Platform: Nintendo DS
July 26, 2005 (Japan
"Free" (All Ages)
* CERO is the Japanese video game ratings board; their analogue to the American ESRB.
Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (which translates as something like "Go! Fight! Cheer Squad") is a rhythm game for the Nintendo DS, developed by iNiS (of Gitaroo Man fame) and published by Nintendo of Japan in the summer of 2005. Due to rather poor sales and heavy references to Japanese culture (not to mention a soundtrack composed entirely of J-Pop), the game has never been released in the West. Nonetheless, it became popular enough as an import title that iNiS developed a Western-only spiritual sequel, Elite Beat Agents, which was published by Nintendo of America in November of 2006. (There do not currently appear to be any plans to publish it in Europe. Nintendo of Australia lists its publication date as May 3, 2007.) Somewhat ironically, EBA itself sparked a good deal of interest as an import title in Japan. Perhaps as a response to this, iNiS has announced a sequel to Ouendan, "Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Tamashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2". (The antecedent to the first game's title translates as, ""Burn! Hot Blooded Rhythm Soul!")
The premise of the game is this: Three members of a "cheer squad" must use their funky metaphysical dance-cheer powers to help various people in distress. They do this to the beat of various popular Japanese pop and rock songs (covered by much lesser-known artists in order to lessen the sting of the licensing fee). In order for them to succeed, you must hit colored circles on the touchscreen to the beat of the music, as well as periodically follow a ball around a path on the screen ("tracks") or spin a wheel ("spinners"). Trust me, it's a lot more difficult than it sounds. During the course of a level, your health bar consistently goes down, and only successfully hitting enough beats with a high enough score will keep you from failing your mission. Besides the opening manga which introduces you to the character you're helping and their problem, there are "intermissions" which denote your progress. If your health bar is in the danger zone (i.e., close to failing), then the person you're helping will have problems; if you're in the safe zone, then you'll see them succeed.
There are four difficulty levels to Ouendan; among Western players they are referred to as Easy, Normal, Hard and Insane. (The literal translations of the difficulty levels are things like "Bold Cheering", "Magnificent Cheering", etc.) For each of the lower three difficulty levels, you have a different male leader:
- Easy: Hajime Tanaka. Barely an adult, wears his gray hair shaved down to stubble. Wears glasses and a red headband with the Ouendan logo.
- Normal: Ryūta Ippongi. Red, spiky hair, with very long sideburns. Also wears a red headband, but it bears no logo. Ryūta is on the game's box art.
- Hard: Kai Dōmeki.Black, spiky hair. His long sideburns are shaped like lightning bolts, and he wears a long, pointed beard. He also wears a military-style cap with a badge of the Ouendan logo on it.
The backup cheerers for the male leaders are always Saitō (short black hair, eyepatch over right eye) and Suzuki (blond mohawk).
On Insane mode, the cheer squad is composed of female cheerleaders: Sayaka Amemiya (the leader, who wears brown hair in a braid), Aoi Kanda (pink hair in pigtails held by two blue ribbons, also wears glasses), and Anna Lindhurst (blonde). All three wear blue, low-cut cheerleading uniforms with no midriff and a short skirt, and carry two yellow pom-poms.
The game starts off with only one level available. Beating this will unlock several other levels, and beating all of those will unlock further levels, etc. There are 15 levels in the game.
- Racing Horse vs. Robber. Song: "Guts Da Ze!"by Ulfuls.
- Matsuri Carnival. Song: "Melody" by 175R*.
- Secretary vs. TIME ITSELF. Song: "Koi no Dance Site" by Morning Musume
- Ghost Love Story. Song: "Over the Distance" by Yaida Hitomi.
* This is the only song in the game that is not a cover. It has, however, been edited down by about a minute.
- Policemen vs. Alien Robots. Song: "Shanghai Honey" by Orange Range.
- Giant Businessman vs. Giant Rat. Song: "Taiyou ga Moeteiru" by The Yellow Monkey.
My personal review: Ouendan (along with its Western counterpart, Elite Beat Agents) is one of the most fun games I have ever played. It is elegant in its simplicity, and the only real complaint I have is that there aren't more levels. However, it is also extremely difficult and unforgiving. When I first played it, it took me at least a dozen tries to beat the first level on the easiest difficulty, and even then I got a D-Rank. (I have since improved quite considerably.) If you're the sort of person who is frustrated easily by lack of progress, this game is definitely not for you. Additionally, I would suggest that anybody who wishes to play either game find a long stylus to play it with. The additional length makes gameplay easier, especially on spinners. Actually, I have found that a pen-length stylus is preferable in any game that relies heavily or entirely on the touchscreen. I personally just use an empty mechanical pencil.
If you want to get Ouendan and you don't live in Japan, the easiest way is to order it through an online import site. I have personally had good luck with Play-Asia.com, and I've also heard good things about Yes-Asia.com. (Lik-Sang was also a good one, but is regrettably defunct; Sony killed it with a lawsuit over importing PSPs to Europe before that system launched there.) However, be aware that these sites will charge you around $50 for it. If there's a local import shop by you, they may have it, but they're likely to be even more expensive, in my experience. If by chance you happen to know somebody who lives in or is visiting Japan, you might be able to get them to pick it up; last I heard, it was a bargain bin title going for something like 1500 yen (or about twelve US dollars).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouendan (General information)
http://ds.ign.com/articles/766/766269p1.html (Sequel announcement)
http://www.lik-sang.com/news.php?artc=3901 (Lik-Sang press release)
http://www.gamefaqs.com/portable/ds/file/928590/39522 (Song information)
And last but not least, entirely too many hours of playing Ouendan. :)