Review: Elite Beat Agents (DS)

Elite Beat Agents
Developer: iNiS
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 11/7/06
System: Nintendo DS

Elite Beat Agents is neither Elite or filled with Beats. Ok, thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a total lie. I just really wanted to use that line if Elite Beat Agents ended up sucking. In fact, Elite Beat Agents is an excellent game that lives up to the legacy of the often imported DS Game, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. Ouendan is one of the many games I have imported for the DS and along with Jump Superstars, it is the one I have played the most.

Thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s no question that the United States sequel to Ouendan would be good. Nintendo was keeping the game relatively untouched in its translation the United States, only swapping cheerleaders for secret agents. Still, could a Japanese music game function with a decidedly American soundtrack the way that Dance Dance Revolution and Parappa the Rapper have? Elite Beat Agents had some big shoes to fill as the sequel to the now classic Ouendan. Does Elite Beat Agents accomplish its goal or does it leave gamers screaming for Ouuuuendan?


1. Story

So do you think youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve got what it takes to be a secret agent? Do you have an impeccable sense of timing and the ability to draw circles very quickly? Are you able to touch the hearts of men and women alike with a single cheer? Can you dance in sequence with two other incredibly burly men? If so, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re ready to be an Elite Beat Agent!

Elite Beat Agents focuses on various plights of people. As an Elite Beat Agent, you are summoned to go and help out hapless folks with their problems by a man named Commander Kahn. The problems can be cute and simple such as helping out a babysitter taking care of kids or helping a dog find its way home to fighting a giant lava monster with the power of baseball. Needless to say, the game has a ton of personality and humor. The plots eventually converge to a single point that ends with an epic two part song.

The story stands as one of the big appeals of this game. Much like Wario Ware, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll find yourself failing parts of the easier songs to try and see the failure sections. The storyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s biggest flaw comes through repetition. Characters in the game are relatively static and unlike in Ouendan, they donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t make a â┚¬Å”badâ┚¬Â or difficult song enjoyable. Still, the vast majority of EBAâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s story scenarios are entertaining. They lose something as you play them time and time again, but the gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s scenarios drive the excellence of this game.

Some of the scenarios of Elite Beat Agents wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t stay with you. Some of them are a bit too simplistic. Still, none of the scenarios in Elite Beat Agents are anything less then slightly entertaining. EBA is a fantastically entertaining game with a few flashes of absolute brilliance. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s not deep, but it sure as heck is fun.

Score: 8 out of 10


2. Graphics

Elite Beat Agents looks, feels, and plays like an animated comic book. Thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a good thing considering how wacky the story is. The game looks good not great though. The Elite Beat Agents on the bottom screen during game play look slightly worse then a PS2 game. The agents themselves are a little jaggy, but their movements are fluid and work well.

While the gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s graphics on a pure look level is slightly above average for what weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve seen on the DS, Elite Beat Agents more then makes up for this in style. EBA is one of the most stylistic games of 2006 right up there with Contact and Okami. The game is simply wonderful in itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s look even if the graphics are relatively simplistic.

Score: 8 out of 10


3. Sound

Elite Beat Agents has 19 cover songs. They areâ┚¬Â¦.

Steriogram – “Walkie Talkie Man”
Sum 41 – “Makes No Difference”
Avril Lavigne – “Sk8er Boi”
Freddie Mercury/Queen – “I Was Born to Love You”
Stray Cats – “Rock This Town”
Deep Purple – “Highway Starâ┚¬Â
Village People – “Y.M.C.A.”
Earth, Wind and Fire – “September”
Jamiroquai – “Canned Heat”
Madonna – “Material Girl”
Ashlee Simpson – “La La”
Chicago – “You’re the Inspiration”
David Bowie – “Let’s Dance”
Good Charlotte – “The Anthem”
Hoobastank – “Without a Fight”
The Rolling Stones – “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
Cher – “Believe”
Jackson Five – “ABC”
Destiny’s Child – “Survivor”

Out of all of these songs, only the cover of Good Charlotteâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s â┚¬Å”The Anthemâ┚¬Â is exceptionally bad. Even if you hate some of the bands or singers, the music is never painful to listen to. Furthermore, the songs match whatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s going on in the story pretty well. For example, Madonnaâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s â┚¬Å”Material Girlâ┚¬Â has two Paris Hilton-esque girls using their sex appeal on an abandoned island to get animals to take care of them.

Even though the music â┚¬Å”fitsâ┚¬Â, the vast majority of it is relatively mediocre. There are songs that would give the game a bit more variety. For example, the song desperately needs some harder rock music. Jumping Jack Flash is by far the strongest â┚¬Å”rockâ┚¬Â song, but it just doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t measure up to give the game the variety it needs.

The sound effects themselves feel a little flat. The cheering sounds when you hit a note or two just donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t sound right. Granted, I could be over analyzing this simply because Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve played the original so much, but it still doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t sound like it has as much impact as it should. Furthermore, the sound effects donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t â┚¬Å”fitâ┚¬Â as well as they should inside the song.

As odd as this sounds for a music game, the soundtrack and sound effects are exceptionally average. The gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s music is best described as â┚¬Å”inoffensiveâ┚¬Â. The vast majority of the game is good, but the sound department just doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t measure up. EBA sound is decisively average.

Score: 5 out of 10


4. Control/Gameplay

Elite Beat Agents is all about tapping and dragging. The game functions by putting an array of circles on the bottom screen of your DS. You have to tap on each numbered circle in order as a second larger circle shrinks on to it. The object is to time it so you tap on each circle at the time the larger circle has shrunk to the size of the first circle. In addition, you might have to drag your stylus across an outlined path at a certain speed (indicated by a rolling ball) after tapping on a circle. Surprisingly, this is much harder then youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢d expect it to be.

The key to being talented at Elite Beat Agents is not so much looking at when the circles line up but hearing when the beat should hit. This actually makes slower songs a bit harder since itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s tougher to get a beat from a song when youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re only hitting one or two circles in a row. As the game gets harder, more and more circles appear on screen at the same time. Occasionally, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re required to spin a pinwheel mid song to fill up a bar to hit a note rather then just dragging and tapping. Quite frankly, the game is much easier to play then it is to explain.

The game is set up with a simple pass/fail mechanism. The object of Elite Beat Agents is to keep a constantly decreasing meter above the screen full. You do this by tapping the circles accurately, dragging your stylus at the correct speed, and spinning the pinwheel fast enough. Also, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s easier to increase your meter or keep it at a stable pace depending on how long you go without missing a note. A perfect circle alignment nets you 300 points and increases your meter, 100 slightly less, 50 no increase (but the combo continues), and a miss lowers your meter.

Elite Beat Agents breaks each song up into chapters. Youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re given the chance to pass or fail each section of the song depending on how high your meter is. If itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s in the red, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll fail a section of the song, and the person you are cheering on will fail at their activity somehow (which usually is hilarious). If your meter is in the green, you pass, the target of your cheers succeeds, and the game goes on. If the meter runs out, the song fails.

If Elite Beat Agents can get away with any claim, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s that its controls are spot on and the game play is fun. Furthermore, despite the difficulty of Elite Beat Agents it never feels like an unfair game. If you miss a note or two in a row, the consequences are relatively brutal. Your meter drops like a stone. On the other hand, since the difficulty for this game is so high you get a real sense of accomplishment once you beat a particularly hard song. Elite Beat Agents fills me with an old school pleasure sort of like when you beat a Robot Master in Mega Man using just your basic weapon or nailing a perfect victory against someone in Street Fighter 2. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a wonderful feeling.

The game play of Elite Beat Agents is beyond satisfactory. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s genuinely invigorating to beat a level or two that could have been giving you trouble for days. Furthermore, the game never feels like itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s unfair. If you miss a note, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll know you missed the note because of your skill not because the touch screen is broken. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s the type of thing some reviewers really canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t appreciate (Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m looking at you Game Informers). EBA has truly masterful game play.

Score: 10 out of 10


5. Replay Value

Elite Beat Agents is a short game, but it has a decent amount of replay value. Perfectionists will want to try and play through the Hard and Super Hard difficulties which are rather difficult to unlock. Furthermore, those levels are needed to unlock the last three songs of the game. Beyond that, there is a bit of wireless multiplayer that is fun to break out every once in a while. Still, the soundtrack stands at only 19 songs which is a far cry from the Dance Dance Revolutions and Guitar Heroes of the world. Granted, the songs have much more personality then most other music games, but that only makes up for the game in the short term. In the long term, there isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t too much to come back to.

Score: 5 out of 10


6. Balance

Elite Beat Agents starts you out with an Easy and Normal difficulty. I recommended starting on Normal rather then Easy because the first few songs are ridiculously easy (to the point of boredom). The songs ramp up nicely and thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a nice overall jump from normal to hard and from hard to super hard. Jumping Jack Flash is much harder then any other song in the game and serves nicely as the â┚¬Å”finalâ┚¬Â song. The jump may be a bit too harsh for some players, but overall, EBA is an incredibly well balanced game.

Score: 9 out of 10


7. Originality

Well being the third music game on the DS and the first music game released on the DS in the United States, Elite Beat Agents has a lot going for it. The scenarios are entertainingly original and the game has a real â┚¬Å”Katamariâ┚¬Â vibe for first time players. Furthermore, the game acts like a truly different DS game as the only time I remember tapping the screen this much was with The Rub Rabbits. Still, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a sequel and a relatively inferior sequel when it comes to the music. That keeps Elite Beat Agents from being the most original game in 2006 in my book.

Score: 9 out of 10


8. Addictiveness

You might want to invest in a screen protector for your DS before picking this one up. Elite Beat Agents is like crack. The game is so completely entertaining that youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll want it to go on forever. Donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t worry though, it will for some gamers. Jumping Jack Flash is hard enough that youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll come close to throwing your DS through a wall. Thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s really the only knock against Elite Beat Agents. Unlike most really likable games, the game is so challenging that youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll occasionally have to take a break from it if only to avoid snapping your stylus in half. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s an incredibly addictive game, but it delves into â┚¬Å”unplayableâ┚¬Â for some gamers when the challenge ramps up.

Score: 9 out of 10


9. Appeal Factor

Elite Beat Agents has very little appeal at first blush. Not unlike a Wario Ware or a Katamari game, most people will have to be introduced to this game before thinking they might like it. The hardcore DS group and fans of all music games will push this game pretty hard on to the casual gamers. The combination of humor, excitement, and good old fashion challenge make this one of the most appealing games of 2006. The only way this game isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t appealing to someone is if they donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t play it.

Score: 10 out of 10


10. Miscellaneous

Elite Beat Agents marks everything Nintendo has done right with their handheld system. Rather then abandoning the game due to the very â┚¬Å”Japaneseâ┚¬Â-ness, Nintendo created an American version that completely captures everything the original Ouendan was. Despite not being as strong a game as the original, Elite Beat Agents never strays away from its roots. While it would have been much better to get a translated version of Ouendan in the United States with the original music, this is the next best thing.

Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s nice to know that the American game market has grown into maturity in itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s acceptance of truly foreign method of art. The weirdness of Elite Beat Agents isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t on a Katamari level, but the extreme challenge of the harder levels and the general quirkiness of the game says that the Nintendo has confidence that the American game market has grown up a bit. Whether this is true we may never know, but Nintendo has taken a chance with this game and hopefully, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll pay off.

Score: 9 out of 10


The Scores
Story: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 5/10
Control/Gameplay: 10/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 9/10
Originality: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Appeal: 10/10
Miscellaneous: 9/10

Total Score: 84/100
Final Score: 8.5 (GREAT!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Besides a disappointingly mediocre soundtrack (in a music game, huh?) and somewhat limited replay value, Elite Beat Agents is exceptionally good. The humor, style, challenge, and flat out charm of this game make it well worth buying for any DS owner. Elite Beat Agents is simply one of the best domestically available DS games to date and a serious contender for game of the year on all fronts. Buy it now!