Rhythm games have been around since 1978 with a simple game called Simon, a simple pattern-memory game than soon after in 1987 Dance Aerobics was released for the Nintendo NES allowing you to create music by stepping on the Power Pad; but it wasn't until 1996 it got its first true rhythm game released on the PlayStation called PaRappa the Rapper. Gameplay mechanics was straight forward with it being a rhythm game using the buttons L1, R1, X, Square, Circle and Triangle to rap. Between the stage's teacher and Parappa, the teacher raps a bar at the top of the screen will appear, showing you the symbols that match up to the teacher's lyrics. You must make Parappa rap in response to the teacher by pressing the buttons with the correct timing to match the teacher's line.
It wasn't until later when other developers and companies would jump board on releasing a rhythm game either on consoles or in arcades like Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania, Vib Ribbon and Guitar Hero. On June 21st 2001 for Japan and 2002 for both North America and UK/Europe, a PlayStation 2 title was released called Gitaroo Man which was developed by iNiS and published by Koei. Gitaroo Man at the time when it was released felt like a good guitar rhythm game, think of Um Jammer Lammy but expect it was a fully 3D game.
I loved Um Jammer Lammy for the soundtrack and visuals but felt a little short for a rhythm game, okay yes Gitaroo Man can be a short game if you can manage to clear the game within a day but this game really did offer a challenge depending either playing either on Normal or Hard setting.
The gameplay has you play as the main character U-1 first given a tutorial stage giving you the basic idea and structure on how to play the game and getting through each round. When it comes to the main levels it might feel like a fighting game at first when you notice the health bars on the top of the screen for both U-1 and your opponent, using the left analog stick to tilt the stick to follow the Blue Zone line, using the circle button to play the notes that you see on the screen so you may have to tap or hold down the circle button to play the notes if you want to defeat your opponent or guard from attacks from them. You use the circle, X, square and triangle button to avoid attacks from your opponents as well, so there is a challenge thrown in at the same time. One phase could be Charge Phase where you can gain power/health before taking on your opponent and Battle Phase is used to attack your opponent and Final phase is towards the end of the round where your opponent is on their last bit of health which is where you come in to take the final blow and defeat your opponent. If you have small hands you were given two more choices on playing Gitaroo Man using the right analog and the buttons so think of using one half the PS2 controller, I thought this idea was helpful for some players who want to play a good rhythm but have small hands just change the settings for the controls and you are sorted.
The story however does feel like something out of an Anime series like Kill la Kill where the plot would make no sense but the gameplay and the soundtrack overall make the game both fun and memorable. Story follows U-1, a young boy who is frequently ridiculed by classmates and can't stop thinking about Pico, because he has a massive crush on her. Puma, a dog with the ability to speak, teaches U-1 to play the guitar, simultaneously teaching the controls of the game and subsequently revealing to him that he is the last legendary hero of Planet Gitaroo, and the possessor of the Last Gitaroo. When they are then attacked, Puma transforms into Puma AC-30 and gives U-1 the Gitaroo, transforming him into Gitaroo Man. So yes, like I've already just mentioned when we've seen stuff like this done before in a few Anime series you’re the last of your kind and to get stronger you need fight other characters to defeat the main villain in the game.
I loved the character designs and the visuals, for a game that was released 15 years ago, it still holds up today even on the PSP it still looks impressive. Gitaroo Man Lives was released on the PSP in 2006 which was just a port of the PlayStation 2 version but on a handheld but with a few slight changes added in and taken out of the PSP version. The soundtrack what really makes Gitaroo Man shine each of the stages have one good memorable tune that will be stuck in your head once you've beaten the level a few hours later you'll have that tune stuck in your head. There have been times where I'll end up playing a certain level every time I play this game I always play the Second Stage- Flyin' to your Heart and Sixth Stage- The Legendary Theme (Acoustic) because they are both memorable to listen to every time.
It did offer multiplayer for up to 1 - 4 players on the PlayStation 2 and for the PSP version it was 2 players, the multiplayer is still fun to play with friends think of a fighting game but expect that it's a rhythm game. It might have got mixed-reviews on release but it was still a cult classic for the PlayStation 2 library loved by fans and critics. You would be very lucky to find the PlayStation 2 version at a good price because this game is quite rare to get a hold off, I've managed to find a copy of it in GAME for £9.99 and this was going back to 2007. I would love to see Gitaroo Man making a comeback either as a remastered title for the PlayStation 4 or at least as a PlayStation 2 title from the PlayStation Network just add trophy support, have the game in 1080p and throw in both multiplayer and online rank scores and I'm sure a lot of people including myself would pick it up if it got released on the PlayStation 4 unless there is going to be a sequel I would like that much more. I do feel like Gitaroo Man was one of those games that felt like the odd one out when it comes to music rhythm games due to very low quantities when it was released back in 2002 for both North America and Europe, if it was released on the PlayStation 4 would encourage more people to consider the game even more.
If you did manage to play Gitaroo Man, have a favourite track from the game?
Would you love to see this making an appearance on the PlayStation 4?
Let us know in the comments-