E3 '07: Ontamarama

With a few of the big guns out of the way, it’s time to look at a quirkier title: Ontamarama. Recently announced by Atlus, the game is a musical DS title very similar to Elite Beat Agents in play, but with much more complexity.

The story of the game revolves around an island inhabited by sound spirits, called Ontama, which bring joy to the villagers on the island. An evil spirit doesn’t like people being happy, though, and decides to trick the villagers into capturing the Ontama. Two people notice the plan, and attempt to use the power of the Ontama to sway the villagers back to the light, music loving side.

Unlike the other recently popular music games, Ontamarama doesn’t feature a lot of famous previous Top 40 songs. While it may alienate a few American gamers with its music, it’s a nice change of pace.

How the game plays is simple to explain, but hard to pull off (Sammy Matsushima, the game’s senior project manager, was pretty surprised when I beat a level with a 38% approval rating). On the screen, notes will scroll by the top corresponding to the D-pad directions. Like other games, when the note gets to the circle, you press it. At the same time, however, tiny Ontama appear on the touchscreen. You have to touch them while also keeping track of the notes on the D-pad, forcing you to multitask; it’s basically DJMax Portable combined with EBA.

Oh, you also can’t touch the black Ontama, because they’re corrupted and lower your approval rating.

If you get into trouble, you can blow into the mic, releasing a "sound grenade" which clears the touchscreen of any spirits. (As we found out, being directly under an air conditioner has the same effect.)

During the song, the game keeps track of your rating on the top screen (you can also see little animations). If you rating hits 0, you lose (duh). Since there’s not a need to find new Americanized songs, the only difference from the Japanese version will be the English menus. I threw out the idea that maybe the English mode should be earned by beating the game, so we’ll see if that comes true. (I would find it funny, at the least.)

Ontamarama won’t be getting any multiplayer support, which may be a blow against it when gamers look at the obscure title at the store. Despite that, though, the game still remains a lot of fun to play alone, and is a nice challenge for those who are getting used to the rhythm genre and seek something new.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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