Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: Jammin on the DS

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Jammin on the DS

It would have been too predictable of me to follow my last post with a glowing report on Super Mario64 DS. The web is full of favourable reviews for it, so I'll just agree with them and leave it at that. Instead, I'll tell you about a far more obscure DS title that I've been playing:

Dai Gassou! Band Brothers.
(likely to be known as Jam With The Band when it gets an English language release)

It's a bemani game with a very steep difficulty curve and a surprising amount of depth. For the uninitiated, "bemani" refers to the musical game genre made popular by Konami's Beatmania series, where you have to push buttons to play the correct notes in time with the beat of the music.

Band Bros starts off easy with just two buttons being used and quickly develops to the point where all ten buttons (A, B, X, Y, L, R and the four d-pad directions) are being used in increasingly complex patterns. You'll sometimes need to touch the screen during songs too. Just when you start getting your head (and hands) around that, button combinations are introduced. Hardcore. There are loads of songs to play from many different genres (J-pop, TV themes, game music, rock, classical, etc.) and you can choose to play whichever instrument you like in each song.

Get up to seven mates with a DS each (Ha! that's gonna happen anytime soon) and you can download any song to them and you can all play different instruments together. Only one player needs the original game cartridge. You can also create your own songs by choosing an instrument, humming notes into the mike, or writing them in standard musical notation, and then start layering tracks.

The game has a cool visual style based on old rock posters which adds to the grungy studio feel of the game. While many of the music tracks are licenced from J-pop artists (you can expect that to change for the Western release), they're all synthesized in midi-style. All things considered, the songs don't sound too bad. There are no vocals in the songs, despite there being some speech in the intro. The game is best played with headphones, which is hinted at by the fact that the game came with a free pair of them.

Unlike so many other bemani games, simply practicing and memorizing songs won't get you through this game. Each time you enter the studio for a recording session (which are the real 'levels' of the game) you'll be handed a random set of songs to play, and the instrument you'll be playing is also chosen randomly. You'll need considerable skill and dexterity to unlock everything, not just a good memory. As such, clearing the increasingly difficult patterns is all the more compelling and satisfying. Dai Gassou! Band Brothers is easily the best handheld bemani game, and holds its own against its housebound counterparts.


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