Elite Beat Agents (EBA for short) is one of the most unique, quirky and flat-out fun rhythm games you will ever play. And I’d reckon, one of the best rhythm games ever made on any system! If you want to see how a DS game should be done, then look no further than Elite Beat Agents!
EBA is solely controlled via the touch-screen, and you use it to tap the screen in various ways to the “beat” of the song. The beats are colored dots that have numbers on them. You follow the numbers to successfully tap your way through. You are scored depending on how well you time your taps.
While Elite Beat Agents may sound or look easy at first, believe me, it is anything but easy! There is so much to the game, and you will be playing it for a long, long time if you are to see everything and get perfect scores on every level. It truly is a one-of-a-kind rhythm game, and suffice it to say that Elite Beat Agents will not disappoint.
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Release Date – USA November 6, 2006 – EUR July 13, 2007 – AUS May 3, 2007 – JAP July 38, 2005 (as “Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan”. The US version was not released in Japan)
Genre: Music/Rhythm Game
Players: 1 to 4
Controller: Played entirely with the Stylus and Touch-Screen
Save: Automatically saves. Only one File. No profile creation or initial entering.
Rated: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older. Contains: Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor, Lyrics, Suggestive Themes
“Agents Are . . . GOOOOO!” Elite Beat Agents is one of the most critically acclaimed (Receiving great reviews across the board) Rhythm Music Games for the Nintendo DS. It was developed by the Japanese rhythm game company Inis, who is most well known for another critically acclaimed rhythm game of theirs called Gitaroo Man (First released for the PS2 and later ported to the PSP).
In 2005 Inis released a DS game, published by Nintendo, called “Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan”. And it is that game which Elite Beat Agents is based on. Ouendan was a highly rated, critically acclaimed, and thus highly imported game from Japan, and so the developer’s talked with Nintendo about bringing the game outside of it’s native land. However there was one main problem . . . the game featured male cheerleaders, had an all J-Pop (Japanese pop/dance music) soundtrack and was full of Japanese cultural references. Thus it would’ve been impossible to simply translate the game and release it in the U.S. without losing the integrity of the product.
And so the two companies started working on a Western version of Ouendan, and that game is what ultimately morphed into the perfectly named Elite Beat Agents (originally it was not perfectly named, as they called it “Disco Rangers”!)
For the Western version they turned the male cheerleaders into . . . what else? Men In Black style government agents! The soundtrack was completely replaced with actual Western songs but the gameplay remained the same. And the result is a game that is very true to the core of Ouendan but totally tailored to the Western market. And lets thank the Heavens that Nintendo decided to release this game in Western countries because it is flat out one of the best games ever made, in my humble opinion of course (but one that is surely shared among anyone who’s played EBA).
This EBA video gives you a good idea of how it plays
As mentioned above, the Elite Beat Agents are a group of Men in Black style agents who work for a “secret government organization”. Their goal? To relieve the stress of everyday citizens who are in a desperate situation by dancing their cares away! As soon as they reach their breaking point and cry out “HEEEAAALP!” the Agents are ready to spring into action via the monitor in their “secret government lair”, where they keep their tabs on the citizens of their fair city, and in within seconds they blast off to the scene.
These self-professed “Undisputed Titans of Funk” bring “Power, Hope, Love and Courage” to the citizens in need with their killer dance moves! As you would expect, these dance moves mesmerize the person to make their cares history and give them the courage to get passed whatever obstacle is in their way . . . thus saving the day!
“Wacky”, I hear you say? You don’t know the half of it!
The Agent characters themselves are:
Agent B-5 “Spin” – Agent Spin is the newest member of the EBA team and the only African American in the group. He always wears big groovin’ headphones to keep him boppin’ to the right tune.
Agent BA-2 “J” – Agent Jay is an expert in many styles of dance, ranging from hip-hop to ballet, giving him the power of mesmerizing anything that moves!
Agent BA-1 “Chieftain” – Agent Chieftain is the top EBA Agent and the group leader for all of the Elite Beat Agent’s missions. Chieftain has an imposing frame and a black homburg hat with a star in the middle, fit for a Captain! Although Chieftain looks like the kind of guy you would NOT want to mess with, he actually is a happy fellow with killer dance moves that defy the physics of his massive body. His curly black hair and mustache also give him a truly masculine look.
Agent BA-3 “Morris” – The left male backup agent. He is easily distinguished by his black afro and fedora.
Agent BA-4 “Derek” – The right male backup agent. He is easily distinguished by his large, red afro.
Commander Kahn – The bon-a-fide leader of the EBA Agents and the six-star commander of the government organization; his background is shrouded in mystery but he is the guy all the agents aspire to be and he commands the pack, telling them when and where to strike and also leads in the training of new agents. He is most famous for his lines “Agents Are . . . GO!” and “Ok Men . . .”
When you fire the game up, you’ll be able to select from Single Player, Multiplayer, Options and Training.
In the Options Menu you have:
High Score – Lets you check your best results for each level (Ranking, High Score, and individual beat scores and combos).
Setup – Toggle the Combo display to appear on the left or right side of the screen and turn the Rumble Pak on or off if you have it.
Rank – Check your “EBA Rank” for the game, which starts out on “Trainee” and you will level up once you reach a certain number of points scored. Higher Ranks include titles like “Soldier of Song”, “Master of Dance”, “Captain of Soul” and “God of Groove”. There are 12 in all, good luck!
Share Game Data – Allows you to send a EBA demo or the training mode to another DS.
Replay Data – Lets you view the replays you have saved. Can hold 1 for each song.
Gallery – Let’s you view all the Agent scene pictures.
It’s also good to note that you can delete all your saved data in the game by holding A, B, X, Y, L and R on the start-up (Nintendo, Inis) screen. Obviously, be careful doing this cause if you delete the data (and it deletes everything apparently) then you cannot get it back. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like you can clear any individually saved data.
The Training Mode will teach you how to play Elite Beat Agents, and naturally you will want to play through this if it’s your first time picking the game up.
In EBA, the storyline for the current level is displayed on the top, with all the gameplay tapping and Agent dancing appearing on the bottom screen.
The flow of Elite Beat Agents has you tapping to numbered “Hit Markers” (which are colored circles) in time to the song that’s playing. Every marker has a number on it, and the numbers lead you in the way you should tap. For example, you might see three Markers appear in a triangle shape with the left marked “1”, the top marked “2” and the right marked “3”. Obviously, you gotta tap 1 first, then tap 2, then tap 3, exactly in that order. But if all you had to do was tap, it’d be quite easy, so making it more difficult is an outer circle called the “Time Circle”. This will close in on the Hit Marker, and the time to tap is exactly when the outer circle hits the Marker’s edge. On the easier settings the Timer Circle is huge, giving you more time to think before tapping, but the higher the difficulty the smaller the circle, making it so you have to think quicker!
Making things even more complex, you are scored depending on how perfectly you time your hit within the enclosing Timer Circle. If you do it just right, tapping just as the outer circle reaches the edge, then you will get a score of 300. But you can also get 100 or 50. If you’re tapping it completely off then you will miss the mark, which will make you lose if you don’t start hitting the markers (this also visibly knocks the Agents down).
As you tap new circles will appear in various configurations. If you can keep tapping with a single score without missing (such as hitting all 300’s) then you will get a combo, keep the combo up to give yourself a massive score.
In addition to all this tapping, Elite Beat Agents is also about rhythm. So while it’s easy to tap, you will gain more points if you tap in such a way that all the circles of a same color are hit in the same manner; Hitting at the same exact time each time you go to a new marker. For example, you don’t want to be like “tap, tap, tap, tap” but more like, “Tap-tap-tap, tap, tap, tap-tap-tap”, etc. Obviously it’s confusing to describe, and even when you first play you may not quite understand, but as you play more you will get the hang of how to tap in the proper manner so as to get the highest score possible.
In addition to Hit Markers you will also have to deal with a few other types of Markers. The first are called “Phrase Markers”, these appear as a path, and hitting the initial Marker will start a ball rolling along the track, you have to keep your stylus on the ball until it reaches the end. At which point it can sometimes bounce back in the opposite direction if you see an arrow at the end, which tells you to keep your stylus on the ball and follow it back. Basically go wherever the arrow points until you reach the end.
The last Marker you will encounter is the Spinner. True to it’s name, you will want to spin the stylus as quickly as you can to fill up the meters on the sides. If you don’t spin enough you will miss the marker. Once the meters fill up, keep spinning to get bonus points!
At the top of the screen is the “Elite-O’Meter” which is basically your health. At the beginning of the song it will be all the way filled, but as you play it slowly drains. Missing markers drain the meter a lot, while hit markers move it up a little, and perfectly timed “Elite Beat” bonuses (remember the tap-tap-taping from above?) will raise the meter even more than standard hits. If this meter drops all the way down the Agents will enter a daze and eventually you will fail the mission.
Obviously Single Player is where the meat of the game is and this is where you will be spending the majority of your time.
But before I get to that, I must mention multiplayer.
Up to four players can compete against each other using the ad hoc wireless capabilities of the Nintendo DS. If more than one person has a copy of the game then all the songs are available, but if only one person has a copy then you can still play but your song selection will be limited. Multiplayer uses five unique competition-based scenarios that aren’t available in the main game, and the song that plays will be songs the host player has unlocked in single player mode.
Multiplayer plays out very similar to single-player, with each person performing the song as if it was single player mode. In place of the Elite-O-Meter though each player’s performance is tracked, and in between song sections the player who’s ahead, the one with the most points, will be displayed.
To mix things up though, during the song, each player can fill a star meter by completing Elite Beats; when the star meter is full, the screens of the opposing players will shake for a few moments, and the on-screen markers will be reduced in size for a short time, making them more difficult for your opponents to hit. The winner is the player with the best cumulative performance at the end of the song.
In addition to that you can also play a co-operative multiplayer mode. For this each person needs their own game card, and instead of competing, you play through a song as normal except both players share the same Elite-O-Meter, and alternate playing the song sections.
Both modes are fun if you have players to play them with, however they are hardly ground-breaking modes (and this would’ve been a nice online title).
And now back to Single Player.
Once you select single player you then will select your difficulty level, one for each agent. You only start out with two: BREEZIN’ (Agent Spin) and CRUISIN’ (Agent J). Beating these two modes will unlock SWEATIN’ (Chieftain). If you can unlock more difficulties than that, then consider yourself a true EBA master! Cause believe me, it is EXTREMELY tough. And the last mode will rock your socks! Be prepared if you can manage to get it!
So once your difficulty setting is selected, hit Ok and you are ready to begin!
You will be dropped into the world map, which you can scroll using the touch-screen. You will see various locations with a caption balloon and the word’s “HELP!” Tapping on that location will bring up a screen where you can view the name of that stage, the difficulty level (shown in stars), the song that will be playing, your ranking for that stage (a letter in the bottom right), your high score and the characters involved in that particular level (Their name, age, gender and a bit of useless trivia. :P). As you beat the locations new ones will pop-up on the map.
Once you choose to start playing a level, a very cool comic-book style opening will play, featuring the storyline to that particular stage. You’ll be introduced to the characters, and the game will show you their plight. All this is conveyed in the coolest way possible. The scenes are done in a comic-book style, with words balloons for the characters, as well as text narration that gives you background info and it’s loaded with cool and funny sound effects to make the comic scenes pop from the screen!
The scenes makes very smart use of cuts, wild sound effects and anime-style action scenes that go a long way in making the story’s interesting and eye-catching. A lot of them are fast paced and they always remain fun and unique. I can’t stress enough how well this is done, the stories are truly awesome and you will enjoy watching them again and again cause they are such a fun sight to behold.
While most of the storylines are wacky in nature, the game shows an amazing range of diversity, as there are a few stories that will make you feel an emotional connection to the characters. One of them is very sad, and the stories are done in such a way that you’ll often find yourself cheering for the characters, almost like your an EBA Agent yourself!
To give you an idea of the kinds of situations you will face in EBA, let me give you an example of one particular level.
“Family Honor! Introducing the Secret-Weapon Ninja!!!” – This stage features the song Canned Heat and the story involves an Asian son who is the “lazy heir of Sushi Motors, Inc.” When the plans for their next car get stolen by rival Moo Moo Motors, it is up to the Son (Ken Ozu, 21) to do his family proud and use their secret ninja powers to take back the “top-secret documents”. Unfortunately for Ken, his laziness has caused his weight to increase which means that his ninja skills are totally lacking . . . With a shout of help it is the Elite Beat Agents to the rescue! Dancing his cares away, the Agents will help Ken gain the courage he needs to rediscover his ninja skills, sneak into the rival Moo Moo Motors HQ and take back those documents! Dodging police dogs, hiding from spotlights, and cracking locked safes are all obstacles that stand in Ken’s way. Can he do it? Only if you’re Elite Beating is good enough!
Each song is divided into three sections that get progressively harder. If you don’t manage to score enough hit markers correctly then you will lose that section and can watch as hilarity ensues and whatever it is the character is supposed to be doing fails.
Each song has three possible endings for its story. The ending depends on the number of gameplay sections passed. If all gameplay sections are passed the story will have the best ending, with the main character succeeding in their challenge. If at least one section is passed, but not all of them, then the story will have the average ending, where the main character succeeds with moderate success. If all sections are failed, however, the story will have the worst outcome, where the main character finishes his endeavor but still fails.
The Elite Beat Agents dance on the bottom screen, while the actions of the characters play out in the top, reflecting how well you are doing. If you are messing up, then they will be messing up, but if you’re doing well, then everything will be dandy for them too.
Successfully conquer the level and you will then be ranked on the results screen, with both a letter grade (D, C, B, A and the almighty S, which has to be done nearly perfect with 90% of the hit markers being 300’s) and a score, as well as a star in the upper right if you passed all sections. The letter grade however only sticks if you get the letter grade AND the high score, which is definitely a sticking point with me (pardon the pun). As you’ll often be replaying a level to get a specific letter grade, only to find that while you got the grade on the results screen, it did not stick on the map screen and thus you didn’t actually finalize that grade. This is actually my only real gripe with the game. You should not have to get a high score (which usually means scoring well on the spinners) just to keep your grade.
The U.S. version of EBA also has some new features that were not in the original Ouendan. These include the ability to save ghost data and replays of songs you’ve played (ghost data can be used in multiplayer), the ability to skip all of the storyline sequences by hitting “Skip” in the lower right corner, and a “Review” button that you can hit if you lose a stage, and it’ll show the last few seconds of the song before you lost, giving you a better chance at memorizing the hit markers.
I should also say that there is no way to cheat in this game. If you pause it a menu pops up and the rest of the screen is blank, so you can’t use that to memorize the hit markers.
The track list of cover songs in EBA is extensive, and in my opinion it works extremely well, even if you may not like every song. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of any of these songs, but within the context of the game they work wonderfully.
The tracklist includes both modern songs as well as classic (and familiar) tunes that you’ve no doubt heard. And now for the song list!
Elite Beat Agents contains 18 songs in all.
Including (cover artist in parenthesis):
– Steriogram – “Walkie Talkie Man” (by Jason Paige)
– Sum 41 – “Makes No Difference” (by Vinn Lombardo)
– Avril Lavigne – “Sk8er Boi” (by Angela Michael)
– Freddie Mercury/Queen – “I Was Born to Love You” (by Paul Vician)
– Stray Cats – “Rock This Town” (by Mark Latham)
– Deep Purple – “Highway Star” (by Kaleb James)
– Village People – “Y.M.C.A.” (by TC Moses)
– Earth, Wind and Fire – “September” (by TC Moses)
– Jamiroquai – “Canned Heat” (by Jason Paige)
– Madonna – “Material Girl” (by Melissa Garber)
– Ashlee Simpson – “La La” (by Laura Jane)
– Chicago – “You’re the Inspiration” (by Julian Miranda)
– David Bowie – “Let’s Dance” (by Delaney Wolff)
– Good Charlotte – “The Anthem” (by Kevin Ridel)
– Hoobastank – “Without a Fight” (by Kevin Ridel)
– The Rolling Stones – “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (by Billy Fogarty)
There are also three unlockable tracks, which I will not spoil here. Like I mentioned, your tastes on these individual songs will vary, and a music/rhythm game is said to only be as good as your taste in the music itself, since it’s such a huge part of these type of games. So everyone will have their own opinions and favorites (For example, one of my least favorite songs just so happens to be one of my best friend’s favorites in the game, although there are several songs that she as well as I love equally). But as I mentioned, the tracklist works really well with the various stages and their storylines.
The music always seems to fit and compliment what is going on-screen, with only a few exceptions (Such as Sk8er Boi, which really has nothing to do with the storyline in that particular level), but honestly that’s nit-picking in my opinion. Every song was deliberately chosen and this totally comes across when you are playing the game. I’m constantly amazed at how well the songs match the on-screen action.
And boy do those Agents know how to groove along! One of the coolest aspects of Elite Beat Agents is the fact that during every stage in the game, the Agents dance in the background as you tap on the touch-screen. But to simply say they “dance” is doing the game an injustice. No, they don’t just randomly dance, this beast is freakin’ coordinated! With literally every single hit marker, every beat, every spin and every phrase-marker/trackball, the movements of the Agents fit completely with what you are doing!
As you tap high and low, the Agents tap high and low. When you’re tapping along to YMCA, the Agents are making the appropriate hand gestures in time to the music AND yours! Since naturally, every song has been carefully coordinated to a tee with what you are doing on-screen, the result is that the Agents do what you are doing, as close as it could come to being so anyway. It’s just so fun to see the Agents spin, kick, wave their arms, and hit the screen exactly where you tap. It truly makes the funk of EBA feel more unique, upbeat and groove-worthy than anything else I have ever seen. These Agents truly are “Titans of Funk!”
Check out this video to see what I mean. Just watch the Agents as they dance and check out how awesome their moves are. Don’t they fit super well?! 🙂
What’s even more impressive is not only how cleverly written the game is, but how funny it can be. This game will make you laugh out loud many, many times (and it doesn’t wear out as quickly as you may think). And while a lot of stories themselves have funny movements, particularly with the exaggerated animations that the characters give during the story sequences, funny stuff will also happen in all the levels as you play, both in the story sequences in between sections as well as while you play the song itself.
Suffice it to say that one of the funniest moments for me personally comes from opening up new songs and with each song watching how the new characters in the story sequences wave their whole bodies back and forth during the intro to the song and each subsequent section. It’s hilarious! And it’s funny just to see how each character looks when doing it.
And overall the whole game just oozes personality that is extremely rare to come by. The game doesn’t feel cheesy and doesn’t feel completely ridiculous. It feels cohesive, funny, joyful, fast-paced, groove-worthy and overall, FUN! If you can’t have fun with EBA, then check your pulse . . . something must be terribly wrong! More often than not, you’ll have a gigantic smile on your face as you groove along. That is, until the difficulty whacks you across the head and makes you go crying to your mama.
Yes, I said difficulty. Make no mistake, Elite Beat Agents is one of the hardest games I’ve ever played! BUT . . . while it can be maddeningly so, it is done in as good a manner as there could possibly be. Which means that, when you mess up, you know that you messed up, and that you can do better. Therefore it gives you a drive to keep trying and trying until you finally pass it. And when you do, LOOK OUT! It will be a joyful moment indeed!
Girls will be squealing with joy and happiness and guys will be jumping up and down while pumping their fists in the air! EBA is THAT exciting, and when you finally pass a level you feel a tremendous dose of accomplishment.
And you will have that same feeling, maybe even more so, when you beat a high score that you tried over and over again. One of the best things about EBA is that it keeps track of your score on each and every level (but unfortunately you cannot enter initials, which sucks for people sharing one copy of the game), which means that you will always have something to accomplish since EVERY level can be improved upon.September, one of my favorite levels!
And if you can manage to get S-rankings (I’ve only gotten a few in the entire game) then you truly have some bragging rights. Getting S-rankings is an incredibly hard thing to do. I shot for A rankings on every level, and let me tell you, just to get an A I had to replay many levels upwards of 10 times in a row! Getting a perfect ranking on every level will take you a long, long, long, LONG time. Possibly forever! 😀 And if you do have an S-ranking on every level, then consider yourself God-incarnate! *bows down and worships at your holy feet*
And that’s also what’s so great about EBA. You start out on the easiest difficulty and work your way up, and as you do you will hit levels that seem IMPOSSIBLE. You will replay them over and over, and eventually you’ll do it! And it’s wonderful to have a game like that, which is rare nowadays, where you know that with just that much more effort you can do it. I won’t lie, there were times when I felt like I was NEVER going to pass a level. And I’d put (or slam) my DS down in frustration (just kidding, I set it down gently but angrily!).
But if you give it a few hours rest, go back, and then play, you’ll be amazed at how well you can do. I passed many levels that way after many restarts in a row. So keep in mind that every level IS passable. You just gotta keep trying! And any game that can successfully accomplish this without feeling like the game is cheating on you, deserves extensive praise in my book and EBA is definitely one such game.
Graphically, Elite Beat Agents is top-notch. Everything blends so well that nothing looks out of place, from the comic-book openings and all their cool effects to the in-game scenes in each stage to the 3D models of the Agents themselves, this game looks nice and consistent across the board. Amazingly, even though the game has a huge cast of characters, they are all pretty unique looking, and while you might not be able to remember names (much less the actual names of each level) you will grow to know these characters, and by the end of the game you will definitely be cheering them on!
The game ends on a really great high note btw, I couldn’t think of a better way to end it (the last level is flat out awesome) and by that time you will easily recognize each character just from playing the game so much.
Do I even have to talk about the sound and music? If you couldn’t tell, it is definitely top-notch. From the voice-overs to the tracklist to the fact that each character yells out help in their own unique way, EBA can’t be touched when it comes to the quality of it’s sound and music.
And everyone will have their own favorites as far as the levels and tracklist go. I think my personal favorite level/storylines are: “Family Honor”, “Cry Wolf! Meteorology and Parenting!!”, “A Christmas Gift”, “A Pug’s Life”, “Art and Beauty! Love and Happiness!?”, “Survive! Celebrity Lives and Desert Isles!!” and “Aspire! Dancing to the Limelight!!” . . . . And yes, I couldn’t just pick one. Heh heh.
Replay value wise, EBA has TONS of content. From extra songs to unlock, higher difficulty levels to unlock, multiplayer stages, pictures to add to your gallery, and of course, Rankings to rise up to and letter grades to beat. Elite Beat Agents will consume your life if you let it, and keep your grooving till your old and gray! Or at least until the sequel comes along!
In the end, I can’t say enough good things about this game. INiS really outdid themselves and Elite Beat Agents DESERVES to sell through the roof (and kudos to Nintendo for picking it up for publishing). It is quite simply one of the funnest and most well designed games I have ever seen. It has entered into my top 5 Best Games ever list (no easy feat) and if there was any game I’d want to be stranded with if I was trapped on a deserted island (Like the Carrington Sisters!) make no mistake, it would definitely be EBA!
FUN FACTOR – 10
The first 10 I have ever given for a Fun Factor rating, and no that is NOT A TYPO! EBA is, as was said above, one of the funnest games I’ve ever played in my life. I can find no complaints with the gameplay itself, and it’s simply so packed full of content and scores to beat that it’ll never run dry if you let it. And please, go ahead. Do yourself a favor and LET IT CONSUME YOU!
Graphics – 9.5
EBA isn’t the type of game that’ll necessarily wow you, but the look of the game is so overly consistent and cohesive that if you really look at it, it’ll amaze you. The choreography on the Agents themselves being different for each stage is practically enough to warrant this rating! But it’s really the story scenes that seal the deal for me. Simply excellent.
Music and Sound – 10
What the heck, might as well keep up the trend while I’m at it, eh? I kid, but in all honesty, I can find absolutely ZERO complaints with the sound and music. The only complaint you can make is that some songs don’t match up super well with the storyline on that stage. But does it fit well? You can’t deny that it does, and that my friends is enough for me. The sound effects, voice acting, track list and everything is outstanding. Tastes aside, EBA sets the bar for all future DS music rhythm games.
Presentation – 10
As good as it gets. You only have to watch one story sequence to understand. But watch one like September and you’ll no doubt be a believer.
Ingenuity – 10
Elite Beat Agents is something that simply hasn’t been done before, and could never have been done before since the entire game is controlled using the DS touch-screen. It gives a whole new spin to music rhythm games that makes it completely and utterly unique.
Replay Value – 10
I know it looks ridiculous, but hey when a game gets a 10, you know it’s good stuff. Cause every aspect has to be top-notch, and guess what, it is. As you read already, EBA is simply packed to the hilt with content. And there is a definite drive you’ll have to raise your Rank and beat your scores that will keep you playing for a very, very, very long time. I wouldn’t doubt it if you were still popping this game in when the DS reaches it’s death bed. And that folks, is something to cheer about.