Stuck in bed most days due to an ongoing medical condition and paralyzed from the chest down, I don’t have a lot of options for cardio exercise. Hand bikes, weights, and tension bands are boring. You know what’s not boring? Beating the hell out of Hori’s drum controller for Bandai Namco’s Taiko No Tatsujin games.
Traditional Japanese drumming is a full-body workout. Players stand with feet spread wide, banging on their barrel-shaped wadaiko drums with heavy strikes. In recent years the practice has been co-opted by Western fitness fanatics, turning the ancient tradition into a high-energy group workout. The whole thing taps into a truth humans have known since the dawn of time—hitting things is fun.
I don’t get to hit as many things these days as I used to. I have wounds, complications from a previous hospital stay, that keep me in bed. I’m not supposed to spend a lot of time sitting. Also out of the question, due to being paralyzed from what the doctors like to call “nipple line down,” is standing. I cannot play Just Dance. Fitness Boxing on the Switch seemed promising, but there’s a certain amount of legwork involved. Ring Fit Adventure is quite leggy.
I want to use video games to help me stay somewhat fit, but my options are quite limited. Enter the $70 Hori Taiko drum controller for the Nintendo Switch.
It’s one large plastic pad, two plastic sticks that are definitely not marital aids, and a bunch of white buttons mimicking Joy-Con controls, save the analog sticks and trigger buttons. Peripheral maker Hori’s been rolling out these drums for years, traditionally tied to Bandai Namco’s Taiko No Tatsujin series of rhythm games. Bandai Namco sells the drum in their online store, though currently there’s a waiting list. I’ve been playing Taiko games on the Switch since 2018's Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum N’ Fun, but I’ve been playing with standard controller buttons, which is not very impactful at all. Over the holidays I hooked up Hori’s taiko controller, and my arms have been wonderfully sore ever since.
In the Taiko No Tatsujin games, red and blue notes scroll across the screen in time with music ranging from anime tunes to orchestral classics. With the drum controller, red notes require the player to hit the drum face, while blue notes are the drum rim. Larger notes task players with hitting with both sticks at the same time. There are drum rolls and other special notes to mix things up, but that’s basically it.
For me, in my specific situation, it’s the perfect workout. The drum has to be hit hard for notes to register, so I’ve got to swing my arms. When the notes aren’t coming, I hold my arms high, poised and ready, which is also a little exercise. After a 30-minute session, my arms are sore, but I can feel my heart beating and my energy levels rising.
It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re stuck in a bed and limited to extreme upper body movements, there aren’t a lot of options. I’ve got a hand bike, which is just a small stationary bike I pedal with my hands instead of my feet. I’ve been considering mounting a speed bag to my ceiling for the punching, but the logistics aren’t working out for me.
This silly plastic drum is perfect. It combines my love of rhythm games with my need to move the movable bits of my body, to keep from becoming one with an inflatable hospital bed mattress. If you are in my exact same situation, I could not recommend it more.