Aside from the Dancing Stage series, Rhythm games are a bit of a niche market, although, generally they do make fun games that anyone can just simply pick up and play. Normally they’re peripheral based,like the previously mentioned Dancing Stage games (a Dance mat) or Samba De Amigo (a pair of plastic Maracas), but occasionally you get one thats a little different. Generally though, the genre has become a bit stale in terms of gameplay, with nearly every title just featuring licensed songs that you press various button combinations in time to, although its thanks to games such as Frequency that keep the genre ticking over by being that little bit different, despite the fact its commercially ignored.
With this in mind, someone else was always going to innovate, this time in the form of KOEI’s rhythm game dev team 326, and their effort titled Gitaroo Man.
From the off its obvious Gitaroo Man is something different, offering a odd anime/western cartoon done in 3D visual style and featuring some odd-ball charactes in its opening stages such as a talking dog that turns into a robot and a blakc devil like creature that has an incredibly squeaky voice. Thats without mentioning the main protagonist, U-1/Gitaroo man, who comes across as a bit of a waste of space, but eventually grows on you as he begins to find his own confidence.
Everything in the game is well animated and the camera is very rarely static, focusing on various parts of the level your currently on, moving from Gitaroo Man, to your enemy and showing various background features along the way. Not that you’ll really notice this while playing as your main focus will be on what instructions your being given to get through that particular stage.
Gitaroo Man is a difficult game to describe to someone in gameplay terms, as it features the normal “press this button as it hits a certain marker” gameplay that features in all Rhythm-Action games, this is used when your enemy is playing their part in each level, and getting each button press right results in you dodging their attack. When it comes to your attack however, your given a theoretically simple method of control. Using the X or Circle button, plus the left analogue stick, you follow a line through various pitches, while using a button to simulate you plucking/strumming the strings on a guitar. This sounds easier than it really is, as you soon have to start varying the tempo of play during each song, sometimes resulting in soft ballad’s with long button presses or thrash metal style numbers that involve complicated combinations of short and long button presses that quickly change and require a high amount of concentration.
Gitaroo Man then, brings something a little different to a genre thats pre-occupied with attracting young girls from the bowling alley dancing machines to playing the same game in their homes, it offers something that many people who have played a Rhythm game before will be used to, but also offers something slightly fresh and new. Its difficulty will no doubt put some people off, as may its visual style. But if you stick at it, you will uncover a real gem of a game.