Agents are ... go!
Elite Beat Agents built a reputation on many things: colorful characters, marvelous music, and, on later difficulties, the combination of soul-crushing challenge and those godforsaken spin markers. But look beyond that shiny veneer and you'll see above all an incredibly unique game, one that takes advantage of the DS's touch-screen capabilities arguably better than any other title on the system.
And it's a hell of a lot of fun. Give the game a spin for just a few minutes and you'll see what I mean, as part of Elite Beat Agents's charm is its bite-sized gameplay. Take one of the many songs for a ride and you'll get a glimpse of nearly everything the game has to offer, with the frantic tapping, circling, and groovy beats the title is known for. It's okay to dance with your DS. I don't judge.
Can you feel the music? Come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go and see why exuberant dancing can solve all of the world's problems.
Gallery: Elite Beat Agents
Describing the core gameplay of Elite Beat Agents isn't nearly as entertaining as partaking in it, so I'll make this short and sweet for those sad few among us who haven't played the game. You play as three sharply-dressed agents out to save the world, part of an entirely fictional yet entirely awesome government agency that solves personal crises through the power of music. Distress calls can come from any time and place -- the Agents will be there, shaking their hips in the name of peace and love and phenomenal hilarity.
If the premise isn't absurd enough for you, the unique problems the Agents tackle will fill the bill quite nicely. Throughout the course of the game you'll aid a variety of curious characters: one determined dog covering 400 miles to get home, one sexy friendly nurse battling devious disease, and so on. The stories are illogical at worst but utterly hilarious at best, so you shouldn't need much convincing to try that last song just one more time. Those replays will come up pretty often, so brace yourself.
Players do their part to help the agents by tapping along with the music, trying to stay on beat and hit small circles that pop up on screen to rack up a high score. Do poorly and both the agents and the victim start to suffer, the three men wearing expressions of great anguish as everything goes to hell. It's pretty dramatic, yeah, but also pretty entertaining at times, as some of the songs are worth failing just to see how the story's ending plays out.
But don't fail Inspiration. Consider this a friendly warning, if nothing else. I'm looking out for you, guys, and I don't think you're ready for that.
The core gameplay is mixed up a bit with the aforementioned spinners and other nifty stylus tricks, though the basic premise remains the same: enjoy the music, enjoy the humor, and rack up as many points as you can. You'll receive a letter ranking depending on how well you do, and the only way to unlock some of the bonus songs and progress throughout the game is to keep working on the songs until you can achieve a good ranking.
The need to replay is partially what makes Elite Beat Agents so ideal for gaming on the go. All but rhythm masters will utterly fail their first time through, as even on its easiest difficulty the game can be punishing for newcomers. It's a simple matter to dive right back in and start grooving, however, and before long you'll be accustomed to the challenge and scoring S ranks left and right.
And then you'll unlock the next difficulty level, which will take all of those skills you just cultivated and slam them repeatedly in your face. Let it not be said that Elite Beat Agents goes easy on us simple gamers. Still, it's the best kind of challenge, as even when you miss a beat midway through a song and watch -- tears streaming down your face -- as the agents curl up and die, you'll immediately jump back in for a second chance. You might be a little more reluctant to play through Sk8r Boi again, sure, but the allure of the gameplay will win out. Probably.
The track list is one of the few points of contention about the game, though it should still be enjoyable enough for anyone with a passing interest in mainstream music. And the majority of the songs coincide well with their respective stories, so some of the more questionable choices -- Ashlee Simpson? -- are easily forgiven. You might still feel a bit silly playing Elite Beat Agents in a public place, admittedly, but just be sure to pack headphones and nobody will have to know you're secretly grooving out to Avril Lavigne.
Those who stick it through will be rewarded with a fantastic experience for a gamer on the go. Each song is short, enjoyable, and poses just the right amount of challenge, so it's hard to sing anything but praise for the title. It's also pretty cheap now, two years after its release, so if you haven't picked it up, what are you waiting for?
Tap along with the stats!
Sleep time: Elite Beat Agents doesn't pause when you close the lid, so consider yourself warned. Having to pause the game mid-song can be particularly disastrous, so try to avoid it if you can.
Load time: About 40 seconds to jump into a song, provided you skip the plot sequences. Those sequences are half the fun, however, so skipping them should be avoided if possible.
Play time: That depends on the length of the song, of course, and how well you perform. Suck like I do and each song might go by much quicker.
Reader Comments (Page 1 of 1)
9-01-2008 @ 12:09PM
Elite Beat Agents is great. I have an EBA t-shirt. xP
9-01-2008 @ 2:43PM
EBA is a great game, I must agree. However, the original, Japanese version of the game: Osu! Tatakai! Ouendan! is infinitely better. Especially in terms of the soundtrack. (The US version has cruddy pop songs, no one cares about except maybe for 13 year old girls)
9-01-2008 @ 1:41PM
9-01-2008 @ 1:44PM
Ouendan > EBA > Ouendan 2 in my opinion.
I actually don't find the spin stuff that bad. I have actually acquired a techinque which gets me 10.000+ bonus in the long spinning on EBA, final song, hardest setting. The technique involves holding the DS in quite an angle and the spinning movement for the stylus coming from the wrist and not the arm.
9-01-2008 @ 2:16PM
WE need EBA 2, with new songs like 99 red ballons!
9-01-2008 @ 2:24PM
the best ds game i own by far, its so unique.
9-01-2008 @ 2:43PM
Ouendan is still a better game - but I love the "skip" features in EBA and Ouendan 2.
I can never play it on the go though - transit jostles too much, and the background music's too loud at the gym. And I always get hooked - whenever I load it up thinking I'd just play a song or two, I get hooked and play for an hour or more.
9-01-2008 @ 2:51PM
Sounds a lot like Ontamarama, which was also a lot of fun ^_^
I've heard that the Japanese originals are better than the American edition, so I think Osu! Tatake! Ouendan 1 & 2 will be my first imports from Japan.
Thanks for the review! ^_^
9-01-2008 @ 3:03PM
I really liked EBA but Ouendan is better by a bit. Comparing their soundtracks, Ouendan has a better track since it isn't full of "meh" songs but I didn't mind too much. Yet "Inspiration" fits in nice with it's level. I can't seem to find my copy of EBA but I have my Ouendan though. Still can't beat "Ready Steady Go" on Hard in Ouendan. Maybe when I get the time, I might import Ouendan 2.
9-01-2008 @ 8:21PM
screw em! where's EBA2/Ouendan 3!?
9-01-2008 @ 9:51PM
You *had* to make me remember of Inspiration, hadn't you? You've just made me cry. :(
9-01-2008 @ 11:31PM
I'm not sure if there would still be any there, but a month ago or so I saw a EBA at Toys R Us for $10.
9-02-2008 @ 4:53AM
Ouendan 2 pwns EBA.
Canned Heat is broken, so EBA = FAIL.
If you got rid of Canned Heat, then EBA is damn good. But Ouendan 2 playlist still pwns EBA.
I haven't played the original Ouendan, so I can't rate it.
9-02-2008 @ 1:33PM
I love EBA! It's my favorite of all of my DS games.
You all will think this is blasphemy, but I like the EBA soundtrack better than Ouendan's. Not being a fan of J-pop and J-rock, I watched videos of the Ouendan 1 levels in order to decide whether I should buy the game, and all I can say is, "Yuck." Except "Over the Distance"--that song is so beautiful, I could listen to it all day. But I don't want to pay $50 just to play "Over the Distance."
Sally: I play EBA all the time on Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains, but I agree, it would be too hard to play it on regular city buses and subways.
9-02-2008 @ 5:55PM
No contest, EBA/Ouendan is one of the best things that ever happened to the DS. I still want to get it along Hotel Dusk
9-03-2008 @ 9:05AM
*sniffle* Darn you for reminding me of Inspiration...
...I had to try so hard to hold back tears, since the first time I played it was in a library... too many people there.
EBA is still one of the greatest DS games I've got. I may consider getting Ouendan someday since I'm an *old* fan of Jpop.
But seriously, as long as Inspiration is in EBA, Ouendan can never TRULY beat it.
9-03-2008 @ 11:36AM
I'm a big fan of Japanese pop and rock, but I must say that I prefer EBA more. I wasn't exactly fond of Ouendan's soundtrack 'Linda Linda' by The Blue Hearts and 'Atsuki Kodo no Hate' by B'z are great songs (by even greater bands), but that was basically it for me. I 'm not fond of EBA's soundtrack either.
The dealbreaker for EBA was the fact that I can actually understand the storylines. Maybe I would prefer Ouendan more if I understood what was going on in each situation. Maybe.
9-04-2008 @ 6:38PM
"some of the more questionable choices -- Ashlee Simpson?"
Actually, "Lala" was one of the best tracks in the game in my opinion, despite being by Ashlee. The worst one had to be either "Sk8er Boi" or "Material Girl".