Konami's Bemani series has always demanded that you have a real sense of rhythm to succeed. But at the same time, the games aren't really all that demanding when it comes to musical skill. You don't need to spend any time at the Guitar Institute of Technology to excel at Guitar Freaks, and Beatmania didn't exactly require that you know how to cut it up on the wheels of steel. DrumMania, however, is significantly more demanding and is more like the musical instrument it is trying to emulate than any of the other games in the series.
While you can play the game with a standard PlayStation controller - in fact, some may find the game easier when using a pad - Konami's drum controller is really the true way to play the game. The DrumMania controller is essentially a five-drum pad that rests on a metal stand (putting it about three feet off the ground) with a small, pressure-sensitive foam pedal that serves as the bass drum. It is a pretty high-quality item, with one glaring exception: The bass-drum pedal is annoyingly flat and pretty unresponsive.
The gameplay is identical to that of Guitar Freaks and Beatmania. The screen scrolls in time to the music, and bars, separated into six columns, move from the top of the screen down to the bottom. When the bar reaches the line at the bottom of the screen, you hit the appropriate drum pad. Miss too many beats or drum off-time with the song, and your excite meter slowly drains. When it runs out, you lose.
Aside from the game's main mode, free mode, and all the other options we've come to expect from Konami's Bemani games, there is also a session mode. Session mode lets you plug a guitar controller into the second port (or, if you have a PS2 multitap, you can plug in two guitars) and jam along with the drumming action in most of the game's songs. Now if you could just hook up a DDR dancemat and maybe a Beatmania controller too ...
Graphically, DrumMania is arcade perfect. No big surprise there. The music contained in DrumMania includes some old favorites, such as a few songs from Guitar Freaks. The style of music on DrumMania is distinctly more varied than other games in the series, including styles such as ska, punk, fusion, metal, samba, and rock.
Overall, DrumMania is just as much fun as the other games in the series, but it definitely has a steeper learning curve than any other game in the Bemani line. Plus, once you've gotten pretty good at the game, there's the added bonus of actually having a head start on the basics of playing real-life drums.