sake of brevity: A variety of people encounter a variety of problems, and you, as an agent of all things musical, must help them by making a cadre of cheerleaders (ouendan) lift their spirits with a rousing jig. This is accomplished by tapping, sliding, and spinning all manners of visual indicators in rhythm with a prerecorded music track.
This time around, though, you are thwarted by – Gasp! – A friendly but rival team of Ouendan, clad in blue jumpsuits and eager to become the premier national… Dancing… Something. Different levels are assigned to the different teams of cheerleaders, and in this game, there’s actually something of a storyline, explained through cutscenes as you graduate to different groups of songs (the language barrier is practically nonexistent).
Of course, the levels themselves are classic, and this time, even more whacked-out than the original storylines. While the first game had scenarios such as, say, helping an Egyptian queen lose weight, you’ll be taking on even stranger requests in this game. One thing that Inis really went to great lengths to do this time was to give each level a greater impact. The comic levels are more comical, including scenarios such as helping a werewolf try and have a successful date with a girl, or helping a shoe salesman who has been forced by his wife to travel to another planet to hock his wares. The key “emotional” level (such as the Ghost level in Ouendan and the Christmas level in Elite Beat Agents), this time involving the sister of a dead figure skater, is just as, if not more, touching than the others (please don’t question my masculinity). But the real shining moment is in the final level – Not to spoil anything, but while the last game had an awesome final song, this one takes the cake. Not so much the song itself, but the level’s unfolding storyline. Few times will a game moment leave your mouth agape, but this came completely out of the blue, and, for my money, it’s actually one of the coolest final levels I’ve ever played in any game, bar none (and I’ve played a LOT of story-heavy games).
The levels themselves have a bit of a fluctuating spectrum of difficulty – Though there are four challenging tiers, each with their own pair of Ouendan leaders, each group of levels that you unlock generally tend to have an odd man out, or a level whose difficulty starkly contrasts with the rest of the group. That being said, some of these are mind-numbingly infuriating on the harder difficulties, and some of them are surprisingly simple and fluid. Thankfully, Inis took a few lessons from Elite Beat Agents with two new gameplay features – a playback mode, where you can save a run-through (even if you lose) to be viewed at any time, which allows you to view the last few seconds before your loss, and the ability to skip intro (and exit) segments and go to the song immediately, which helps immensely on the harder difficulties. No longer will you have to wait through an elongated intro segment (like in Ready Steady Go from the first game) to re-attempt a level. There’s also a rank system (though no online leaderboards), as there was in the last game, to keep you replaying the levels you’ve beaten in search of that perfect score. That, in and of itself, will be a little difficult with the more wonky difficulty. Some levels seem to have not taken into account the position that your hand will be in at any given moment – there were some times when a hit, unbeknownst to me, spawned right under my palm, which was resting just over the screen. On higher difficulties, that’s more than enough to cost you the level. Beating Hard and Insane modes will require a certain amount of intimacy with the song.
Replayability is afforded by the ranking system and difficulty levels, but there’s even an improved multiplayer mode, both co-op and versus, now available for download play for friends who don’t have the time or money to import the game themselves, a flaw that came with the import nature of the first game. And, if you feel like a masochist, there is a new “Blind Mode” that cuts off a good amount of your visual indication. Only for the most diehard players.
Everything is controlled by the stylus, being a rhythm game. Hits are completely spot on, but may sometimes seem to screw you over on the hardest difficulties if you get stalled on a single mistake while you realize what’s just happened, so just be precise with your hits. While the detection is by no means generous, be assured, if you screw up, it’s YOU that screwed up.