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'Elite Beat Agents' is one of these DS gems. It will never get a huge amount of popularity compared to the latest Mario or Pokemon, but is still a must-play for those who come across it. It has been adapted from the Japanese game 'Osu! Takaete! Ouendan!' which had you control a group of cheerleaders who support various people in their fight-or-flight tasks through the power of music and dance. Of course, the idea of male cheerleaders over here in the West is far too ridiculous for many to comprehend, so the cheerleaders were changed to secret agents and the missions available changed. The resulting premise is something a bit more palatable for the West, but still a game for everyone to enjoy.
EBA is a rhythm game and works like so: around the bottom screen small, numbered, button-shaped markers appear. There are circles slowly closing onto the marker and when it reaches the circle you have to tap to the beat of the music with your stylus. Some markers will be connected by a line on which you drag and hold the stylus along, others must be tapped more than once, and sometimes you won't have markers but spinners where you spin the stylus as fast as possible before the circle hits the middle of the screen. Hitting the markers accurately will keep your meter at the top of the bottom screen in the yellow (saying Yes) and the story (shown on the top screen) will progress in a positive way, but tapping them off-beat or missing markers completely will lower the meter, with a 'Mission Failed' occurring if the meter goes all the way to the bottom. Missions are selected from a world map and each set of three or four completed unlocks more difficult ones.
Precision and timing in this game is essential, so ensure your DS screen works properly and you're paying attention to the music. There are four difficulty levels, each with their own lead Agent: Breezin (Easy), Crusin (Normal), Sweatin (Hard) and Hard Rock (Very Hard) which replaces the male agents with a unique female team. Only the first two levels are open to you at the start of the game and whilst playing Breezin is optional to unlocking the higher modes it's best for beginners to complete that first just to get used to the challenge. Seriously, the higher modes will have many markers appear close together in the same count of beats, and not hitting 300 points per marker (the 'perfect' of this game; inaccurate hits will net you 100 or 50) will not so much increase your meter as stop it from dropping down really fast. Yet in my opinion, it's these harder modes which make this game so compelling; you will spend ages trying completing the mission and then, once finishing it by the skin of your teeth, you come back to achieve a perfect 'S' rank (calculated by how high your score is at the end).
So what is the purpose of the EBA? This mysterious agency is led by Commander Kahn and these guys go out to help people in dire situations. The missions you do are all over-the-top and unrealistic (bar one, which is actually quite heartwarming), but they add to the game's light-hearted nature; you aren't meant to take the game's plot seriously. In terms of graphics, each mission's storyboard is a 2D cartoon and, again, it works well with the tone here. The only 3D is the world map/mission select and the agents when they're dancing on the bottom screen, which isn't as great as the 2D but is still commendable considering the DS's capabilities.
Anyway no rhythm game can be complete without a suitable soundtrack, and 'Elite Beat Agents' certainly delivers. True it's mostly pop music- and covered up at that- but from various decades ranging from Avril Lavigne's 'Skater Boi' to The Rolling Stone's 'Jumpin Jack Flash', plus most of the covers aren't that bad at all compared to the original. Unfortunately not all the song choices match the mission. For example, 'Skater Boi' is on a mission where a speeding taxi driver has to deliver a pregnant lady to the hospital, so only the tempo and not the lyrics relate to what goes on. However this isn't the case with every song and the developers have made some pretty good choices to match with the mission at hand. Going back to 'Jumpin Jack Flash', this song is the final one in the game and aliens have invaded earth with only the agents to stop them (it happens) - therefore this song perfectly captures the player and crowd's excitement in gaining the agents' support.
In general, this is a brilliant game. The gameplay is engaging and you will get caught up in helping the people in these missions no matter how stupendous the M.O. Although the soundtrack won't be to everyone's taste there's sure to be at least one song and mission you'll love to play over and over long when you've unlocked everything. 'Elite Beat Agents' can be found for very cheap on eBay or probably second-hand at a store for extremely cheap. Buy this game now: it's great for people of all ages and rhythm-game enthusiasts will get a real challenge out of this.