Before there was Ouendan (aka Elite Beat Agents) Inis designed a game where music was the weapon and playing an electric guitar in outer space was the way to save an alien planet. If the above looks vaguely familiar I’m talking about Gitaroo Man, a cult hit music / rhythm game. The story begins with U-1 a school age child who is picked on by Kazuya and ignored by the girl of his dreams. Then one day after sulking his way home his dog, Puma, tells him of his heritage when a wacky alien invader storms into his house. U-1 grabs his gitaroo and transforms into the intergalactic hero Gitaroo Man destined to save the planet Gitaroo.
One of the reasons why Gitaroo Man became such a sleeper hit is the story. You’ve got an underdog kid who can’t catch a break, a talking dog and a bunch of off the wall enemies to fight. Unique character design is one of Gitaroo Man’s strong points. Gitaroo Man, Kirah and the rest of the crew are bright and cheerful. Even the enemies are unusual. Flying space ships that have “dance of death rays” and King Mojo Bee who wears a bee suit are your foes. While the ten story stages are predictable most people will enjoy the light hearted humor of Gitaroo Man.
As Gitaroo Man your supercharged Gitaroo is the secret weapon to fending off the evil forces of the Sanbone Trio and for charming Kirah. Before battles begin players can watch a quick full motion video story sequence, then enter a stage for a music battle. Stages are broken into three different parts. The first is charging, where you’ll fill up your life bar for the upcoming battle. To successfully charge up your health bar you need to tap and hold the circle button at the right time with your right hand. While you’re tapping to the beat you need to trace the trail of notes with the left analog nub. If you let go too early or slip your thumb you won’t gain as much health. Once you’re charged up it is time for combat. Attacking your enemy is just like charging. By following the green line and hitting circle on beat you will release blue electric blasts of musical power. However, if you miss a beat you won’t lay down as much damage and you will lose a little of your own health. When the enemy goes on the offensive U1 has to dodge attacks by pressing the square, triangle, X and circle buttons. Mastering dodging is a skill all of its own since notes hastily cover the screen from all directions. If you knock your opponent’s life meter down to a fraction it is time to finish them off with a guitar solo. During the final solo you only have to worry about attacking, but the pace of notes increases.
There are only ten stages in the main story mode of Gitaroo Man, which makes the game seem short. Yet, clearing all ten stages can be quite a challenge especially for those not familiar with music games. Gitaroo Man is designed to be difficult and the only way you’re going to get through battles is by practicing the same stage over and over. Since the sequences aren’t random, players will eventually memorize when Mojo King Bee is going to attack and the pattern of notes to hit when fighting against Flying-O. When you complete a level in Gitaroo Man you really get the feeling like you achieved something. Mainly because the gameplay of Gitaroo Man is a constant frenzy of button pushing that grabs every bit of your attention.
In the PSP game successfully completing stages unlocks new items in your collection. Fans of the game will unlock extra profiles of the main characters. There are a couple of new songs to unlock for the game’s duet mode. If you have two copies of the game and two PSPs Gitaroo Man and Kira can team up against an alien foe. You don’t have to have two people to play the new songs, if you just want to play the new tunes the games AI will control the second player.
The new tracks are the highlight of Gitaroo Man Live since everything else has already been done in the PS2 version. The new songs have a lot to live up to since Gitaroo Man’s soundtrack is one of the best original video game soundtracks to date. Metal Header is the first new song you’ll be able to play. The song has fast lyrics and a happy punk rock feel to it. Also this song has English vocals. Metal Header has Kira and Gitaroo Man battle a purple robot who turned their back up musicians (comprised of people dressed in panda, rabbit and monkey suits) into bats. Toda Passion is an awesome addition to Gitaroo Man. The song has an island beat to it with bongo beats mixed in. In this stage Puma, U1 and Kira are chasing a cat that is flying in a spaceship. If you’re digging the new songs or any of the other tracks in the game you can freely play them in jukebox mode. It’s the same thing as having a Gitaroo Man CD in your discman.
The new songs are great and Gitaroo Man Live looks like a polished PSP game. Minus a few graphical nuances like the distracting fading effects, Gitaroo Man Lives is the same game that you love to play on the Playstation 2. That’s sort of the problem with the PSP game too. There are only a handful of new songs to play and that hardly warrants a purchase from people who already own the PS2 version. If you’ve never touched the PS2 game before Gitaroo Man Live is a must play. Where as fans of the series who already mastered the game will breeze through the title in mere hours and conquer the new stages after one or two tries.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
The dialogue might be in Japanese, but all of the important menus are in English. Importers should have no problem picking up and playing Gitaroo Man Lives.
Koei announced that they will be publishing this under the name Gitaroo Man Lives! in North America for a fourth quarter release.
+ Pros: A real challenging rhythm game with a charming story and one of the best video game soundtracks to date.
– Cons: It’s pretty much the same short game already on the PS2 stretched out on the PSP.
Overall: If you missed out on the Playstation 2 version of Gitaroo Man, Gitaroo Man Lives is a worthy addition to your library. If you’ve already played the first game there isn’t too much new in this besides a couple of added songs.