This week's Top 52 features the best music/rhythm game that I have ever played: Elite Beat Agents. It is rare that in recent years a game comes out that is unique or a game that pushes a genre in a new direction. Elite Beat Agents accomplished both of those feats, at least for me.
Title: Elite Beat Agents
Console: Nintendo DS
Release Date: 11/06/06 (US)
My Ranking: #40
Elite Beat Agents is special for two reasons. One, it takes the music/rhythm genre in a fresh, new direction, which after repetitive installments of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, is a breath of fresh air. Two, Elite Beat Agents makes excellent use of the stylus and touch screen. The developers really thought creatively of how to make good use of the DS functionality.
Elite Beat Agents (EBA) is a rhythm game. Numbers appear on the bottom screen on the DS and bigger circles close in on the numbers. You have to tap the number when the circle fits perfectly around the number button, which also coincides with the beat of the song. Sometimes the game will be tricky and place numbers all over the screen and you need to hit them in the right order and at the right beat. The more accurate you are with your beats, the more points you get. Miss enough beats and you fail the song. It's a simple concept that stays fresh throughout the entire game because it is so different.
Despite being on a portable system, the music comes out on the DS very well, especially with headphones. With each correct tap of the beat you'll hear a sort of clap noise or a beat sound that is reassuring and adds another dynamic to each song. The songs themselves are also surprisingly good, even with a lot of them being pop and overplayed. Chances are you won't even realize that the song is crap because following the rhythm is so much fun. Some songs (all covers) in the game include Madonna's "Material Girl" (meh), Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (awesome) and Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat" (the song that Napoleon Dynamite dances to -- crazy awesome).
The beat rhythms you have to hit are never just the straight rhythm of the song either. The game will mix it up and put different rhythms that fit musically but will definitely confuse you. Luckily, if you don't understand the game that well, or lack rhythm, the game's easy modes will ease you into the system while the expert mode will really challenge your focus and rhythm skills. Simply put, EBA has a very well-thought out difficulty curve that will appeal to all types of gamers.
The visual display of the game is also excellent. Rendered in a comic-book, anime-esque style, you are part of a team called the Elite Beat Agents. Whenever times are bad and someone screams for help, the EBA flies into the scene and does a dance to help the character in distress through a problem. One example of this is when a dog falls asleep accidentally on a truck and is taken away from his master. He barks for help and the EBA helps give him energy to hitchhike his way back home. When you mess up the rhythm, the EBA loses their beat and the dog may not make his way home properly. It's ridiculous for sure, but also cute and awesome.
I played this game on a flight to India that lasted about fifteen hours. I remember sleeping for about six hours and then playing this the whole rest of the plane ride. This game made the plane ride seem so short and I was hooked. I was constantly trying to increase my high scores, getting all perfect scores and getting a star next to each song (which I eventually did). My girlfriend, who would rather read than play a DS, borrowed/stole my DS away from me for three days just to play this game.
Seriously, it's the best music/rhythm game I have ever played. It was original, fun and difficult. A perfect recipe for my kind of gamer style.
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Soul Calibur II (GC)
#41 --- Gears of War (Xbox 360)*
#40 --- Elite Beat Agents (DS)
#39 --- Revealed on 10/07
*- Denotes highest rated game for that console