It’s surprising for a Taiko no Tatsujin game to get a major mode update several months afterwards, so when the new ‘Don Katsu Fight’ mode was announced alongside a free song, I was pleasantly surprised. Little did I know that this would turn out to be one of the game’s most fun and frantic modes, although as usual for Drum ‘n’ Fun’s Party Games, your mileage may vary.
If the regular versus mode was the Ridge Racer of rhythm game versus modes, this would be the Mario Kart equivalent. In this mode, players strive to knock down their opponent (only Don-chan and Kacchan are available in this mode) down to zero health. How you damage the opponent is, of course, by playing through a song and doing well. This fills up the percentage number, and when it reaches 100%, you unleash an attack that deals one bar of damage. If both players are still standing by the end of the song, the game goes to whoever has more remaining HP – or a draw if HP is equal.
So what’s different from regular versus, and why should you play it if it’s all skill-based? Well, it isn’t. Throughout the song you’ll pick up the equivalent of Item Boxes in Mario Kart that will spawn items that either boost your performance by making the percentage go up faster or do double damage; there are also mixup type items that add fake notes or increases the speed the notes scroll, or even make them invisible. The last type summons characters from the series to cover up parts of the screen so that the opponent can’t see the coming notes clearly.
Of course, even under these circumstances, the game doesn’t lose its skill-based nature, but you’re even more unlikely to hit every note. Thanks to this, even players with around the same average skill level like my friend and I were likely to win or lose more without resorting to a draw. It can be frustrating sometimes when the other person gets two overpowered items in a row, but the entire experience was fun in a chaotic way.
That said, I found one thing in particular to look out for – the difficulty levels. As usual, both players get to choose what difficulty you want to play. In the screenshot above, I chose Hard, while my friend chose Extreme. To make up for the Hard version not having as many notes as the Extreme version, we found that the easier ones increase your percentage more for each note hit compared to the harder ones. This meant that it felt even more unbalanced than usual when playing different difficulties, as me doing well on Hard meant me winning most times compared to a decent Extreme performance. It also meant that sometimes it felt playing on a harder difficulty was unnecessarily punishing yourself with no benefit at all, so I recommend that both players agree on one difficulty to stick to for each song.
The added benefit of doing so is that unless there were diverging notes, I could (and you can too if you’re a cheater) screen peek and just follow my opponent’s notes when I was hit with a particularly devastating item. Unless, of course, I had screwed my opponent over with a similarly devastating item, which meant that I’d be out of luck.
Overall, I can tell why this was touted as the second biggest mode in the game, as it replaces Party Game as the second highest option in the main menu. It’s got lots of fun to be had, but only if you follow some baseline conditions like playing on the same difficulty. I just wish it also had online functionality.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun is available for Nintendo Switch. You can find more about the exclusive Party Games mode in our playtest here.
Food for thought:
1. There really isn’t a point to playing this mode in singleplayer, unlike the solo Party Games. Just stick to Taiko Mode in that case.
2. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of comeback mechanic in place. I did faintly feel that Double Attack Up appeared somewhat more often when either my friend or I was two bars lower than the other, but I might be imagining things.