Out of all the Japanese DS launch titles it’s Daigasso! Band Brothers that really has our interest. This game which flew under the radar of Super Mario 64 DS, Sawaru Made in Wario and even Sega’s Kimi no Tame Nara Shineru is one of the stellar titles of the system. Taking after Bemani titles, most notably Pop ‘n Music, Band Brothers is a music/rhythm game where you have to hit the right key at the right time. At first you only need to worry about hitting the D-pad or the buttons on beat. As you progress through the game by doing studio recordings, players will have to utilize more buttons. Eventually using everything the DS has to offer, even the touch screen at the same time. Once you play the correct note you normally need to hold the note until the end. If you’ve been playing Beatmania for awhile holding the note until the end may take awhile to get used to, but you’ll have plenty of songs to practice with.
Every great music game has an equally great song list. Band Brothers won’t disappoint here. It’s got a good mix of pop songs, Nintendo themes and anime tracks. On the J-pop side you have Ayumi’s “Seasons”, “Yeah! Holiday”, “Sakuranbo” and “Choo Choo Train”. Out of the anime songs a lot of people have been talking about how “Ready Steady Go!” and “Melissa”, two Full Metal Alchemist themes are in the game. There are bunch of other anime songs, notably a great rendition of “Touch” and “fragile”. All the Nintendo fans out there will love the “Mario Medley” taken from Super Mario World and Super Mario 3, the “Zelda Medley” and the “F-Zero Medley”. The most surprising addition would have to be the “Famicom Mini Medley” which has a classic NES tracks in all their 8-bit glory. The song list even throws in a couple of classical music tracks plus “Smoke on the Water” from Deep Purple, which is also featured in some Bemani games. There’s bound to be more than a handful of tracks you’ll like it Band Brothers with such a diverse selection. At the same time there are probably one or two you can’t stand.
After you pick a song you’ll have the option of picking out which instrument you want to play. There are drums, harmonicas, piano sounds, and pretty much anything else a MIDI composer would have. Besides having different sounds, instruments have varying degrees of difficulty. Each song has a simple track and a bunch of harder ones. So you can play pretty much anything from the get go. Instead of having to wait until you get skilled enough to play a song you want to play. Nintendo may have opted to do this because Daigasso! Band Brothers is a game that takes a fair amount of skill to play. Even if you’re a Beatmania master, a Pop n’ Music star and a Frequency expert you’ll be challenged by Band Brothers. The interface is simple at first, asking players to hit either the D-pad or one of the buttons. Really quickly you’ll be juggling between the four directions on the D-pad, the four main buttons, the two shoulder buttons and the touch screen. Oh yeah, you’ll still have to hold notes down too. It gets a little bit overwhelming at times and hitting the touch screen mid song is plain awkward.
Once you feel up to par you can take on the game’s pro mode. By beating pro mode challenges you’ll be able to unlock more instrument tracks and the gem of the game pro edit mode. In pro mode you’re given a set of songs to play, but like all music games you need to play the songs on beat. If you’re off beat you’ll burn off some of the string on the bomb that can end your jam session. You start out with 100% and it will decrease with each missed note. What is really tricky is that this meter lasts for the entire set of songs. Which means players are expected to have near flawless plays to move up a level. What makes this whole ordeal problematic is that you can’t actually pick which songs you’re going to play. You’re randomly given songs. Even if you know all but one song well you could just get unlucky at the end and lose all of your hard work. Players will need to practice, probably need to practice a lot to get pro edit mode.
Daigasso! Band Brothers has two ways in where you can actually make your own music. At the start of the game you can only use the microphone to record songs. Experimenting using the DS’s microphone, a bunch of songs and different volume levels has mixed results. The game really isn’t designed to record music. If you play a song with lyrics in it, don’t expect it to discern the beat from the vocals. In fact if you play any standard CD, sans classical music, expect a sub par recording. The only way to get a decent recording is to play a single MIDI track at full volume with your DS literally sitting on the speaker. Any other way will at best have you missing a few notes, but more likely missing a whole section of notes. The record feature is clever, but it really doesn’t cut it.
Pro edit mode is one of the features that makes the game amazing. In this mode you get a full out MIDI composer. With the touch screen you select notes and you place them on sheet music. You can also select from the in game instruments and make an entire symphony this way. Pro edit mode allows you to put whatever song you want into the game. If you feel like you need to play a song from Chrono Trigger, the latest pop track or your own composition it can be in the game. Best of all using the DS’ wireless capability you can share your masterpiece with your buddies. Of course the huge catch with pro edit mode is that you will need to know how to read music and have an idea of how to write music if you plan to make your own songs. Perhaps it’s for the most musically gifted gamers, but that is still no reason to hide it the way Nintendo did. Instead of having the option to play with this from the start you will have to complete pro mode to unlock this. Why Nintendo hid Band Brother’s best feature is anyone’s guess, but it’s well worth a play through to unlock this. It gives Band Brothers potentially endless replay value because gamers can keep adding in songs. Now if there was just a way to transfer songs over a wireless ethernet card to a computer we would be in business.
Easier to neglect than pro edit mode is Daigasso! Band Brothers’ multiplayer options. Of course you can send songs to other people who own the game, but you can also play a song in tangent with other people. Each person can play a different section and function like a virtual orchestra, which is pretty cool. What we are unsure about is that the game says it supports 2 to infinite number of players. So the upper limit isn’t exactly clear of how many people can play at one time, but we imagine it must be a large enough number for an all DS band.
If you’re a gamer that digs music games get a DS and pick up Daigasso! Band Brothers. Out of all the rhythm games out there this game actually allows players to make music on top of just playing it. The features of this game and it’s huge song list make it rival huge arcade hits with expensive controllers. It might not have the psychedelic visuals like Konami’s titles or the simplicity of Harmonix games because Daigasso! Band Brothers is in a league of it’s own.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 2
Most of the menus have Japanese text, but there aren’t too many menus to navigate through. The actual game is simple enough to understand, but the music editor can be a little complex to use without understanding any Japanese.
Nintendo has announced a title for the American version of the game called “Jam With the Band”, but no release date has been announced. Even when this game comes over to America expect the song list to be significantly different.
+ Pros: Besides being a fun game, its a full out 8 track composer.
– Cons: The music composer may be too complex for gamers and the sound recorder doesn’t quite work.
Overall: Daigasso! Band Brothers is more than just a challenging music game. The composer feature is really neat and will keep any one into music playing with this title long after they are done with all of the in game songs.
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