It's like Christmas for Taiko no Tatsujin fans in the west, as not only has Drum Session just released on the PS4, but so too has Drum 'n' Fun on the Switch, both of which offer unique experiences that differ in key ways.
Most of the series' core mechanics remain the same throughout the two versions, and for a deeper explanation of said mechanics, we recommend reading our review of Drum Session. In short, Taiko no Tatsujin is a game series where players hit on a big traditional Japanese drum called a taiko, which the players hit in accordance with the song's rhythm and instructions on the screen. A red symbol means hitting the drum's center, while a blue symbol means hitting the rim. The arcade versions of the series come with a taiko drum the player can hit, while the console versions must be played either with the console's standard controls or a custom drum controller made for the specific game.
Though released on the same day, the PS4 and Switch versions are in fact two separate games, which in turn means they need two separate reviews (the PS4 game was in fact released six months earlier than the Switch version in Japan).
The immediate advantage of the Switch version is that every Switch comes with Joy-Con controls, which can be used as motion controls with way more precision than its ancestor, Wii. This was more than enough reason for us to get excited before booting up the Switch version, hoping we would finally play a console version of Taiko no Tatsujin worthy of its arcade equal.
Unfortunately, the motion controls aren't even close to offering the same immersion we wished or hoped for. After testing the game with two different pairs of Joy-Con controls in both docked and tabletop mode, it's clear that the Joy-Con functionality needs some major tuning before it can even offer the bare minimum of precision required in a rhythm music game. Making the game understand whether you're hitting a red or a blue drum note is infuriating and at times almost impossible. On top of this, the game sometimes even registers a motion upwards with your Joy-Con as a hit on the drum, even though all we want is to prepare for the next stroke. The result? We played a lot worse with the motion controls than with regular button controls, only because the Joy-Cons clearly have a different understanding of how we're playing than we do ourselves.
There are a couple of ways to ease the frustration though, as you can press the Joy-Con shoulder buttons whenever you want to hit a blue drum symbol, or you can choose one of the game's many playable characters who will only care if you hit the drum at the right time, no matter where on the drum you're hitting. None of these adjustments make up for the non-hits registered as hits, however, and that's even before we've discussed the Joy-Cons' synchronisation problems that remain no matter much tuning you do.
Basically, you want to immerse yourself fully into Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum 'n' Fun, Joy-Cons are not the way. To put it simply, the greatest selling point of the Switch version is quite frankly useless. We can't say how the game holds up with the custom drum controller as we didn't have one available for testing, but if you can get hold of one we're sure it will give you a much better experience.