Long ago, way back about six years ago, Bandai Namco decided to do something different with Taiko no Tatsujin games. It added RPG and character-collecting elements. This resulted in two 3DS games, Don and Katsu’s Space-time Adventure and Dokodon! Mystery Adventure. Both made what would have been forced to be single-player games, by nature of the platform, feel more worthwhile. Now both are localized as Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack and, while they are still fun, one can’t help but see what time has done to them.
As single-player games, there are really only two modes to speak of in both Rhythmic Adventure 1 and Rhythmic Adventure 2. (Yes, the localization dispensed with the more flavorful titles in favor of the most generic ones possible.) You have a Taiko mode, which lets you go through the 130 songs available in the game on their own. These are divided between the two entries, as you might imagine, and you select the difficulty for each one when you enter. Then, there’s a campaign that tasks Don and Katsu, the series’ mascot drums, off to save the world. One’s really fun and uses RPG elements effectively! The other exists!
Which means if you do intend to play through both stories, you should go through Rhythmic Adventure 1 first. It isn’t a terrible game, though its depiction of Pietro, one of the enemies, is problematic. It is rudimentary. Don and Katsu meet Tocky, a rabbit, after Team Timedyne attempted to abduct Ticky the clock to travel through time and change history. You have to restore Ticky and solve problems in different time periods with the power of music. Along the way, you team up with historical figures like Nobunaga and Cleopatra.
And it’s… fine? The story is simple and the premise is relatively easy. The locations you visit are straightforward, with maps showing all points of interest. As long as you keep up the combo during brief song snippets after random battle encounters, it is fairly easy to survive, succeed, and see your roster grow. You can have up to four characters in your party at a time, and I was swiftly overwhelmed by the number of allies I’d acquired as I played. You can get items and new skills, but I honestly went through characters so quickly and found it so easy on the normal difficulty that I didn’t bother with them.
Just once you try Rhythmic Adventure Pack 2’s campaign, it completely zaps any motivation to go back to the original game. It isn’t that its story is dramatically better. It is still relatively simple. Don and Katsu are visiting a museum, Katsu pushes Don into an stone slab, and the duo get caught up helping a priestess named Tia and a talking monkey named Popo Kaka as they collect out of place artifacts (OOPArts) and keep things like Dragon Lords from destroying places all around the world.
The change between Rhythmic Adventure Pack 1 and 2 is so dramatic. Not only are the character depictions not at all problematic, but the quality of life is so much better. For example, things are actually tactical. Each character has a certain point value assigned to them and a role they play in battle. There are three rows allies can sit in, with each part of the field being better for attackers, defenders, ranged units, supporters, and mages. You have a point cap limiting you, so you can’t fill up with nine over-powered characters. Characters also don’t join your party as easily, so you have a chance to get more attached.
Its pacing is much improved too. You see enemies on-screen and can tell if it will be a small or large group of foes. If you don’t feel like fighting, you can send Katsu out to “fight” the battle for you. You don’t get XP, but it does go away. It also feels like you have to level up and fight, because sometimes you can get a “Draw” result if you aren’t strong enough. If this happens against a boss, like it did the first time I faced the first boss, you’re booted back to the museum and forced to regroup, level up, and retry the fight.
Speaking of the museum, Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack makes it easy to pop in and out of the story to regroup or build up allies. There are frequent fast travel points, which is helpful even though maps are still relatively small and mostly uncomplicated. (Though the second game does introduce elements like switches in dungeons and blocked paths right away.) You can use coins you collect at the museum’s fountain to gain more allies, with prized Taiko Coins awarding special characters like the other game’s Ticky.
Even the battles themselves are better. Both Rhythmic Adventure 1 and 2 have occasional minigames where you try to hit certain milestones for rewards and battle systems where hitting the correct notes and not hitting bombs will make members of your party attack. But in the second game, there are improved elements. You can earn and stack a Taiko magic gauge to boost your power output. (The first game has a similar element, but it automatically triggers when full.) There are Clash Notes where you button mash to deal lots of damage. It all works so much better.
Basically, with Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack, you are getting the game for its two RPGs. Rhythmic Adventure 1 is okay enough, I suppose. You can see it set a precedent and, insensitive depiction aside, has its moments. Rhythmic Adventure 2 is genuinely enjoyable, cool, and moves at a great pace. And of course, the standard Taiko mode is fine and has a wide selection of 130 songs. It is just definitely a collection where one part outshines the other.