Taiko Drum Master, perhaps better known by by its Japanese title Taiko no Tatsujin has, believe it or not, been around for 12 years. If you haven’t heard of it though, I can’t blame you. It’s never been released in Europe. As taiko (Japanese drums) are both easy and fun to play, its not hard to see why Namco-Bandai’s flagship rhythm game has proved popular with all audiences. Go to any local arcade in Japan and you’ll find anyone from kids to teenage girls to 30-something year-old NEETs playing.
The game has spawned McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, its own clay anime and even received 14-odd seconds of screentime in Lost in Translation. The series’ protagonist, Don-chan has even made his way into the latest version of Mario Kart Arcade GP following in the footsteps of Pac-Man and the Tamagotchi Mametchi. Despite all this, only one version of the game was released in English on the PS2 back in 2004… in the States. The game menus for the two dozen console releases are hardly impenetrable to non-Japanese speakers though. After a few goes you’ll have it down to muscle memory if you aren’t afraid of trial and error.
If you already have an imported PS2 or Wii or you’re a cheeky modder that’s just fine and dandy, but you’ll still need to import the game with its Taiko Tapping Controller and drum sticks for the authentic home experience. The iOS version is free on the Japanese App Store, but the track packs are pretty expensive, especially if you need to import Japanese gift cards. There is a 3DS version out too, but you’d need a Japanese 3DS for that.
No; the best versions to import are the latest DS and PSP versions. Each system received three versions of the game. All the handheld versions can a be played with face and shoulder buttons, but the DS iterations can also be played with cute styli or “bachi-pen” that come as part of the package, so they have a more authentic, if awkward, input method.
These DS and PSP versions have the lowest barriers for entry, and will work out cheapest too. Also worth noting the DS versions can be played on 3DS and 3DS XL units, as DS games are still region-free on 3DS hardware.
Taiko no Tatsujin DS: Dororon! Yokai Daikessen!!
Features: 51 tracks, RPG mode, single-cart 4-player multiplayer, free gold bachi-pen
Cool tracks: Melt (feat. Hatsune Miku), Tonari no Totoro, Thriller
Taiko no Tatsujin: Portable DX
Features: 70 tracks, story mode, 4-player multiplayer, over 100 DLC tracks (on Japanese PSN)
Cool tracks: Monster Hunter Medley, Magical Sound Shower, MISTER (KARA)
Alternatively, you could just wait for Yakuza 5… it’ll be the first time Taiko Drum Master will hit Europe!
Keep on importing!