Elite Beat Agents

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Music has a power over us. The right song at the right time can turn the darkest night into day, lifting us up through the fog our daily toils. There's something hidden between every note that affects us in ways nothing else can. If music soothes the savage beast, it also wakes the sleeping dragon, lighting a fire inside that spurs us forward through difficult times.

Male cheerleaders do pretty much the same thing.

Elite Beat Agents from Nintendo and Japanese developer iNiS combines these two concepts to form the best dancing government agent simulator yet, and it's wildly fun.

Elite Beat Agents is the spiritual successor of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, a unique rhythm game for the Nintendo DS that was widely imported to North America. The game featured a mostly male, quasi-superhero group that would appear wearing ninja-like outfits during a person's moment of need to help them work through their issues by cheering them on to J-Pop.

Nintendo approached iNiS, the geniuses responsible for the PS2's Gitaroo Man, about a possible North American localization, but since the original game is so heavily dependant on modern Japanese culture, the two companies decided to rework the game. Instead of male cheerleaders solving the world's problems through interpretive dance, it was decided that government agents with anime hair and too-cool-for-school sunglasses would be easier to swallow. When someone is in dire need, an alarm goes off deep in the heart of somewhere, and the Elite Beat Agents spring to action, saving the day with the cunning use of The Hustle.

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Each level tells a story about a person in distress, ranging from mundane events (a babysitter needs help controlling her three wards while winning the affections of the star quarterback) to more fantastical scenarios (the son of a car maker has to retrieve stolen plans from a rival company by using his innate ninja skills). The stories are presented in comic book panels, followed by the agents launching into the story to motivate the protagonist.

Gameplay takes place on the bottom screen, where strings of numbered buttons are superimposed over the dancing agents. Each button has a circle converging on it, and the idea is to tap the sequence out at the exact moment the circle matches up with each button. Occasionally you'll be presented with a button that moves when you tap it, which you have to trace with your stylus to complete successfully. As an encore, you'll have to spin a wheel to fill gauges on either side of the screen. Do all this in time with the music and you'll keep your "Elite-O-Meter" at the top of the screen full. Screw up too much, and your agents will lose their enthusiasm and give up. If the image of three spooks with gravity-defying hair shaking their rumps to funk music fills your heart with glee, seeing the agents out of breath and out of step will crush your spirits. Also, the game will be over.

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Reading the above paragraph might make you take a step back from the game. Sounds convoluted, doesn't it? It's not. In fact, it might just be the most brilliant use of the DS's unique design to date. The screen-tapping concept gives EBA a hands-on feel lacking in many music games, and while screenshots make the game look excessively chaotic, it's the fun kind of chaos. It's so fun that you'll often be left breathless after a song is done, as if you were shaking your money maker right along with the Agents. This isn't to say the game can't be frustrating. Prepare to fail songs multiple times in the later missions, as tapping patterns get longer and their rhythm becomes more complex. Don't worry, though, you'll keep coming back for more.

The only real negative of EBA lies in its song list. Most of the songs are fun to play along to, although few of them will be stuck in your head afterwards. Some stand out, "Canned Heat" by Jamiroquai being my particular favorite, but there's one song/scenario that is just bizarre. The mission involves reuniting a little girl with the spirit of her father for Christmas, and it's set to the tune of Peter Cetera's "You're The Inspiration." If there were awards for Most Depressing Gaming Moment of 2006, this would take the prize. The song itself is bad enough, but the story playing out on the top screen is enough to make any emo orange reach for the peeler.

Regardless, Elite Beat Agents is a blast, and anyone with access to a DS should give it a shot. Its goofy concept, gorgeous presentation, and unique gameplay might seem strange on their own, but their combination results in a game that you'll be showing off to everyone you know. Should a game about male cheerleaders be this much fun? Probably not. But it is.

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Agents are GO!

Elite Beat Agents
Official Site
Release Date: November 2006
Developer: iNiS
Publisher: Nintendo

Comments

I just picked this game up last night and literally couldn't stop grinning the whole time I played it. I've only made it to the aforementioned "Canned Heat" and I can already say this game was worth every penny I paid.

I started playing this in the store and didn't want to stop. Sadly, the demo units in the store never seem to be working/available when I manage to get the wife there.

If I could just get her to play the game, I'm pretty sure I'd have carte blanche in obtaining one.

Glad to hear it's a fun game. I've played Ouendan and really liked it, but the song list on this one kept me away. I'm still not sure I'd pick it up, but I probably would if I didn't have access to Ouendan.

Folklore wrote:

I started playing this in the store and didn't want to stop. Sadly, the demo units in the store never seem to be working/available when I manage to get the wife there.

If I could just get her to play the game, I'm pretty sure I'd have carte blanche in obtaining one.

I'm sure marriage is great and all, but I hope you're talking about picking up a DS Lite and a copy of EBA, not talking about just trying to pick up a single game. I would not enjoy getting approval before every purchase.

I just started playing the game on Monday. So far it seems like a lot of fun. I feel like I'm getting spoiled lately with all these great games.

I really enjoy EBA. It's a perfect sitting on -- um -- a plane, yeah that's it.

Jumping Jack Flash can kiss my ass.

Scaphism wrote:

Glad to hear it's a fun game. I've played Ouendan and really liked it, but the song list on this one kept me away. I'm still not sure I'd pick it up, but I probably would if I didn't have access to Ouendan.

Folklore wrote:

I started playing this in the store and didn't want to stop. Sadly, the demo units in the store never seem to be working/available when I manage to get the wife there.

If I could just get her to play the game, I'm pretty sure I'd have carte blanche in obtaining one.

I'm sure marriage is great and all, but I hope you're talking about picking up a DS Lite and a copy of EBA, not talking about just trying to pick up a single game. I would not enjoy getting approval before every purchase.

I was talking about the DS + several games. I definitely need clearance for $200 + .

If I stay on the sane side of purchases, it's cool. But it's a trade-off, you see... I like expensive electronic things, she likes expensive makeup ( Sephora ) and clothes.

Plus, we've got 2 kids. If we had no kids, it wouldn't matter.

That's how we roll, dig ?

Staats wrote:

Jumping Jack Flash can kiss my ass.

Word.

Is there a way to turn off that dreadful clank sound every time you hit the button with the stylus? It was really distracting to me and was the main reason I stopped playing after the third song.

Folklore wrote:

I was talking about the DS + several games. I definitely need clearance for $200 + .

If I stay on the sane side of purchases, it's cool. But it's a trade-off, you see... I like expensive electronic things, she likes expensive makeup ( Sephora ) and clothes.

Plus, we've got 2 kids. If we had no kids, it wouldn't matter.

That's how we roll, dig ? :)

That's totally reasonable. I had to get the approval of my checking account before I could throw down for the DS Lite + the games I wanted. If it's just one game though, no consultation needed. Hope you fish your wish!
/offtopic

Has anyone here played both games? Are there any notable differences besides the tunes?

I'd probably be playing EBA more if I actually liked more than 3-4 of the songs. As it stands, I can only manage to make myself pick it up right before bed when sitting down to an xbox would be too clunky. But of course, when I pick it up I find my self hitting Yes on Regroup? over and over and over. . .

I have to say Canned Heat almost made me sell the game. Maybe I have a bum copy, but the beats aren't synched with the music at all. I've had to beat everything up to 3 star with the sound off for that damnable track.

Negman wrote:

I have to say Canned Heat almost made me sell the game. Maybe I have a bum copy, but the beats aren't synched with the music at all. I've had to beat everything up to 3 star with the sound off for that damnable track.

The beat follows the hi-hat in the song. It's syncopated.

I hate failing a song when there are no beats to hit. Why should the meter constantly decrease like that? It's a bit mean of the developers. Unless there's a fourth difficulty level, I'll soon be done with this and onto Phoenix Wright 2. Just in time for a few flights too. I'll probably import the Japanese version of EBA at some point now.

McChuck wrote:

I hate failing a song when there are no beats to hit. Why should the meter constantly decrease like that? It's a bit mean of the developers. Unless there's a fourth difficulty level, I'll soon be done with this and onto Phoenix Wright 2. Just in time for a few flights too. I'll probably import the Japanese version of EBA at some point now.

I believe after 3 star mode there is Diva/4 star mode and Commander mode. The divas are all female agents and Commander mode has just the Commander but he does the Diva dance moves. Or I've been horribly lied to. I can't imagine being the person that gets 4 and 5 star difficulties nailed.

I went back to try Canned Heat again and it still makes me bleed internally.

I can't put this thing down once I get started. It'll probably have limited duration for me, but those first hours are fun!

Last night I managed to beat Canned Heat. I found that the first two stages were really akward because of the syncopated beats, but that most of the latter stages were based on the lyrics more and had patterns that repeated themselves. Also, I switched to the DS stylus that came with Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin and that seemed to help a hell of a lot. This is the first game I've had for the DS that I found the original stylus to be too damn tiny. It kept slipping out of my hand from tapping the screen too hard.

Maybe I need to find a less greasy hand lotion... or just not get into the song as much

This thing really takes off on the 3rd difficulty level... it's synced with the music far more accurately.

Staats wrote:

This thing really takes off on the 3rd difficulty level... it's synced with the music far more accurately.

That's good to know. I need some motivation to make it through the two-star level in the teens where I go over and over again trying to get through the song. I think I spent an hour trying to get through one before just giving it up yesterday evening.

So far it seems that if I know the song, I have a lot easier time figuring out what they're looking for, but when it's new to me, I'm usually lost for quite a while. I suppose I should go and go through everything at the one-star level just to hear all the songs.

Which reminds me. It almost seems like the one-star level is harder than two-star for some songs, at least for me. I'm not really good at tapping based on timing the reducing circles, but instead go almost entirely by the music/lyrics, and the one-star versions seem to have a lot of wait-for-the-circle instead of active rhythms.

This whole "dancing metrosexual government agents save people" premise puts me off somehow. They need to create a version were people are saved by dancing Swedish Bikini Team.

croaker wrote:

It almost seems like the one-star level is harder than two-star for some songs, at least for me. I'm not really good at tapping based on timing the reducing circles, but instead go almost entirely by the music/lyrics, and the one-star versions seem to have a lot of wait-for-the-circle instead of active rhythms.

Three star is to two star what two star is to one star - that is to say, the rhythms suck in the lower levels.

Except Canned Heat. That always sucks.

Wow. Jumping Jack Flash is a pain in the ass, ass, ass.

Staats wrote:

Three star is to two star what two star is to one star - that is to say, the rhythms suck in the lower levels.

Except Canned Heat. That always sucks.

Man, you guys just don't have the funk.

Demiurge wrote:

Except Canned Heat. That always sucks.

Man, you guys just don't have the funk. ;)[/quote]

I CAN'T HEAR THE DAMN HI-HAT!

Man, I love the game.

But I ain't the beat, if ya know what I mean.
hella fun though.

I took this on a transatlantic flight, and have probably played it for 15-20 hours. All in all, I'd call it a great game. It's a bit like a portable Guitar Hero, and that's not a bad thing at all. It's probably the most fun I've had with my DS, not that I've played all that many DS games. If there weren't so many other great games out there for me to try, this would be one that I could stick with for a while.

What a fun game.

Poppinfresh wrote:

Wow. Jumping Jack Flash is a pain in the ass, ass, ass.

My wife has a tough time with this one, too. I rock this song. I'm ever so close to running my multiplier the entire way through the song. This is, of course, at the "Breezin'" level. I'm technically not allowed to post scores for songs since it's my wife's DS and game -- and since Elite Beat is one of those STUPID games that don't allow multiple saves -- so I can't move forward myself.