Release Date: Q4 2006
With companies like Konami and Harmonix making rhythm/music games popular in the 'States, we've begun to see lots more than the latest Dance Dance crazes coming our way. We've had taiko drums, regular drums, virtual karaoke bars, guitars, and now ... well, now we've got touch-tapping.
It's really fun touch-tapping, though.
Elite Beat Agents is the localized pedigree of a Japanese DS game by the name of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, in which male cheerleaders are summoned everywhere they can be to solve the problems of the world through dance. In Agents, you've got a fictional special ops agency who does the same thing, and God help us, their agents are full of funk and soul. Indeed, they're dancing men in black, led by ex-CIA agent Commander Kahn, who scans the world for trouble and dispatches his men with the simple cry, "Agents are ... GO!" Both are developed by Inis, responsible for Gitaroo-Man, so if nothing else, you already know you're in for an interesting time.
Quests range from anything to helping a girl get a date, to walking the dog, to taking care of babysitting duties, all accompanied with the wackiest dialogue ever. When the Agents are needed, they're sent out to wherever trouble is, and it's time to help them dance to the beat! This is all done, of course, through the touch-screen. You'll have to tap the screen in certain spots to the beat, and you'll also have to guide your movements. Spinning a ball in place, spinning a wheel, following paths ... this isn't just one of those "match the colored spots" games, not by a long shot. The game challenges your hand-eye coordination in ways you never thought of for the rhythm genre.
After each jam session, you'll be judged on your performance. Depending on how well you do in making the Agents dance, each individual scenario will turn out differently, and you'll get one of three final endings.
Now, word of advance warning: no doubt, if you look around this great online world of ours, you'll see people crying on about how Ouendan should have made it to the 'States, unchanged, with all of its male cheerleader glory, licensed (and thus costly) J-Pop, and nonexistent localization intact. You may also have heard that Elite Beat Agents destroys the "integrity" and "purity" of Ouendan ... or whatever such words people use these days. They tend to change. If you value your sanity, ignore the heck out of these people.
The demo version I ended up playing on the show floor is an endearing game, full of humor that's impossible not to laugh at, and music that's impossible not to tap your toes to. The fact that said music and said humor is now American instead of Japanese does not detract from the gameplay quality in any way, shape or form. Needless to say, I'll be buying Elite Beat Agents the day it comes out, which will be ... well, sometime during fourth quarter. We'll keep you posted, okay?