|By Andrew Raub||Thursday, 24 Sep 2009|
To quell any confusion right off the bat: Gitaroo Man Lives! is a remake of the PS2 cult hit, Gitaroo Man. I was never sure if this was a sequel or what. And having not really known what the original was like, I found it for cheap and took a chance.
At its core, Gitaroo Man is a very endearing and entertaining music / rhythm game. I liken the spirit of the game to the Katamari series. Very lighthearted, odd, and difficult to dislike. The gameplay is fairly elegant and easy to pick up but difficult to master. Despite how fun and entertaining the game is, there are a few things that unfortunately tarnish an otherwise wonderful experience.
Let’s get the good out first. The graphics are consistently great. The style is very cartoon-like and animated. Cut scenes introduce each level with a short story segment. The story itself is simple but effective. It is the story of a boy who wants to be a skateboarder and win over the heart of Pico. Unfortunately he sucks at skateboarding and he’s a pushover. But his talking dog, Puma, helps him realize his power and importance with the Gitaroo. Throughout the game he gains more confidence in himself.
The gameplay is fun and simple, and doesn’t take long to get used to. The premise is that each stage is a battle. The stages consist of a mix of four parts: Charge, Attack, Guard, and Final. During the Charge, Attack, and Final sections the player must use the analog stick to guide a small beacon along a path while using any of the four main buttons to “strum” the notes that appear on the path. The Guard section requires the player to use all four of the main buttons to defend against the opponent’s attacks. Indicators move in from top (triangle), bottom (X), left (square), and right (circle) and the player must press the correct button or damage is taken. There’s not much more to it than that.
The soundtrack is the strongest part here. The songs are varied greatly between metal, funk, acoustic folk, drum and bass, and standard rock fare. There’s not a single bad song on the soundtrack.
That wraps up what I love about the game. There’s not much to gush about as it really is pretty simple. So on to the bad, I guess?
First, the level selection. There are only 12 levels in the story mode. Once the game is over, it seems like there should be plenty more. The levels themselves are pretty awesome for the most part, but there are really only two or three that I go back to for fun. Two of the levels consist only of the Guard section, which is my least favorite. One of them consists only of the Charge / Attack type section, and while it’s my favorite song in the game, it’s an incredibly dull and easy stage. Other stages I avoid because…
…the difficulty ramps up insanely quickly. I played through the first half of the game in one sitting. The next few levels took a few tries each, but the final level took a lot of frustrated attempts until I finally beat it. It certainly feels like there should be a few more middle levels rounding out the difficulty, especially since the middle levels are the oddball ones where you only Guard or only Charge/Attack. There is a harder difficulty unlocked after beating the game, but I couldn’t get past the third stage.
Lastly, the controls are just difficult on the PSP. The analog “nub” is too small for my tastes, and while it was never really the bane of my failures it did become frustrating when my thumb would need adjusted. The Guard sections became difficult because it feels like the buttons are a little unresponsive. This affected the Charge/Attack sections as well on more difficult levels.
Overall it’s not a bad game. As I said it is incredibly endearing. But in the end I beat it rather quickly, found the Hard mode too hard, and I don’t see much reason in going back just for fun. For portable rhythm games I’ll stick to Elite Beat Agents.