Fiercely Burning Heart of Love!
In other words, in gameplay terms, Ouendan 2 does exactly what you'd expect; it takes everything we saw in Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents, concludes that most of it was unbroken and requires no fixing, and merely tweaks and nudges the formula for our continued tapping delight. Lovely.
Sadly, however, we can't conclude this review without a single caveat in the mix - because there's a niggling but deeply worrying suspicion in our minds that Ouendan 2's sole failure may lie in a very crucial part of the game. Namely, the music.
The first Ouendan was a peculiar gem, because the vast majority of people outside Japan who played the game had never heard of the bands or tracks it featured - most of which were fairly widely known in Japan. However, what could have been a crippling flaw with the game's import chances turned out to be a master-stroke, because the music was chosen with an ear to upbeat, fun, unusual tracks. Plenty of Ouendan players ended up discovering artists like Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Tomoyasu Hotei, Kishidan, Yaida Hitomi and L'Arc~en~Ciel through the game - quite the reverse of what the developers had probably originally planned.
Ouendan 2's music, to our ears, simply doesn't have the same qualities which made the soundtrack of the first game so endearing. Sadly, if anything, the range of music included in the game has been watered down - so that rather than focusing on happy, melodic pop tracks, it's now largely focused on slower, more conventional ballads.
We know that Japan loves its boring ballads - to the extent that even artists who have built a career on fun pop or hip-hop songs, like the massive-selling Koda Kumi (she of Final Fantasy X-2 intro song fame), are expected to churn out a number of dull ballads each year. Hell, there are plenty of artists, like the inexplicably top-selling Mr Children, whose entire discographies yield up not a single track that isn't an excruciatingly middle of the road ballad. (Don't look so smug, Brits - remember that you are responsible for inflicting Travis on the world.)
However, there was no need to inflict this particular national obsession on Ouendan, surely? Yet in this second game, that seems to be precisely what has happened. Certainly, there are stand-out moments - The Checkers' "Julia ni Shoshin" is brilliant fun, as is FLOW's "Okuru Kotoba", and Mihimaru GT's J-hiphop "Kibun Jojo" is another highlight that pops up early in the game. However, they are buffered by a disappointingly large number of ballad tracks that have none of the flair or pizzaz of the music in the original game.
This isn't to say that the track-listing for Ouendan 2 is awful, or even bad; it still has quite a number of catchy tunes that you'll kick yourself for humming a week later. It's just that it doesn't stand up well in comparison to the tracks we got to play in the original game, and we're sure that many of the returning artists (Yaida Hitomi, Hotei and Kishidan, to name three relevant examples) could have provided tracks that were much, much better suited to this style of game. Oh well; Ouendan 3, perhaps?
Spinning Bird Ki... Wait, Wrong Game.
Back on the more positive side of things, there's a lot to love about Ouendan 2 on the multiplayer front, which players of the original will probably be delighted to hear - assuming, of course, that they have any friends. Whereas previously you needed multiple copies of the game to play even the most basic game, Ouendan 2 supports four players off one cartridge, and even lets you pick a side (black or blue) and team up to fight epic cheerleading battles.
There's also, of course, plenty to accomplish on the unlocking side of things. You'll find yourself working your way through the various difficulty levels, unlocking new cheerleading teams as you go, before finally reaching the ultimate level - where you'll get a chance to play as female cheerleading squads from each rival school.
Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 is every bit as quirky, funny and gloriously mental as its expansive name would suggest. We stand by our caveat over the music selection; we don't think you'll enjoy these tracks as much as the offerings of the original Ouendan. However, we're not sure that should put you off enjoying an otherwise superb sequel to one of the DS' most enjoyable gems. Ouendan 2 passes the crucial test; it made me grin like a happy lunatic the whole way through a couple of long and otherwise painful public transport journeys. Mission accomplished - or rather...