By Jenni . November 7, 2011 . 1:30pm
Since the 3DS is region-locked, it means any future Ouendan games have a really slim chance of being enjoyed overseas unless people are willing to invest in another system. Fortunately, there are two alternatives. One is the not yet released Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure and the other is Santa Entertainment and Natsume’s Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove. While the later can be a little easy and simple, it’s mind-numbingly adorable.
Gabrielle is a normal girl who lives with her mom and her pet cat, Lola. One afternoon after school, she unleashes a massive sneeze and ejects her soul from her body. While her body lies sleeping in the real world, her consciousness has become that of a ghost. Fortunately, Lola and Gabrielle can now talk due to this state and Lola happens to know that a place called Monsterville isn’t far away. There lives a witch named Crystal who can help Gabrielle with her predicament.
It turns out, Gabrielle doesn’t have that much time to return to her body. Crystal can help, but Screams will be needed to set things right. While Gabrielle isn’t confident in her scaring abilities, it turns out doing a dance called the "Ghostly Groove" can do the trick. So, Gabrielle goes around Monsterville, learning how to dance with Vlad the scaredy cat vampire, Fang the tsundere werewolf, Frankie the caring Frankenstein monster, and Robert the mummified teddy bear. Each episode is set up like a mini-anime episode. You dance and also get to hear about Gabrielle’s adventures with the monsters.
When it comes to dancing, Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove is very similar to Princess Debut. A brief segment of a song plays, and players must tap, drag or swipe on the touch screen in time with the indicators on the top screen. A single skull circle indicates a tap, lines indicate how players should drag the stylus along the touch screen and a circle with a flower on it means it’s time to quickly swipe upwards on the touch screen. Each song lasts about a minute though, but can be longer in the Dance Challenge mode. When a dance is almost done, a quick mini-game segment will happen where two girls appear on screen. They’re screaming because of the ghostly groove and tapping the touch screen, swiping Lola around the screen or spinning Skelly will collect the Screams for Gabrielle to spend.
Each area also has a mini-game to conquer to proceed. When Vlad’s Gabrielle’s dancing partner, there’s a segment in which she has to tap windows in his home to find the right characters hiding behind them so Belfry the bat can be found. Fang needs help rebuilding Skelly the skeleton, which involves a constantly moving ladder puzzle and tapping bushes so Fang grabs all of Skelly’s bones. Frankie needs help feeding the birds that live in the nest on his head, and that means tapping each of the three birds when a piece of food is dropping towards them. Finally, Robert does a mummy tornado thing which requires the 3DS to be tilted back and forth so he can grab candies in a side-scrolling maze. Each one’s fairly simple and nothing revolutionary. I’d probably say Fang’s mini-game is the most entertaining of the four.
Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove also does a great job of providing incentive to return to the game once the main story mode is completed. It’s essential, because there are only four areas to explore in the main mode (Vlad’s castle, Fang’s forest, Frankie’s lab and Robert’s cemetery) and each one only has six episodes, with one episode being a mini-game and the other five dances. I managed to get through the entire story mode in under three hours. I’m even tempted to say it took me less time than that, but I wasn’t keeping track at the time so I’ll give GGG the benefit of the doubt. In addition, the story mode isn’t much of a challenge. I’ll admit some of Robert’s levels are a tad more complicated than the previous dances, but for the most part they’re all easy to breeze through.
Once the main story is complete, there are a handful of other things you can do. First and foremost is the Dance Challenge, which collects all 20 songs earned in the story mode and allows you to replay them on normal, hard and impossible difficulties. To unlock harder difficulties, more accessories and more outfits, it’s essential to keep clicking the challenge button. That will assign you a song on hard or impossible and task you with getting a B or higher. Meet that goal and you’ll unlock a new page of the Picture Book side story, a new outfit at Greta’s shop or a new accessory. It’ll also earn more Screams, which are used to buy outfits or take a turn on the gacha machine to earn more badges. Aside from dancing and shopping at Greta’s, 20 monster badges can be collected from the gacha machine and 22 tarot cards can be collected by visiting Crystal every day to hear your fortune. The picture book also has 20 pages to collect from the Dance Challenge. You can even unlock a Dance Theater where you can watch Gabrielle and monsters dance to unlocked songs. In all, that adds up to 117 accessories and items to collect by playing.
The promise of more outfits and accessories is quite motivating because everything is so cute. It’s fun to play dress-up with them and even take part in the occasional fashion show, even though said fashion shows are pretty much meaningless. Even the cards and badges are a fun addition, as each one has a brief description to review. Plus, like everything else in the game, they’re precious. Acquiring those items are random though, which means it can take a long time to get all of them.
You’ve probably noticed how many times the words cute and adorable have come up. That’s because Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove has a very distinct presentation and style. Everything is designed to look absolutely precious. There are even times when it looks like some character art were inspired by Junko Mizuno works. I especially think Sean, Robert, Crystal and Frankie wouldn’t fit in quite well with some of her works.
Surprisingly, Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove goes the subtle route when it comes to 3D effects. They aren’t necessary, but if you have them on all the characters and environments just look better. There’s depth to them and it helps the stylized characters stand out. Even the flat characters, like Skelly the skeleton and Sean the zombie look amazing when the 3D effects are on. It does get a little distracting though, as I paid more attention to the dancing characters than to the onscreen indicators when I had the 3D turned on.
Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove may not be on every 3DS owner’s wish list. It’s understandable. I mean, even though it is a music game, it’s also quite a niche rhythm game. If you’re looking for something cute, mindless and entertaining, then I’d definitely recommend giving it a chance.
Food for Thought