Gitaroo Man – PlayStation 2
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Koei, iNiS
Release Date: February 18, 2002 (NA)
Genre: Music and Rhythm
Nerd Rating: 8/10
Reviewed by: InfiniteKnife
When I was in high school, I had a part time job at the local GameStop. Fitting, I know. There, I worked with a great staff with a myriad of game knowledge and tastes which exposed me to a lot of great games I may not have otherwise known about. One such game was the relatively obscure Music and Rhythm game, Gitaroo Man. My first experience with this one wasn’t even the full game. A demo that came on a disc included with an issue of PlayStation Magazine housed a single, epic level from this gem by developer, Koei, most famous for Dynasty Warriors and Romance of the Three Kingdom games.
This was the only music game developed by Koei, and considering that, they did a more than solid job. Gitaroo Man takes elements from well known game series Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution and combines them in a way that feels new and fun. It also adds the wackiness and charm that comes with a lot of Japanese games.
Gitaroo Man is mainly the story of U-1. He’s the shy kid with little confidence who gets picked on by the local bully. Pico is his dream girl, but he thinks she’s way out of his league. His talking dog, Puma reveals to him that he is destined to be the last hero of Planet Gitaroo and to wield the last Gitaroo (term used for the special instruments). The game’s main antagonist, Zowie, possesses the other 7 Gitaroos, needing only the one held by U-1 to control the universe. Naturally, he sends his minions carrying them to fight you and the adventure begins. As the game goes on and U-1 becomes stronger, so does his confidence in himself. It’s a classic underdog coming back to be a super badass kind of story.
The game follows a linear path of levels which are played in the form of music battles against an enemy character who has one of the legendary Gitaroos, each represented by a different instrument. Each level has 5 different phases that make up the whole battle.
Charge – Use the analog stick to follow a trace line and press/hold X at the right times to hit notes and build up your life meter.
Attack – Works like Charge, except if you miss notes here, you take damage. Hitting them deals damage to the enemy.
Guard – These parts are similar to Dance Dance Revolution. The X,▲,■, & O will come from their respective direction on the screen and you must press it as they reach the middle. Missing these notes will cause U-1 to take damage.
Harmony – Like Charge and Attack, but right before the End sequence. Damage can still be taken for missed notes.
End – Same as Attack, but no damage is taken here. It’s just a big finish to each song.
Each note you hit can be scored as Great, Good, OK, and Miss, with each being worth varying points. At the end of each level, you’re assigned a letter rank based on the amount of each note hit type. Different ranks in each level can unlock character bios and some collectible trophy-type deals. If you’re into collecting, there you go.
The music itself is great in Gitaroo Man with each level featuring a different instrument and their own style of music. There is a great variety here, with genres including pop, jazz, funk, reggae, latin, and folk. Despite the relative short length of the game, each level has 2-3 variations in the Attack and Defense stages, which add several combinations for each playthrough.
The difficulty takes a pretty quick spike toward the last few levels. It took me several tries to beat the game for the first time and even longer to get A rankings on all the levels. After completing the game, you unlock a Master Mode, which is ridiculous. Not only do you take more damage but the note combinations become harder and the trace patterns become way more complex. I’ve only ever gotten through a few levels of this mode. It was too hard for me to find it fun, but I’m sure it would be rewarding to be able to say you finished it if you’re a completionist.
Multiplayer is present here, but doesn’t offer as much variety as the main game. You can play as U-1 against many of the level bosses but the songs are altered to make them more balanced. I didn’t find myself playing this one too much. Switching off on single player was much more enjoyable when I played with friends.
Overall, I really enjoyed Gitaroo Man. The presentation and gameplay are fun and easy to learn, but complex enough to offer a solid challenge. Visually, it is colorful and fun, but it’s like many other rhythm games in that when you’re focusing on hitting notes, it’s tough to focus on what’s going on in the background. At least your friends have something to watch while you jam out and save the world. The high difficulty at the end and shorter length affect my score, but this one is still worth checking out.
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