I love rhythm games, and I love weird and quirky games. Imagine my delight when I first tried Elite Beat Agents:
Elite Beat Agents is a rhythm game released on the Nintendo DS. Unlike most rhythm games that involve pressing physical buttons or using additional accessories that represent musical instruments, Elite Beat Agents makes use of the touch screen.
The gameplay involves tapping circles called Hit Markers, Phrase Markers, and Spin Markers with the stylus at the right moment and in the correct sequence. Hit Markers are a combination of an outer circle called a timer circle that slowly gets smaller, and an inner numbered circle. You have to tap a Hit Marker the moment the outer timer circle overlaps with the inner numbered circle. Usually, several Hit Markers appear at a time – all you have to do is tap them according to the number indicated.
A Phrase Marker is similar to a Hit Marker in that it has an outer timer circle and an inner numbered circle. However, rather than simply tapping Phrase Markers, you need to drag the stylus along with a “beach ball” that will appear and move along a colored path. Sometimes, you’ll see a U-Turn arrow at the end of a Phrase Marker – this simply means that the beach ball will go back along the colored path once it touches the arrow.
Finally, Spin Markers are just big red and blue circles that appear once or twice in a song, usually at or near the end. All you have to do is touch a point of the Spin Marker and draw circles around the center of the Spin Marker with the stylus as fast as you can – kind of like spinning a disc on a turn table.
You earn points depending on how good your timing is when pressing the many Hit Markers, Phrase Markers, and Spin Markers that appear, as well as keeping the Elite-O-Meter up. Miss a marker and the Elite-O-Meter falls. Miss too many markers and the Elite-O-Meter will reach zero, resulting in a failed session.
Sounds pretty normal? I did mention that I love weird and quirky games, right? What makes Elite Beat Agents is the story – yes, even rhythm games can have stories. In Elite Beat Agents, you play the role of a special agent of a special government agency that helps people by inspiring them with music. Yes, that’s right – a special agent that helps people by inspiring them with music.
If that doesn’t sound absurd enough for you, let me describe the first episode. Jane, a seventeen year old baby sitter, is on her day off. She invited Don over, their school’s star football player, with the intention of asking him out. All of a sudden, a parent stops over and asks Jane to babysit her three rambunctious children. Because of the fuss, Don threatens to leave unless Jane gets rid of the children. She yells for help, and the Elite Beat Agents arrive. The Elite Beat Agents end up waving their arms in the air, singing aloud and dancing like crazy as Jane and Don eventually figure out how to deal with the kids.
Each episode plays out a story board involving different characters in distress – a dog who fell asleep in the back of a pickup truck and wakes up miles away from home. A pair of socialite sisters accidentally marooned on an uninhabited island. A weatherlady who promised her son good weather for camping, only to find out that a storm is coming. A taxi driver who suffers from road rage and is one traffic violation away from losing his drivers license.
Whoever it is, their stories are played out on storyboards at the start of each episode. If you’ve played rhythm games before, you know that people seldom pay attention to the animation that’s being played on the screens because their focus is on following the notes of the song, but that’s not the case with Elite Beat Agents. In each episode, Elite Beat Agents has several sections wherein you don’t have to play along with the song, allowing you to watch additional storyboards describe how the story of that particular episode is played out.
I can’t really discuss a rhythm game without mentioning the songs involved, so let me talk about that now. Elite Beat Agents has cover versions of a total of 19 different mainstream songs, which range from recent pop hits like Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi to classics like Y.M.C.A. and Highway Star. Can you imagine playing a rhythm game that has both Madonna’s Material Girland You’re The Inspiration by Chicago without making either song feel out of place?
Without the absurdity in the presentation of Elite Beat Agents, it would’ve been an ordinary rhythm game that wouldn’t stand out at all. Elite Beat Agents is one of those games that remind me that video games are supposed to be entertaining and fun, that games don’t always have to be taken seriously. It’s been almost eight years since this game was released, and it’s still loads of fun. I definitely recommend this game to anyone who has a DS or 3DS.