Fix a Horrible 15-Year-Old Mistake by Finally Playing Elite Beat Agents

Picture: Nintendo Life/Lowell Bell

Soapbox features allow our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random topics they have in mind. Today, Lowell makes amends for a bad life choice and ends up getting back to that funky, funky beat…


Rewind with me to mid-July 2007. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl were a few weeks away. New Super Mario Bros. and Sports Wii was spinning endlessly that summer in my Nintendo Wii, and I couldn’t wait for the seventh and final Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, for his debut. Among all these madnesses, a little rhythm game about secret agents helping the poorest launched on July 13 in the EU: Elite beat agents. For me, this cult classic got lost in this hectic mid-summer reshuffle.

Now – on (finally, around) the game’s 15th anniversary in Europe – I’ve finally fixed this glaring mistake.

Elite Beat Agents was released as the international equivalent of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! and the second in a trio of rhythm games developed by iNiS and designed by Keiichi Yano. However, the localization process resulted in two very distinct games with a strong family connection, rather than the same gameplay with translated text.

I found myself blowing air through my nose in amusement, so often my screen fogged up.

Although living in the land of rhythm games, it proved quite difficult to get your hands on a copy of Elite Beat Agents as it was never released in Japan. Online, I could find many South Korean copies, but since Nintendo had archaic region-locking practices at the time, I couldn’t play this version on any of my family of 3DS consoles.

So I decided to go diving into Japanese second-hand electronics stores for a copy of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! instead, which also proved unsuccessful. So unsuccessful in fact that I managed to find a copy of the sequel, Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2buried in a veritable wall of used DS games for the staggering price of ¥270 (about £1.60).

But not the original. Discouraged, I searched online for Ouendan 1, and as if by some providence it was in the More items to explore section – a compatible copy of Elite Beat Agents. And it arrived in perfect condition two days later.

EBA search
Picture: Nintendo Life/Lowell Bell

A dozen hours of Elite Beat Agenting later, and I can’t think of a more pleasantly absurd game. Divided into two screens, the top half depicts people in dire, humorous circumstances, calling for help similar to the Ghostbusters. Whether it’s the story of a painter named Leo trying to convince a woman named Mona to become his muse, or the captain of a ship searching for treasure after his crew mutiny, Elite Beat Agents arrive to cheer them on as they dance to covers of early 2000s pop-rock on the DS’s touchscreen, though many tracks, such as David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, have been taken from earlier decades. .

there is a disconnect created by adapting the original game for a non-Japanese audience because in Japan, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan somewhat logic

I’m no stranger to rhythm games – I managed to clear most Guitar Hero 2 songs on Expert at the time – but I always struggled with Elite Beat Agents on Crusin’ difficulty (normal) . Once I nailed the rhythm of tapping the circles with the stylus in their numbered sequence as the outer circle overlapped, however, I was able to get a B rank and even a few A ranks, being more than happy to go back and play some of my favorites. – especially Sum 41’s Makes No Difference – again for a higher score.

If I hadn’t lived in Japan, I might never have understood Why the agents encourage these people through their problems, instead accepting the absurdity of the three men in black-inspired protagonists jumping out of a convertible to dance to Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi. Indeed, there is a disconnect created by adapting the original game for a non-Japanese audience because in Japan, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan somewhat logic.

The scenarios are reminiscent of a comic manga. Rhythm games were and still are very popular in arcades and on smartphones here. And ouendan – or cheer squads – make appearances in almost every real-life sporting event. I have personally seen several ouendan performances in Japanese high schools at sports festivals, for example, and their less traditional counterparts at Renofa Yamaguchi FC football games.

While I’m sure those nuances haven’t been lost on much of the Elite Beat Agents audience, its distance from the Japanese source material makes it all the more special. No Ouendan culture in Europe and North America, you say? Alright, make them Special Agents on Deep Purple’s Highway Star so Sam the Miniature Pug can find his way home – why not? I can’t get over it. I found myself blowing air through my nose in amusement, so often my screen fogged up.

Without a doubt, if I had played Elite Beat Agents 15 years ago, it would have been one of my favorite DS games of all time. I came away with only two minor criticisms: my dominant hand hurt after tapping for over 30 minutes at a time, and I desperately wanted to stare at the top screen to watch a meteorologist summon fighter jets to clear cloudy skies but doing it made me miss a beat or two. Even then, I could easily take both points as praise; I didn’t want to let go or miss a little scene from each story.

EBA1
Image: Nintendo

Fortunately, I still have a lot to play. Once I get higher scores on Crusin’ difficulty, upgrade to Sweatin’, and eventually unlock the Elite Beat Divas, I’ll continue my search for a copy of Ouendan 1 to play before Ouendan 2 I’ve heard that fans of the series – and I now count myself among them – consider the Japanese counterparts superior, and I can’t wait to find out why.

So if you also skipped Elite Beat Agents, which was critically acclaimed but didn’t sell enough to warrant a sequel all those years ago, do yourself a favor and fix this glaring mistake with me. Better yet, help me track down Keiichi Yano and force him to make us an Elite Beat Agents 2. Back when Switch was still called NX, he once said he’d like to make a sequel.

Where’s a Kickstarter when you need it?

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