BeatMania Hands-On Impressions

Konami's turntable rhythm franchise is finally coming to a US console system. We go hands-on and scratch ourselves silly.

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Somehow, some way, despite the fact that Konami's BeatMania franchise has existed on consoles and arcade machines outside the US since the late 1990s, no BeatMania game has ever found its way to a US console--until now. BeatMania for the PlayStation 2 marks the debut of the series and its crazy, turntable-inspired controller in the North American market, and for those who are already familiar with Konami's other music-minded rhythm games, BeatMania ought to feel just like home.

BeatMania doesn't appear to be based on any one of the umpteen different BeatMania titles that have graced everything from Japanese arcades to European PlayStations since the franchise's inception. Rather, it appears to be something of an everyman's compilation. The basic gameplay revolves around a peripheral controller that's made to look something like a DJ's station. A single turntable takes up the left half, and on the right are seven keys coded black and white. Similar to the DDR games, but perhaps even more similar to something like Harmonix's Amplitude, several columns are presented on the screen, each assigned to the turntable and one of the keys, respectively. As your chosen song plays, little bars will move down the screen toward the bottom, and your goal is to hit the corresponding key at the right time. As for the turntable, you'll want to scratch it with a similar brand of timing.

Like in most rhythm games, the real challenge comes from the speed and frequency of hits. Easy songs will start out appropriately slow, but once you start to graduate up, things get nuts. Just trying to jump from key to key in the right spots proved to be an almost impossible task in some cases--though admittedly, our BeatMania skills are a touch rusty at this point. The game definitely seems to get that kind of frantic rhythmic gameplay down well, and it does so especially well when you pick the mode that uses all seven keys and not just five of them.

We scrolled through as much of the song list as we could, but we found only a few recognizable tracks (such as the Metal Gear Solid theme). The songs we did play seemed to have an appropriately hip-hop theme, though a few also had kind of a bossa nova thing going on. When you hit the keys or scratch the turntable, sound effects that fit into the scope of the song play--similar to something in Amplitude. This gives you some added feedback on how well you're timing your hits--each note and effect obviously fits better into the song the better you time it. As for the game's visual presentation, we can't say we were overly impressed. The basic menus and designs are slick enough, though in the background while you play, all you get are some weirdly distorted videos that seem reminiscent of something you'd find in one of those old Make My Video games for the Sega CD. It would be nice if there were a little something more to the background aesthetics, but as it is, the interface seems pretty serviceable.

At today's press event where BeatMania was shown off, Konami also announced that the game's release date had slipped into 2006. Hopefully the wait will be worthwhile. What we've seen of the game seems to suggest yet another solid music game to add to Konami's library. We'll bring you more on the game soon.

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