To be honest, I don’t know why its name isn’t mentioned more often. You have your Ouendan’s, your Taiko no Tatsujin’s, your Rhythm Tengoku’s, but Daigasso: Band Brothers is rarely heard from in the ever growing, ever loving handheld music scene, despite its being just as brilliant to play as those I’ve mentioned above. Probably because Nintendo stuck it to their release schedule then never bothered to follow through with that plan, I could stick it to. Then again, again, the games I mentioned in that happy first sentence up there lived import rich lives before at least two of them (and from what I hear, the third to follow) finally got an English translation. So no, I wont put it to that. Instead, I’ll stick the blame on the fact that when you see the static images of this game it just looks shite.
Okay, I like the style, but it is a little sterile in comparison..
Heck, the only reason I own this game now is because I practically saw the salivating mouth of a certain UK games magazine dripping every time and every chance they managed to squeeze in a mention. Now that kind of advertising creates curiosity! But anyway, now I’m taking a turn to drop my tongue and possibly other parts all over this game for anybody out there who also loves the rhythm. Or for people who already played the game and can just fap along to the memory!
Band Brothers is a game where plastic peripherals and touch screen controls are thrown out the room. First developed as a Game Boy Colour tech demo, and then later resurfacing as the once heard about-and-forgotten Game Boy Advance Music (back in a time when no-one gave a sparrows uncle about music games) you can see the where influences injected themselves into this final DS product. Daigasso is played entirely using the face and shoulder buttons (lie) to make its music. Rows of buttons scroll across the top screen. You press them in time. That’s it.
It definitely has less charm than its musical counterparts on the system, given the lack of characters in the gameplay. There’s no cute drum creature batting away or campy cheerleader squad to save its soul. No, all we have here is Barbara the Bat; a giant breasted guitar playing vampire... thing, to greet you between plays. This purple clad skank is usually there to decorate the title screen or tell you what you’ve won after completing a song, not that you’ll understand a word she says anyway unless you’re fluent in hiragana. Other than that, you’re out of luck. The game also leaves its emphasis on not the rhythm, but on turning your DS into a musical instrument. Each face button corresponds to a musical note (that will change pitch as the song dictates) and depending on what instrument you play depends on what sound you get. Yeah, it works that way! The shoulder buttons can be used to change the sharpness of your sound, or on drums are substituted for the clash of cymbals. Its all quite complicated as you get deeper in, and feels much like a music making facility. But the charm lost from the presentation more than makes up in the game itself.
No game has made me smile this much in a long time.
I remember the first time I turned Band Brothers on after downloading it. Completely alienated by the Japanese. Unlike Ouendan, this game is a little hard to navigate - definitely not at all difficult - but maybe slightly harder because of a lot of little extras and options it has to tweak. There’s a full on edit mode where you can make your own tracks, and somewhere there’s an option where you can hum into the mic which will apparently translate your own tuneless warbling into in-game notes.
After a quick distraction around all these options, I managed to find myself at some actual game. About thirty songs represented by CD’s, ranging from J-pop, Classical, some other stuff, and Nintendo music. Most of it was written in Japanese, so I settled where I felt at home, and struck on the Super Mario Bros. medley. One more menu - apparently I’m choosing an instrument - until the song. And now onto the bit that made me giggle like a retard and my girlfriend on the opposite couch wonder whether she’d made the right choice in talking to me that one night.
Being all in foreign, I’d chosen a steel drum. Its nice, Super Mario Bros. sounds good played on a Caribbean instrument, its kind of exotic. The rhythm was nicely paced out too, not too easy, not too hard. What you’d expect from a Nintendo game. But then the panic started. A large button labeled “Touch” was coming right for me. I assume I’m supposed to tap some notes, but the touch button is covering up all the notes; I cant see jack squat under there! So what can I do? The button hits, and merely by intuition I tap out the tune in time to the music. And then wrap my hands back round the DS and continue playing. All in perfect harmony.
Then the realization hits. “Holy crap, did I just do that!” shortly followed by “I’ve never felt like a bigger nerd in my life!” And the grinning begins. It seems that judging the rhythm from the previous parts of the song is how you play these parts of the game. Genius. Or, you know, knowing the track certainly helps too. Still, there was nothing more satisfying than that initial feeling of tapping out a rhythm I only knew how because I was an insider of this whole, big Nintendo... well, you know.
The track list is amazing!
Then came the dawning realization that you only had to tap the one touch note and the rest of the section would play itself for you, and that old feeling was gone. But hey, everything’s not lost!
An expansion pak came out for Band Brothers, which fit into the GBA slot to add more tracks to the game. I would deem this expansion pack the best musical game in all of musical game history, for these reasons alone:
1) It has Ozone’s Dragonstea din Tei on it.
2) That’s it.
Within about an hour of knowing this fact, I’d already downloaded and patched my copy with the expansion like the dirty pirate I am. But that’s just my obscure taste (numa numa ayy!!) Others would probably look at the extra Nintendo tracks available; Star Wolf’s Theme, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, that one from Mario 64 where you race Koopa the Quick, Zelda Medley, Mute City and Big Blue; they’re here. Which i'm sure you will enjoy.
I also like the fact that three of the four Full Metal Alchemist openings are in this game too. The two good ones, and that annoying first one. Anyone a fan of Ready Steady Go or Rewrite will be made happy.
Now, between the game and the expansion pak, there are around fifty songs in this game. Each song has up to eight instruments to play, each with a different rhythm track. That is a lot. And each time you complete a track, a little star will appear on the instrument with your score. Completists will like to get all of these little stars with a high score in them, simply because that is what they do, meaning a lot of playing of this game will be needed.
To be honest, I haven’t played the multiplayer past a couple of instances I tried download play and was greeted with the message “You can not entry,” point is, it sounds fantastic though. Eight way communications can be set up with a single cartridge, each player on a different instrument, playing a different beat. In the best case scenario, you form a perfectly melodious eight person band and a sound you all should be proud of. Worst case: a jumbled mess of people hitting the wrong buttons in the increasingly tricky sections, and a complete abortion of a favourite tune. The difficulty really really does ramp up when playing with every button on the DS, and remember, you are the one playing the music. Not the computer playing while you try to rack up a nice combo score. You play the notes, your reward being personal satisfaction and a perfectly recorded piece of music.
Tripping on Nintendo music is my kind of thing. If its yours too, get this game. J-pop and obscure stuff also included; I really cant recommend it highly enough for rhythm game enthusiasts.
Now if you don’t mind me, I’ll be playing the Super Mario Land Game Boy theme blindfolded.