~Jam on that Gitaroo~

I love rhythm games, they’re up there with my love of RPGs. This style of game gets your body into it like DDR, or they help hand eye coordination like Guitar Hero, and Elite Beat Agents. This particular game is a lesser known title named Gitaroo Man for the Ps2 and remade on the PSP. Like Elite beat agents this game was also developed by the company iNiS. I was introduced to this game by a friend of mine back in college, though it was the remake for PsP it did not do the game any less justice than the original.

The most obviously amazing feature is the music. Gitaroo Man has ten stages in all, and there’s not any uninspired song in the whole group, but even for a game that’s based around playing guitar, the music is quite impressively varied. Conventional guitar-centric styles such as speed metal and heavy grunge are represented, but so are off-the-wall genres like Theremin-based reggae, drum ‘n’ bass, and a combination of flamenco music and a battery of percussion instruments. Particularly impressive within each song is the guitar prowess on display.
Like the sound, the gameplay is top-notch and represents perhaps the first time a rhythm title has evolved beyond simple follow-the-leader button presses without the aid of a special controller.
Gitaroo Man is structured something like a fighting game, with distinct defense and attack sequences. The defense parts are most like traditional rhythm gameplay; signals corresponding to the buttons fly in from the sides of the screen, and the player must hit the button once they reach a point at the center of the screen. It’s the gameplay during the offensive sequences that really stands out though the learning curve can be steep for those used to simply pressing buttons in time with the rhythm.

The main feature of the attack mode is the Trace Line, a looping and winding path that feeds into the center point. During certain stretches on the Trace Line, orange Phrase Bars will show up, representing your guitar licks. To play them and attack, you must follow the Phrase Bar’s movement with the analog stick and hold down any one of the four face buttons for the bar’s duration.  It’s not nearly as simple as it sounds–many later stages with more complex musical arrangements have a bewildering number of Phrase Bars in rapid succession, varying in length, and you’ll have to carefully follow the Trace Line. The game gives you some leeway as far as following the line goes, allowing you to stray a few degrees off course with the analog stick while still remaining locked on, but it’s challenging nonetheless. If that doesn’t do it for you, the game offers a Hard mode, where mistakes cause more damage to the character, as well as a Master Mode unlocked by completing the game once, which features entirely new Trace Line and enemy attack patterns combined with brutally unforgiving damage ratios. Particularly the one INSANE stage with the shark-bot…You WILL want to throw your psp/controller.

Even better, once you think you’ve got a stage all figured out, its varying musical sections come into play. A majority of the songs are divided into seamlessly branching paths, which are accessed depending on the player’s performance. Do well on a particular section of the song, and the game will choose a more difficult section to follow it; make mistakes, and you’ll find yourself playing an entirely different and easier section instead. The number of variable sections within stages is far from endless, but even after playing almost every day for a month or two, it’s still possible to stumble across never-before-segments in the song.

The worst part about this game (paraphrased from Draco), “You know that the voice overs in this game are horrible, DON’T EVEN try to deny it” And you know what…I can’t say that it was good. By ps2 standards the voice and lip-sync were pretty bad. Overall I could not suggest this game enough if you like games of the genre.

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