Review by LtCardboard
"Agents! Save us from a stagnating genre!"
Elite Beat Agents is absolutely bonkers. It's a rhythm action game, but one so far removed from the likes of Rock Band and Guitar Hero that it's hard to believe that it even stems from the same genre. Elite Beat Agents actually has a plot. An insane plot, but a plot nevertheless. As the Agents, it's your job to save people from their crises by cheering them up through the medium of dance. No. I'm not making this up. I won't even get into how mental the stories themselves are! What's unique about Elite Beat Agents is that the results of your performances are seen mid song. A few times in each song, the action halts and you are shown a cutscene. If you've done well in a particular section, the character's situation will improve marginally. Of course, the opposite is also true. The cutscenes are highly amusing and it's great to see such an imaginative and lighthearted take on a genre that sometimes takes itself too seriously.
Obviously, as a DS game, it relies upon touch controls rather than plastic instruments. The game basically uses three types of stylus input. The most common requires you to tap numbered "buttons" (for lack of a better word), in order, in time to the music. Occasionally, you'll also need to slide your stylus along the screen. Both of these inputs work well and fit in time to the music. The third input, while the rarest, is not quite as natural. It involves rapidly tracing circles. However, it can be awkward to change input so drastically mid song and doesn't really fit the timing of tune, making it hard to regain your timing. But for the vast majority of the time, controls are not an issue and, in fact, work very well.
The game is incredibly difficult. This is down to a punishing life meter, which is constantly decreasing. Good timing replenishes it, but in harder difficulties, it decreases incredibly quickly and anything but perfect timing will mean the meter will still decrease. I think that it's unfair that not missing an input can still result in failure if your timing isn't perfect. Not only this, patterns are so incredibly complex that it requires ninja like stylus control to complete them. This makes it insanely hard to even finish certain levels, let alone get a good rank in them. Difficulty is good though - the replay value for this game is HUGE!
One thing that irks me about Elite Beat Agents is the imbalance in the difficulty. The songs are ranked in difficulty from one to about eight stars. Eight stars is obviously a lot more difficult than one star. But that's not the issue. The issue is that completing all of the songs on Normal unlocks Hard. But the eight star normal level is still SIGNIFICANTLY harder than the one star hard level. Imagine this throughout the four difficulty levels, and it isn't difficult to see that the difficulty that jumps all over the place.
Song choice is limited. There are only 19 tracks, and all of them are covers. Fortunately, the quality of the mimicry is so exquisite that for the vast majority of the tunes you won't even realise that they're covers. The songs themselves are a mixed bag. While I approve of Sum 41 and Steriogram, I can hardly say the same for the likes of Madonna and Avril Lavigne. Regardless, they have no impact on the incredibly fun gameplay anyway.
Despite it's issues, Elite Beat Agents is still an incredibly entertaining rhythm action game. The difficulty will keep your adrenaline pumping, and the plots are downright mental. The action is intense, and taking on a particularly tricky level and finally defeating it is more satisfying than beating any boss. I seriously recommend this game for anyone who's looking for a fast paced and highly unique game for the DS. This is one of the best on the system.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/28/10
Game Release: Elite Beat Agents (EU, 07/13/07)
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