Happy November! Last week, I wrote about a beautiful game with a beautiful soundtrack.
This week brings us another colorful, musical game, albeit a trippier, much more manic one.
Gitaroo Man was brought to the US way back in 2002 for the PS2. You play as a hapless, clumsy boy named U-1, who is hopelessly in love with a girl named Pico, who is nice, but generally ignores U-1 in favor of the snobbier Kazuya. Learning the guitar courtesy of a talking dog named Puma, U-1 learns he is the hero destined to save Planet Gitaroo from an evil dude named Zowie. Puma gives U-1 the Gitaroo, a kind of futuristic musical instrument, and U-1 transforms into Gitaroo Man, the legendary hero!
Gitaroo Man is a rhythm game, first and foremost. The action plays out on screen while you play notes tied to buttons. Any Parappa the Rapper fan will be right at home here. Basically, there's two different phases of any different song. (The game counts five phases, but most of them are identical in gameplay, just not in context) In one phase, you'll be attacking with your music, which entails tracing a line across the screen with your analog stick while pushing a button. You'll have an arrow corresponding to the direction you're pointing, and the idea is to follow a turning, twisting line as accurately as you can, while hitting and releasing the button.
(Images from the identical PSP version-more on that later)
The other phase involves hitting specific face buttons as they cross over the middle of the screen. This is when your enemy is attacking you, and Gitaroo Man is blocking, dodging, and jumping to avoid the attacks. Button icons come from the top, bottom, and sides of the screen, corresponding to the button's placement on the controller. (Top for Triangle, Bottom for X, etc.) This is where Parappa fans will be at home.
Life meters on the top inform you of your progress; nevertheless, you have to play through an entire song to win. And there's a song here for everyone.
From J-pop to Jazz, to Metal and Electronic, fans of music will find at least one song they like. The screenshots here are of the second level, where you fight a giant UFO set to a J-Pop tune called "Flyin' to Your Heart", one of the catchiest, most hyper songs on the soundtrack. There's a Flamenco battle against skeletons who play their own ribcages, an Electronica-infused retreat from a space shark, a quiet, acoustic moment with a girl under a tree...it goes on and on.
Unfortunately, it doesn't go on that long. Gitaroo Mna, while an absolute riot to play, can be finished in a solid hour of gaming. A Master Mode that ups the difficulty pads the time a bit, but it can still be beaten in no time.
But it's an experience worth having, even for an hour. As you can tell by the images, Gitaroo Man is a game oozing with style (actually, bursting is more like it). Every level has it's own look; the same art style, of course, but you'll never confuse one level for another. The soundtrack, as mentioned, is the real star here. Every song is by a Japanese band called COIL, which is almost impossible to believe given the numerous genres on display here. Including an amazing electric guitar instrumental, which I'll post in a bit.
Gitaroo Man may be a bit tricky to find these days in your local store, so if you have a PSP, I recommend that version, called Gitaroo Man Lives! The game is identical save for a couple of extra, multiplayer themed songs present only in the PSP game. They're good songs and all, but you don't really need them.
Also, here's my all-time favorite song from the game, presented without video to avoid spoiling the heartwarming story. It's called "The Legendary Theme."
Track it down. It's worth it.
Thanks to IGN and Destructoid for the images.
As always, shoot comments, questions, and future Game of The Week suggestions my way!
Next week, we'll SWING back to an oldie, the oldest game I've done thus far.