Ontamarama (DS)

When I found out that there was another rhythm game besides Elite Beat Agents, Ouendan, and Ouendan 2 for the DS, I was very excited. The music is nice, and the gameplay is actually very cool, but the song selection is limited, and all the quirks and character of the Ouendan series are completely missing in Ontamarama.
Unlike the quirky yet cool story in the Ouendan series, Ontamarama had an unexciting story. Ontama are small creatures that allow people to play music and conduct “Ontama battles,” which is some sort of aggressive music playing. Unluckily for the protagonist, someone is stealing all the Ontama; he wants them back. I know that no one expects there to be much plot in a rhythm game, but this isn’t what’s so bad. It’s the way the plot is presented. After chasing an enemy, the enemy says, “I’ve been under control,” and the protagonist says, “oh, okay!”
I really enjoyed the game mechanics. “Unfilled” notes slide across the top of the of the screen. There are four kinds of notes, each associated with their own color and D-pad direction. When the note reaches the little circle on the left, you have to press the note’s corresponding direction; However, there’s a catch: These unfilled notes can’t be pressed until they become filled. To press them, they have to be filled. Under the sliding bar, Ontamas appear and move about the screen. When you touch an Ontama, a note of the corresponding color becomes filled. What’s so interesting about this is that while watching the notes stream across the top (sometimes in rapid succession), you also have to watch for all the Ontamas and tap them quickly enough to fill the notes. Very demanding, and very fun. Luckily, you have three “blows.” When you blow in the mic, it’ll clear all Ontamas on the screen.
I still think that the corny plot elements were by far the biggest downside of the game, but there is one other. There are twelve main songs in the game. It takes about an hour to beat the game. The songs are still fun to play afterwards, but I only thought one song was really memorable. The character art is horrendous, but the Ontama sprites are quite cute. If you really like rhythm games, then this game is probably worth $20. If you’re looking for an Elite Beat Agents replacement, don’t look here, and if you don’t really have an opinion about rhythm games, then this would probably just be a waste of your time.