Daigassou Band Brothers
Rhythm - Nintendo DS
Battery Backup - 1 slot
Imagine a rhythm game where you get to choose which instrument you want to play. It'd be like how in Japan, they link up a Keyboardmania, Drummania, and Guitar Freaks together so people can synch up for a song. Only a lot more instruments, but also less interactivity since there's no special controllers on the DS. That gives you a picture of what Daigassou is like.
This is a game where rhythm and button presses are stripped down to their bare minimum. There's no fancy visuals... no visuals at all in fact, aside from the notes you're supposed to press. But what lies in its simplicity is what makes it so great. Gameplay is center stage, even if it is a bit generic - 4 D-pad directions, ABXY + LR for a total of 10 different buttons.
On beginner mode, there's really a total of 2 buttons. As long as you touch any direction on the D-pad, that's fine. As long as you hit any of the ABXY buttons, you're fine. As you get into Amateur level, you have access to all ten buttons. There are also times where you'll need to touch the touchpad in rhythm, as that will play a string of notes for you. After that, when you get into Pro, you have to play those note strings manually. You'll also have to hold the L & R shoulders in combination with the other 8 button presses for additional octaves and adding sharps! So quickly you can already see how difficulty can be pumped up as you advance.
The game is set up so that on single player, you can play all the songs right from the beginning, and any instrument. All songs are rated on their difficulty level (Beginner, Amateur, Pro) as well as a difficulty rating between 1-5 stars. Different instruments will have different difficulties.
As you familiarize yourself with the songs, you can then go into Recording mode. That's basically how the game progresses. You'll have to play 3 songs in a row and achieve a certain score, and then the game "levels up". That is to say, when you go back to the songs, you'll notice that certain instruments in certain songs will have increased their difficulty rating. So if you complete the recording the first time around, you will see that the difficulty ratings change. For example, if "Seasons" was full of Beginner level songs, you'll see maybe 1 or 2 of those instruments change to "Amateur level 1" after you complete the recording.
So as you continue to successfully complete the recordings, the game gets progressively harder and harder. It took me quite a bit of practice and luck to finish the game on Pro. The accuracy and speed required to pull off fast notes, some requiring holding L, some requiring holding R... some requiring holding both - is pretty frantic. I'm actually quite shocked that Nintendo put out a difficult game. But the difficulty is quite welcome. If the DS were more ergonomical, I could see myself playing this game several hours a day. Unfortunately, the bulky and boxy design of the DS actually hurts my hand for games like this. Nevertheless, the songs are fun and they're challenging. There is also a near sudden-death difficulty after you finish the game on Pro...
Other features include multiplayer where up to 8 people can take different instruments to play an entire song. I got a chance to play wireless with a couple of friends and it's a blast. There's also an Edit mode where you can compose songs by singing into the DS microphone. It tries to transpose the notes and rhythm for you, but it's not 100% accurate.. There is also a normal composition mode where you can lay out the notes with button presses. And finally, you can trade composed songs with others.
Awesome game. I can't wait to try the expansion.