Thoughts on Elite Beat Agents

by Darius Kazemi on January 30, 2007

in review,rhythm

I love rhythm games, and I love my DS, so I figured I’d give Elite Beat Agents a try. (Craig actually suggested I try the original Japanese version, Ouendan, back when that was the only option.)

I really wanted to love this game, but I have to say that the gameplay falls flat.

The first rhythm game I ever really got into is one of my top five games of all time: Amplitude. What I loved (and still love) about this game is the depth of feedback involved. Not only are you pressing buttons in time with music, but you are in turn affecting how that music is played. You affect the music, the music affects you, and so on in a cycle. It’s awesome.

EBA doesn’t have this. It’s too shallow. There’s basically a song playing in the background, and you tap the screen in time with the song, which causes symbols and people saying “yeah!” and other generic one-off “hit” type sounds. Where playing Amplitude feels almost like you’re doing live mixing of techno tracks, Elite Beat Agent is the equivalent of tapping on your desk to a song playing over the radio.

“Here are some targets, hit them in time” is the bare minimum you can expect of a rhythm game, and EBA delivers just that: the minimum. I’ll probably keep playing until I beat all the songs, because it’s a decent game, but I was expecting something better.


Craig Perko January 30, 2007 at 5:19 pm

I should have been clearer about why I wanted you to play it: I didn’t want you to play it because it was an awesome game or broke new ground. I wanted you to try it out because it approaches from a different direction:

Where Frequency is functionally a few groups of one-dimensional tracks, Ouendan is a true two-dimensional situation. It maps the song’s rhythms onto a much “deeper” space than Frequency does, even though the interaction is much reduced.

It produces, in my mind, a much more refined melding of space and rhythm than Frequency, which focuses entirely on rhythm. Space is very important to me, because it’s how I think. To me, Ouendan is a better game because the play more directly taps into my brain.

I won’t claim it’s better or worse overall, but it does have some cards up its sleeve that Frequency wasn’t dealt. And that’s stuff I can learn from!

A January 30, 2007 at 6:52 pm

On the other hand, I’d argue that music is a primarily linear experience, so the best medium for interacting with it should be mostly linear. The only way to get meaningful multi-dimensionality out of a rhythm game, it seems to me, would be to shift tracks (which Amplitude does) or actually be shifting songs as well as tracks. But that would undoubtedly be too jarring an experience to get past the interesting gameplay.

It’s the same experience I’ve found when taking any linear medium and trying to make it nonlinear: to make it work you have to either dumb it down to the point where it’s so simple it’s no longer interesting, or so radically mutilate it that it’s difficult to enjoy.

Craig Perko February 1, 2007 at 12:17 am

I disagree completely. When I see music, it isn’t linear. Many people feel the same way.

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