Monday, 14 October 2013

Retrospective: Gitaroo Man (Ps2/PsP)

This week should be an interesting one for the blog. Playing through Beyond (its magnificent) and Dragons Crown on Vita (pummelling orcs while ogling huge bouncy boobs is FUN) which I'm looking to drop reviews for later in the week. Ive spent Saturday & Sunday playing Beyond, going to give it a break tonight though, so that one will more than likely be up on Friday. A Dragons Crown review will follow on Sunday more than likely so I can give it some extra time. These 2 reviews will be posted here, which is a first! I tend to publish on PushSquare but they already have those 2 games reviewed there. I only publish obscure titles on PushSquare that haven't had a review, plus the staff seem to enjoy being reminded of the forgotten niche games we cover. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Its only Monday! So today I'm gonna have a look an old favourite of mine - Gitaroo Man/Gitaroo Man Lives

 Story (Wikipedia)
The player character is U-1, a young boy who is frequently ridiculed by classmates and passed over by Little Pico, the girl of his dreams. The story proper begins when Puma, a dog with the ability to speak, teaches U-1 to play the guitar, simultaneously teaching the controls of the game to the player, 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.
 As you've guessed, this is a rhythm game. Where it differs from most is that its stages are laid out as though they are boss battles. Each level comprises of a few sections. First is the 'charge' where you'll be building up your energy. This is followed by Attack/Guard sections that will see you trading blows with the enemy characters that need defeating. Next is a 'Harmony' section that See's you constantly on the front foot before finishing off the enemy in style during the 'End' segment. The gameplay mainly involves you following a track, or phase bar as its known, with a pointer while pressing 'circle' when required to simulate playing the guitar. Its a little difficult to explain how it works properly, but a quick look at some screenshots should give you a rough idea. The phase bars tie into the music by fading in Gitaroo Man's guitar track in the song when they are hit successfully, and fading it out when missed. This means the quality of the player's game playing ties in with the quality of Gitaroo Man's guitar playing, so if you wanna hear the whole song you have to hit every note as you'd expect. When the enemies attack you the gameplay switches out a little. It becomes a more traditional affair of having to press the face buttons as they cross the centre of the screen, missing notes damages your health while hitting them 'guards' against their attacks. Most of the game relies on the 'Phase bar' gameplay as its used during all sections except when guarding. The tracks get gradually more difficult and completing the game unlocks a Master mode which increases the difficulty more. A Vs mode is also thrown into the mix. ! player plays as guitaroo man while the other plays as the boss with the object being to drain your opponents health to win. There are 11 tracks in total to play through, each with its own stage and boss, so replayability will come depending on your enjoyment of the songs.

A Gitaroo Man port was released for Sony's PSP console. Gitaroo Man Lives! (ギタルマン ライブ! Gitaroo Man Live!) is a direct port of the PS2 game, but with two new songs that can be played in 'Duet' mode, a newly introduced cooperative mode. The songs are 'Metal Header', a rap/rock track, and 'Toda Pasión', a fast-paced samba number. The game features Wi-Fi multiplayer and the ability to choose easy or normal difficulty settings.

As with most games that make there way here from the east, Gitaroo Man has a style that sets it apart from most. The graphics are sharp and colourful with simple lines, characters with massive heads, ridiculously over exaggerated epically strange boss creations, and all of it translated quite nicely to a 3D engine without losing any of its creativity. The game does still impress on the odd occasion with its cool looking SFX and super smooth framerate keeping things ticking over nicely. The real standout for me though is the soundtrack. It has a huge amount of variety on show from metal to electronica to funk,ensuring there's a little something for everyone. Gitaroo man's feedback heavy guitar work still somehow manages to sound like it belongs on every track, regardless of it genre. If the typical eastern flavoured stylish presentation has never appealed to you though, this wont be changing your mind I don't think. An extra nod should go to Koei for their superb localisation job on this. The voiceovers are a treat and fit the game perfectly.
The PsP version looks and sounds almost identical, with the only differences being that the game obviously runs at a lower resolution and has detail pared back somewhat. Holds up to the Ps2 version fairly well though.

I was fortunate enough to re-visit the game lately on PsP. While the Ps2 version is still somewhat elusive at times, the PsP port is fairly easy to get your hands on. The Gitaroo Man game was possibly the best rhythm game I had played up until Project Diva came along and turned my head. The gameplay is slightly unique within the genre and its style is still good to look at so anyone interested in the genre would be wise to seek it out and have a blast if you still haven't. Worth a try? Sure. But if you've no interest in rhythm games then you'll no doubt still avoid this.

*Ive had to use PsP screenshots due to them being easier to find good quality ones of, so resolution is penned at the PsP's resolution of 480x272, Sorry!*

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