You can’t really fault the Japanese game creators for being unoriginal. Yes, they seem to rehash the same series (Megaman says Hi…) as much as the next guy (EA, that’s you), but they also churn out a wealth of interesting new ideas every year. Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (or Ouendan for short) is one of those original, creative games, and it’s one that works a charm.
Essentially this is a rhythm game. Circles appear on your DS touchscreen and you have to hit them in time with the music. You also have to drag balls across the screen in time with the music. Sometimes you have to spin some sort of record too. That’s really the entire game. That’s sounds pretty boring really. No. No. No. It’s really not. You see the music is this funky J-pop stuff that you’ll either love or hate – I liked it a lot. And the charm is in what’s going on while you’re tapping circles, dragging balls and spinning discs. Each song has a little story that goes along with it. A few frames of a comic book-like story show someone getting themselves into a spot of bother. That’s when they shout “Ooooouuuueenennddaaaannnnn!!” which means “Cheer Squad.” This group of three guys magically appears like a fairy godmother and they get to work cheering the character on. Now if you tap, drag and spin right, the cheer squad manages to encourage the, um…. protaganist, enough to make them overcome their difficulties and triumph. There are checkpoints during the song where your hand gets a bit of a break and the plot is furthered, with the outcome depending on how well the cheer squad’s cheering. Of course, if you miss a note they fall over or get their timing wrong and their whole dance routine is flummoxed. So you might blink and cause this guy to mess up the sculpture he’s making, or you might succeed and help this other guy to punch a giant blue rat.
Ouendan is probably nothing like any game you’ve played before. In this case, that’s a good thing. The number of songs is decent and the harder difficulties are really quite hard so you’ll be kept busy for a while. There’s very little text in the menus and the stories seem so self-explanatory from the pictures that I don’t think anyone will have a problem enjoying the game without knowing any Japanese. I don’t, and it’s one of my favourite DS games.