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Review: Elite Beat Agents

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—apparently word of mouth must’ve gotten around, because the game was making its way to many American gamers. Upon realizing this, Nintendo decided to create an Americanized spiritual successor to Ouendan, and thus, the Elite Beat Agents were 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 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. And there are some very bizarre tasks to be undertaken, ranging from helping a down and out baseball player make a comeback by defeating a giant fire golem to aiding a white blood cell as she battles a virus within a track star’s body so he can win the big race. Yea, there’s some pretty ridiculous stuff, but there’s also some more somber stuff, too, like helping a girl and her mother cope with the death of her father. There are some surprisingly touching scenes in the game that will tug at you a bit, especially if you’re a softy such as myself.

 

The art style and presentation are snappy and very manga-inspired. Story sequences unfold like an animated comic book, and as cheesy as they often are, you can’t help but feel for the likeable characters you’ll be cheering on. The agents themselves are some of the most cheesingly awesome protagonists to be found—somehow, they’re overflowing with style and a “cool factor” you just don’t see in video game heroes these days.The gameplay of EBA can be summed up very simply and vaguely by saying, “DDR on your DS.” However, pretty much every rhythm game can be compared to DDR, but this one is very different and unique. For starters, you’re obviously not ‘dancing,’ you’re tapping and dragging 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—the trick is to pay attention to the beat and timing and not let the imagery fool you, just like other rhythm games. There are also many points where you must drag the stylus around paths and once in a while spin circles on the touch screen. While this may sound boring on paper, in practice it can become highly addicting.

 

The mechanics are fresh and quick-paced, and before you know it you’ll be jamming to Jumpin’ Jack Flash with good timing, a task that would seem impossible when you first start. The game does a very good job with pacing, easing you along and honing your reflexes and sense of beat. While the game can be completed in an evening, believe me, unless you hate music, you will be coming back. For starters, the game has a few extra tracks you’ll unlock after playing it for a while. It also has four difficulty levels, and each step up is a considerable raise in difficulty. And once you’re done with one difficulty, you’ll be itching for more, and EBA will deliver. This game gets tough, but it’s never impossible.As difficult as it gets, you won’t become too frustrated, simply because the game is so much fun, and the music is usually catchy enough where you don’t get sick of retrying it when you mess up. And you will mess up. The game has a quality about it that prevents it from feeling repetitive despite the fact you’ll be practicing the same song over and over—and each time you do, your skills will be honed even more for the next play-through. The game also presents itself with a very energetic atmosphere with incredibly satisfying audio and visual feedback as you succeed—snaps, claps, shouts, and snares, to boot.

 

But 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 well-selected and strangely match their given circumstances—even if the lyrics don’t, the melody and mood always match the situation. While a few of the tracks are a little too recent, (like Sk8ter Boi by Avril Lavigne) or a little too light (such as I Was Born To Love You) they’re still fun to play, regardless, and their moods line up nicely with the feeling and flow of what’s going on in the story.From the first moments of Walkie Talkie Man to the pulsing 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.

Graphics: 9
Using a highly manga-influenced art style, the characters are full of personality and life. The polygonal agents animate well and their movements match beats with their choreography. The only thing that holds the art style back is a lack of animation in many scenes where you’d think there would be, but for the most part, it’s top-notch and gushing out fun all over the floor.

Gameplay: 9.5
The concept plays out surprisingly well. Beats are well-thought out and keep you on your toes while practicing your rhythm. By the time you clear the 3rd level of difficulty you’ll feel very accomplished and satisfied as you can pump out fast-paced beats all over the screen. The game has excellent pacing and doesn’t throw too much for you to handle too quickly but gives you enough challenge where you will have to replay the more difficult songs numerous times to get them down; however, it’s a blast to play the entire while.

The game features download VS play and other modes of multiplayer—I was only able to try out the limited download play, which, while it takes a while to load, is still rather enjoyable and even has unique ‘stories’ included specifically for VS mode.

Sound: 9
The tunes are fresh covers of a variety that spans a great deal of music, and all of them sound great despite coming from small DS speakers. The beats that accompany your tapping and dragging compliment the soundtrack wonderfully.
Most of the songs fit their stories very well, and those that don’t still have an appropriate mood.
The only thing stopping the soundtrack from being just right is a few of the selections may throw some off by being a little out-of-place, namely Sk8ter Boi and I Was Born to Love You, but even then, they are all wonderful covers, and if you don’t have ABC or Jumpin’ Jack Flash bouncing in your head after playing this game, there might be something wrong with you.

Replay Value/Challenge: 9
While the game only has 19 songs in it (technically 18 stages, but the final stage is two songs) it still has plenty of replay value with its numerous levels of difficulty (there are four, and the later two get pretty crazy), as well as multiplayer, if you have the means.
Furthermore, it’s just so addicting that you’ll find yourself picking it up and playing it even when you’ve beaten everything, just to have some fun, and maybe to perfect your scores.

Presentation: 10
The Elite Beat Agents are slick and ooze ‘coolness,’ the stories are fun and inspired, the art style and sound contribute to a wonderful atmosphere and theme, and the feedback is as a meaty as a Texas Whopper, giving players satisfaction and helping them enjoy the already stellar gameplay even more.

Awards:

Superb Soundtrack

Infinite Replay

Intuitive Control/Gameplay

Incredibly Innovative

 

Editor’s Choice

 

Overall Score: 9.3

Final Word:

This is easily one of the best handheld games to hit us in a long while, and comes highly recommended to anyone with an open mind looking for some addictive gameplay. The Elite Beat Agents are at your service, and they won’t disappoint.

“Agents are GO!

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One Response to “Review: Elite Beat Agents”

  1. That would be sweet to go see Avril Lavigne in concert in Beijing China. Her tour date says it’s October 6th. After watching the olympics, I really want to visit Beijing now.


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