Gitar Hero (Gitaroo Man Lives – PSP)

Theatrhythm? The curtain’s closed, buddy.

Hatsune Miku? More like Vocalannoyed.

Space Channel 5? Where’s the remote, because this show is done.

I finally got around to playing Gitaroo Man Lives! for the PSP, and let me tell you, the rhythm action genre ended back in 2006 and I had no idea.
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iNiS, creators of other genre staples like Elite Beat Agents, crafted the most amazing music game I’ve ever had the privilege to play. While I opened this piece with some absurd claims (those games are all rad as hell), what isn’t crazy iGitaroo‘s status as the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.
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The game opens with downtrodden boy named U1, sulking in his room. He’s sick of the world and the bullies that rule it. As luck would have it, he’s the distant relative of a being known as Gitaroo Man…or at least that’s what his talking dog tells him. U-1 reluctantly sets off on his world saving journey, making sure to be interrupted by the oddest set of villains this side of…of…well, I’m not sure they get any weirder.

Helping this absurdity along is artwork and character design by Mitsuru “326” Nakamura, an artist who seems to be quite prolific Though I’ve never seen his work before, this worked in the game’s favour, as I was surprised by the hyper amount of detail in his work. 326 walks this thin line, managing to never over design his creations, but still packing each character with a plethora of patterns and accessories.
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The gameplay stands opposite to the busy visuals, being quite minimal in comparison. That isn’t to say it isn’t absolutely perfect of course. The gameplay is broken into two parts. The first requires the player to move the PSP’s analog nub in the same direction as pathways you see on screen. At the beginning of these pathways, the player holds down any of the face buttons, and releases it once the path is cleared. The second method of gameplay is pressing the corresponding face button as it comes in from the top, bottom, left, and right. This portion of the game is brutal, as the notes come flying in very, very quickly. Thankfully, there’s an Easy difficulty, so I was able to actually continue and finish the game. For as much as I enjoyed the game on Easy, I hope those more talented than I can brave the Normal route in all its devastation and have just as much fun.

As incredible every aspect of Gitaroo Man Lives! is, nothing comes close to the majesty of its music. Composed of tunes made just for the game, Gitaroo‘s soundtrack has no equal. I’ve never ventured into the Jukebox portion of any game before, but this has been my one exception. Each song is enjoyable, there isn’t a dud among the bunch. The soundtrack’s range is important too, incorporating tons of genres without it ever feeling disjointed. Standouts include “The Legendary Theme (Acoustic Version)”, which comes along and touches your heart right from the outset. It’s beautiful, and plays atop a cutscene just as heartfelt. Resurrection is the game’s final song, and deservedly so. To put it as awfully as possible, it just rocks. You can listen to the game’s soundtrack here, but it’d be great if you experienced it for the first time while playing the game.
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I hate recommending a game that necessitates a trip to eBay, but Gitaroo Man Lives! is not available through the PSN store. That means it’s UMD only, which is a fate just a little worse than death. On the bright side, it doesn’t appear to sell for much, with most copies selling for $20. I hate this being the only avenue, but I just couldn’t pass up talking about iNiS’s outstanding work.

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