June 8th, 2008
So Elite Beat Agents has been out for a good while now. I received this game as a Birthday present from my brother back in July last year and even back then this game had been out for a while. After I got it, I played EBA for a while and then placed it on the shelf to grow dust as I waded through the sea of games at were at my disposal.
A few days ago I decided to revisit my old DS friend, currently I am up to the infamous Jumping Jack Flash song which seemed beatable until I realized that this is a significantly longer (and more difficult) song than the rest of the colourful soundtrack. So while I sit here and allow my adrenaline to die off, I want to share a few ideas about this game, not necessarily critique but just a few lost ideas that I wanted to write down.
The Forgotten Rock Star
When I think of the DS, two games initially spring to mind; the brain straining genius of Brain Age and the stylus pounding genius of Elite Beat Agents. These games represent the original intentions behind the DS hardware like no other game on the market.
A part of the joy that I get from playing EBA comes from how everything within the game is suited to the hardware and as such this nothing detracts from the overall experience. 2D comic book renders and lite 3D elements conceal the DS’ limited graphical capabilities, music rarely ever sounds compressed but above everything else, the touch screen gameplay and wacky story telling creates one intensely fun atmosphere. Usually when I play a DS game I find it hard not to notice the weaker graphical capabilities, I never really see it as much of a flaw but it always bothers me since it reminds me of how much of a flop the DS is hardware wise. EBA shows no signs of this which is reassuring as to why I feel that this is such a showcase game for the system.
From my perspective, just like Brain Age; Elite Beat Agents is one of those games that you bought a DS for. And for a more ‘hardcore’ audience, EBA is definitely the stronger of the two.
EBA in a way reminds me of the Australian band Crowded House both are fantastic acts which feel a tad short of ever being noticed on the larger world stage. Despite the critical acclaim and cult following of this game among the hardcore, a lack of advertising and short supplies meant that EBA never really broke any ground with the larger playing market. Which is a pity considering the mass market appeal of other music rhythm games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
What Makes the Beat So Elite?
Elite Beat Agents is refreshingly fun, I think that one of the reasons why I returned to this game is that EBA is just so pure when it comes to the fun factor. I can just pick this game up when I am feeling tired or unhappy and within a few minutes I feel over joyed with awesomeness, like I can take on the world. This is the greatest appeal that that EBA holds. It transcends the work and holds no bars at giving you what you want on demand.
As someone whom hasn’t fallen for the Guitar Hero phenomena yet (waiting for Rock Band to hit Australia, for the Playstation 3 and at a price which is at least equivalent to the American price minus the cost in waiting for half a year!!!) I have many questions surrounding the pure greatness of EBA. Considering that I haven’t played much Guitar Hero nor very many music rhythm games at all I can’t help but feel that maybe a large part of what makes EBA so fun can be attributed to it being a part of genre which thrives on overdosing its players with endorphins.
If we strip away everything else, there is nothing particularly distinguishable about the EBA formula beyond the wacky story sequences. The musically timed reactions are present and they come in a variety of formats such as following a moving circle and spinning a giant wheel. The game does use the DS hardware with its touch controls which is all well and good but the same can be said about Guitar Hero, Rock Band, DDR and the list goes on.
I think that EBA is probably one of the most downright enjoyable games that I have played in recent years. What I want to know is; is this because it is a music rhythm game and by nature these games exert these particular qualities or is EBA itself just down right fantastic in its own right? What makes this game so special?