Before Guitar Hero came along and revolutionized the music genre with plastic guitars and rock anthems, the music scene was a very Japanese-style niche market. There were the well-known DDRs and Beatmanias, and then there was Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, a rhythm DS game that had you play as a cheer squad that went around and cheered to save the world. Dancing to J-pop, the cheer squad would help a student pass an entrance exam or help people move on from their loved ones after they passed. It’s super quirky and tons of fun. So much fun that it was imported in great amounts, enough for Nintendo to work on an English version.
Elite Beat Agents, a more subdued version of Ouendan, launched in the US in 2006. It replaced the cheer squad with secret agents and Japanese songs for English ones. However, the core mechanic of singing to save the world remained the same. From heartbreaking to comedic, the Beat Agents met with all sorts of people to solve their issues. Few music games try to tie together a story and it’s amazing how much witty and interesting stories were crammed into the tiny DS cartridge.
The actual game mechanics were no slouch, either. Following a hitmarker with your stylus, it was a challenging but rewarding experience. It was engaging, but never grew tedious. Unfortunately, sales were lower than Nintendo had hoped for. While Ouendan received a sequel in Japan, there was no such luck here.
That is absolutely depressing. Elite Beat Agents is probably the best music game in recent history, and that’s coming from a hardcore rhythm gamer. As the owner of a DDR mat, Donkey Konga kongas, 2 drum sets, 3 guitars, 4 mics, and a DJ turntable, it turns out that a tiny, quirky title would end up being the best music experience.