Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Gitaroo Man Lives!

As mentioned in my previous reviews of rhythm games (most notably Rhythm Tengoku), most rhythm games can be segregated into categories. What I considered the most impressive were the games that already had a fully formed song but could be extended upon with extra beats added by the player. The aforementioned Rhythm Tengoku is part of this category as well as iNiS's Elite Beat Agents. Before EBA/Ouendan, iNiS worked with Koei on a game called Gitaroo Man Lives! which has an incomplete song playing in the game that requires you to fill in the blanks. This would be a point where I would deride the game for being little more than "Simon Says", but it succeeds in so many other areas that you can't help but admire it.

The most important part of any rhythm game is the music and it just so happens that Gitaroo Man Lives! doesn't slack in this department. In the context of the game each stage is treated as a boss battle, vanquishing enemies as the titular Gitaroo Man. The best part about this is that each boss represents a different genre of music so even if a given person doesn't like the game then they'll be at least one track that can cater to their taste in music. From Eurobeat, to jazz to metal, even a Spanish sonata!


 

The game play is split into four sections. Preparation, Offence, Defence and Final. You start each duel at zero life. Preparation sets up the game play which consists of following a path with the PSP's analog nub and hitting a button when prompted. This is how the game controls for Preparation, Offence and Final where you gather life (it starts at zero), decrease the opponent's life and go in for the final attack, respectively. The defence portion is arguably the most interesting as it has four lines converge to the center of the screen, each representing one of the four face buttons. When the prompts each button's representative line reaches the end you hit the button and your health doesn't decrease. It's rather amazing as it centralises the gameplay of DDR and Beat Mania and I'd like to see if a whole rhythm game could be based on this.

Using the classic framing device of a young boy trying to impress a woman with his electric guitar, the game goes through 10 stages (with two pseudo-stages, one energetic and one of the surprising, tender moments in video games) interspersed with cut-scenes to tell a story, which works well in the context of the game. The structure of the story and the ludicrous boss fights are complemented by the games fantastic art style that  expresses the eccentric absurdity of the game very well, as well as making the stages all the more wackier.



Without getting too wishy-washy about it, Gitaroo Man Lives! managed to become more than the sum of its parts to create more than just a great video game but a one of a kind experience. The game is available on the PS2 as well but the PSP has a two player mode where you can play two duet songs (both of which are also really great) so it's the definitive version, although some people have complained about the analog nub. Either way the game is the same in both versions so it's well worth getting if you have access to it, even though there won't be a sequel.

Find Gitaroo Man Lives! on ebay

Released: 2006-11-15
Publisher: KOEI
Developer: iNiS

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