Give Me a D! Give Me an S!

Ok, I admit it, I’m woefully susceptible to hype. Rant and rave about how great a game is and I’ll be intrigued; get others to do the same and I’m convinced. So you can guess the effect a 10+ page thread extolling the virtues of Ouendan must have had on me. I was convinced I’d love the game even before I had it. But even if you weren’t so predisposed to fall in love, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendaaaaaaaaan! really is amazingly charming. I can’t help it if I seem to be a cheerleader for the game. It’s a game about cheerleading.

At its most basic level, Ouendan is a rhythm game on the Nintendo DS. The gameplay is deceptively simple: numbered targets appear on screen and you have to tap them in order. The rhythm comes from the circles drawn around the targets. They start off very large and gradually converge onto the target. When the circle is the same size as the target, TAP! To add a little variety there are also sliders and what I like to call the spinning wheel of death. And that’s it. You can do the tutorial in 5 minutes.

The charm is in the presentation. A note: if you can’t stand any of the following you will not like this game: manga, Japan, J-Pop. Yup, as you probably guessed from the title, it’s a very Japan-centric game. Ouendan can be translated as ‘cheer squad’ and that’s what you’re doing. You’re not just tapping a screen in time with some music you are encouraging good study habits! Reuniting lovers! Saving the city from rampaging mutants? From rampaging robots (from outer space)? Saving the world !? All with the power of cheer!

Ahem. Sorry. I got a little carried away there. The point is, each song is a little scenario in which the cheer squad is called upon to help out some poor soul. The better you do in tapping in time, the more positive effect your cheers have. The top screen stays in story mode with little manga panels and animations to show the effect your cheers are having. The bottom screen is all about gameplay.

The only problem with the game is that the tracklist contains only 15 songs, which feels a little short. Though with 4 levels of difficulty and an obsessive-compulsive need to get the perfect ’S’ rank on all songs, this may not matter much. And with only 15 songs to find it’s a fairly simple task to create your own ‘Ouendan Soundtrack’ playlist so you can train while at work, at home, on the go… Er, not that you would ever get this carried away.

I just reread what I’ve written and realized that I have in no way captured just what precisely it is I love about Ouendan. There’s just something about the combination of happy happy J-Pop, cute little manga scenarios (that only get more ridiculous as the game goes on), and the tapping that makes my face hurt from smiling while I play it.

Ouendan! It makes the Nintendo DS happy!

Oh, I hear it may be coming State-side… I’ll be rebuying it if it does. If you’re inclined to import, Ouendan is available from Lik-Sang