Elite Beat Agents
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-06-16 Nintendo DS Music/Rhythm E (Everyone) Nintendo / Inis

There are dozens of great games available for the Nintendo DS, with each offering something different to gamers everywhere. For RPG fans there is the stellar Pok??mon franchise, while adrenaline junkies can pour hours in Mario Kart. Adventure seekers can play Trace Memory and puzzle fiends have Meteos. It's about time that rhythm based games received the same high treatment on this joyous handheld, and Elite Beat Agents definitely does the trick.

The game's premise is as follows: Under the tutelage of Commander Kahn, the Elite Beat Agents, or EBA for short, are a group of sharply dressed secret agents, or superheroes, if you will, who travel the world solving people's problems through the power of dance. Your missions will vary as much as the music the agents dance to, and include such things as helping a down-on-his-luck rancher strike oil and assisting a teenager in babysitting some bratty kids. The game's climax even sees the EBA defeating a band of music-hating aliens who are turning the world's citizens into stone.

Starting with a lengthy tutorial, Commander Kahn explains the rules of the game. Stationary numbered circles of various colors will appear on the touch screen. Surrounding them are larger circles of the same color that will shrink in size as they approach the aforementioned numbered circle. When the two circles meet, you must tap the number, causing your agents to continue their complex choreography. If you miss, your agents will fall to the ground, and only by creating a lengthy combo of correct hits can they get up and start again.

Adding to the complexity of having upwards of 7 or 8 circles in play at the same time (in later levels) is the Elite-o-Meter. The meter is full at the start of every level, and only drops when you miss a beat. If it drops low enough, it will enter the "No" side of the bar, which will make you fail a section, and if it depletes entirely, you will fail your mission and have to start again.

Apart from the numbered circles that disappear once tapped, there are two other types of buttons to hit. The first looks the same as their more common brethren, but instead of disappearing once touched, they instead turn into a ball, which you must follow with your stylus, through it's designated path. The second is a wheel of stars that you must quickly spin to reach a certain speed before time is up.

Unlike other slower games available for the DS, EBA is a frantic, in your face mash up of colored circles and anime/comic book-esque stylings. Normally, there will be so many buttons popping up on the touch screen that it will be hard to concentrate on anything but the numbers flashing before your face, which can make keeping up with your mission's progress (which occurs on the top screen) darn near impossible. To make up for this, the game includes a replay save feature, which allows you to go back and watch everything that you might have missed while jabbing away at your bottom screen.

Going back to the appearance of the title, which I alluded to earlier, EBA is a great mix of comic-book cutscenes and anime dance sequences. The stories to be found in the game are quite random, and each is represented in a quirky, interesting way. The game's circles are in bright primary colors, and differ enough from each other to hinder any added confusion. That's a definite plus, since things are hectic enough as it is.

Adding to the overall mix is of course the sound department. In a rhythm based game, the music is definitely key in creating a unique and enjoyable gameplay experience, and the music in EBA hits the nail right on the head. An eclectic mix ranging from Madonna's "Material Girl," to The Village People's "YMCA" awaits you on your journey. As can be expected, the songs are covers rather than the real deal, but they are performed in such a way as to be almost as good as the original versions.

Apart from the difficulty and complexity of the title, the game's length might also factor into some opinions on the game. There are only fifteen levels in the main storyline (not including unlockable bonus levels), and even after retrying certain ones multiple times, I still finished the game in an afternoon. However, there is a bit of incentive to keep going.

First is the multiplayer mode, which is available right from the start, and the second is your overall ranking. After earning a certain amount of points, you will rise in level, and making it to the top will certainly require a lot of time and patience, especially if you plan to master your skills along the way.

Even though the game does have a high level of difficulty (even on the lowest setting), the challenge of each level was never high enough to make me question continuing. In fact, the challenge makes each level all the more satisfying once completed. And to add to the replayability of the title is the fact that under each difficulty setting, the beat combos become more complex and fast-paced with each playthrough.

Elite Beat Agents offers a new and exciting take on the average rhythm based game, and if you can get past the steep learning curve, a good time can easily be found. That being said, I must say that EBA is definitely not a game for everyone. If you are easily irritated with titles such as these, it would better left as a rental. However, for those that are willing to retry certain stages four and five times (or more), then by all means, pick this one up?

I'll see you on the dance floor.