Import Review: Many personal cheerleaders died to bring us this review.
I live in North America. Over here, the steering wheel's on the left and soccer is not synonymous with football. Over here, there's also the concept of cheerleaders. High school, pompoms, attractive girls; all of these are quick to come to mind. But this kind of cheerleader doesn't exactly help you in everyday life. Hey, it takes motivation to get a job or bake a cake! Therefore the iNiS title Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan convinces me that if everyone had a personal cheerleading team, the world would become a much more magical and prosperous place.
That's right; Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, lovingly referred to as simply Ouendan, is a game where you play as a cheerleader. But Bring It On this ain't, as you're leading an all-male team. Outrageous! However, considering that cheerleading originally began as an all-male activity and cheer squads like this exist in Japan, perhaps it's not so strange. If anything, the fact that you're a cheerleader is probably the most normal thing in this game. Sure, you start off with helping a promising student get through school. Then it's on to stopping thieves via horse, winning a dodgeball game and subsequently the heart of a girl, and ultimately saving the planet. Through a comic-style presentation on the top screen we're given a wild ride, made even wilder by the crazy touch that only the Japanese possess. Of course there are language and cultural barriers, but surely the humor can transcend such measly limitations. Stoic-faced cheerleaders in all black? I know I laughed.
Chances are you'll miss out on a lot of the hilarity though. Not because of said barriers, but because of the gameplay. And that's what really matters, right? Funny game or not, it'll still be awful if the gameplay's non-existent or broken. Well, Ouendan's play keeps your eyes on the bottom screen, almost to the point where you can't spare the time to look at the top. You see, you pick a stage and watch the intro. Then numbered circles appear on the screen and need to be tapped in time and in order. The more accurate timing means more points, maintaining your motivation bar (which is always decreasing) at the top. Other actions that you'll have to do are tracing the stylus along lines and spinning a wheel around as many times as possible. That's it. Tapping, tracing, and spinning.
Sound easy? It's not. Is it because of the execution or because it's unfair? No, like iNiS's other rhythm game Gitaroo Man, it's just terribly difficult. Getting overwhelmed and missing beats is commonplace. Considering how only a few misses can cause a failure of the stage, precision is absolutely necessary and a couple of retries will sort that out. It's not especially innovative yet, like quite a few DS games, it's strangely addictive. If you're looking for variation though, this game doesn't have it. Challenge and catchy music however?
For a game like this, music is probably one of the most integral elements. It's a good thing for us all that the track list for Ouendan is infectious, as it's made up of popular Japanese songs. Surprisingly, there are not that many bands comprised of cheery, bouncy girls (well, there is Morning Musume), what with songs from groups like Asian Kung-Fu Generation and L'Arc~en~Ciel making up the majority of the music. Nevertheless, the choices are diverse enough, as well as suitable for Ouendan. By that I mean most are relatively short. Any longer and I'd suppose the game would get even harder. Mad props to iNiS for including Tomoyasu Hotei and The Yellow Monkey. Here's the full track list:
Asian Kung-Fu Generation - Loop & Loop
Morning Musume - Koi no Dance Site
Ulfuls - Guts da ze!!
175R - Melody
The Blue Hearts - Linda Linda
Tomoyasu Hotei - Thrill
nobodyknows+ - Kokoro Odoru
B'z - Atsuki Kodo no Hate
Linda Yamamoto - Neraiuchi
Kishidan - One Night Carnival
Road of Major - Taisetsu na Mono
Hitomi Yaida - Over The Distance
Orange Range - Shanghai Honey
The Yellow Monkey - Taiyo ga Moete iru
L'Arc~en~Ciel - Ready Steady Go
If you're hoping for original recordings, I'm sorry to dash that hope. They're not; all of these are covers, not counting 175R's ?Melody?. No worries, it's still good, as are the visuals. Like I said earlier, the top screen is for story and the bottom is where all the action takes place. Since Ouendan's a rhythm game, there needn't be that much emphasis on graphics but iNiS went the extra mile and gave us some sharp artwork to tickle our funny bone. The 3D models of the cheer squad doing all the motivating when you play a stage aren't anything to get excited about but just seeing them ?cheer' is amusing.
Again, it must be stated that the gameplay is very simplistic. To make up for that, it's extremely difficult and you might even want to give up after failing miserably on the first song without reaching the chorus. What about a long and storied plot? Nope, not here. It's a rhythm game! So if you're still interested, this means you already know what you want. Another obstacle to conquer and master! And more importantly, high scores! A cool point is the inclusion of replays that allows you to watch your last cleared stage. Is Normal mode too hard for you? Start off with the Easy. Soon you'll creep your way up to Hard on the completion of Normal and with completion of Hard you'll unlock Very Hard. So yes, Ouendan is a challenge, but a fair one.