It seems like one of the biggest crazes these days is the inclusion of peripherals with video games. Check out DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION, KARAOKE REVOLUTION or EYETOY; people just have to play with something other than a normal control pad. The newest craze apparently seems to be the inclusion of drums. Right behind the release of Nintendo's DONKEY KONGA, Namco has released its own drum game in TAIKO DRUM MASTER, easily one of the most addictive party games I have ever played.
Although the series has been popular in Japan for the past few years, it has taken a little while to make it stateside. The J-Pop and traditional Japanese music has been removed (drat!) and replaced with some pop and rock music, along with some classical and even some tunes from some of Namco's other games.
You play TAIKO DRUM MASTER using the plastic taiko drum that comes packaged with the game and the drum sticks (a taiko drum is a rather large Japanese drum, in case you were wondering). On screen, as the songs play, you will have to beat the drums according to what you see on screen. Much like DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION or KARAOKE REVOLUTION, you will have to hit the correct notes as the song progresses to gain points. A red taiko drum face on screen will represent hitting the middle of the drum, while a blue taiko drum face will require you to hit the outside of the drum. There are larger "notes" as well, which will require you to hit the drum harder, possibly with both sticks. More difficult songs will require you to perform drum rolls as well.
The track list is pretty in-depth, and there is quite an assortment of songs. You'll have traditional pop songs like "A.B.C." and "Toxic", rock songs like "Killer Queen", a select few anime songs like "Rock the Dragon" from DRAGON BALL Z, to an assortment of Namco songs like the theme from RIDGER RACER and SOUL CALIBUR II.
The drum itself is a fairly decent piece of equipment. It feels pretty sturdy, and from what I can tell so far, can take a pretty good pounding from the drum sticks. Occasionally there are some sensitivity problems where it won't detect certain strikes on the surface; it seems as if the buttons are at the very middle, and if you don't hit directly on them, it won't detect it very well.
TAIKO DRUM MASTER also comes with three mini-games. Each is complicated enough to have you swearing and throwing your drum sticks across the room, but they are each really fairly short. Reach the Helicopter is probably my favorite of the three, where you have to make a stack of dogs that continues to grow in size touch the bottom of a helicopter. Sounds like fun, eh? Then you'll love the incredibly weird storyline of the game which is stretched thin, but has to deal with twin taiko drum brothers being brought to life, along with dancing squids, dogs, turtles and wooden sticks.
Of course, TAIKO DRUM MASTER is a game that is better enjoyed in the company of others rather than alone. Even with its price tag, TAIKO DRUM MASTER is a must have for party game fans.