The Ill Communication

Gitaroo Man Lives!

Developer: Koei
Publisher: Koei
U.S. Release: November 14, 2006

Box Quote: "Finger Flexin' Musical Mojo Mayhem"

The late ‘90s saw a surge of rhythm games for arcades like Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania, and GuitarFreaks.  But it wasn’t just limited to arcades.  Console side had games like PaRappa the Rapper, Bust a Groove, and Samba de Amigo.  Each were unique, fun, and hard as hell to master.  It was like this for a while, even crossing into the new millennium.  Shortly afterwards is when we saw this sub genera taper off and get quiet for a few years before it blew up again in the mid aughts with games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band.  In the middle of all of this was a game that debuted in Japan in 2001 called Gitaroo Man.

Of all the game companies, you wouldn’t expect KOEI to create a game like this.  Normally, you would associate the name KOEI with franchises like Dynasty Warriors and Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage.  But they indeed brought this game to market, and they did it well.

You play as U-1, a dopey kid who just wants to skateboard and impress his love interest, Pico.  But the class bully, Kazuya, is always getting in his way.  One day, U-1’s dog, Puma, reveals to him that he is the legendary hero called Gitaroo Man of planet Gitaroo.  Wielding the legendary Last Gitaroo, he battles foes that get in his way.  Nervous and not interested in being a hero at the start, U-1 eventually knows it’s his destiny to be the legendary warrior and to defeat all the evils that challenge him along the way.

The gameplay in Gitaroo Man is broken up into three sections, with each one having two modes.  For example, in Charge, there’s Intro, so you can pick up the rhythm and then there’s Charge so you can increase your life gauge.  Like a fighting game, it’s game over when your life gauge is empty.  The Battle section has Attack and Guard.  Attack has you pushing buttons and moving the analog stick to match the music.  This is similar to Charge.  Guard has you pushing buttons at the right time as the button symbols cross the center of the screen.  If you miss a button, your life energy decreases.  Then there’s Final with Harmony and End.  It’s basically like Attack, but you are playing a rad solo sequence to defeat your opponent.

The above paragraph was pretty wordy and specific, but it’s basically a game where you are pushing a button to match the music.  You know, how a rhythm game should be.  It’s simple to understand and gives you a good challenge throughout the game; especially in the later levels.

As you’d expect from a rhythm game, the music is superb from start to finish and has a great mix of genres of including rock, electronic drum and bass, reggae, and metal.  Each level has its own track and each battle and setting is unique so there’s always something completely new and different to see and hear.

This game is so incredibly charming with its character designs done by artist of 326 (Mitsuru Nakamura).  Actually, the whole presentation of the game is astounding.  You can tell they really took pride in designing this game.  For me, the PSP box art is so much better than the PS2 box art.  They really flaunt 326’s artwork from front-to-back by showcasing all of the characters in the game.  Even the instruction manual is in full color with more character art scattered throughout the pages.  Some people don't care for it, but I like the English voice acting.  The actors played the roles well and did a good job with their character’s expressions.

A year later in 2002 it was released for the US and Europe, and then in 2006 for the PSP named Gitaroo Man Lives!  The PSP version includes fixes that were noted from the PS2 versions.  With the PSP, you’re able to pause the game and continue where you left off.  For the PS2 version, if you paused, you would have to restart the stage.  The PSP version also included a Jukebox menu that allows you to listen to each stages track and a menu that shows all of the cut scenes.  There are a few more changes to the game, so this is probably the best version to get.  Only drawbacks are that the resolution is lower and you have to play with the PSP’s analog nub.

If you like rhythm style games, this is truly one not to miss.

Posted on: August 24, 2014