The Music and Rhythm Games That Time Forgot
From PaRappa The Rapper to Guitar Hero, videogames are a place where you can live out your wildest fantasies of being a musical star. Thanks to the rise of this genre, even those with absolutely no musical talent in the real world can feel like they do. But what about those lesser sung music and rhythm games (no pun intended)? Join us once again as we discover more of The Games That Time Forgot! How many have you played?
The Beatmania (also known as Bemani) series, is considered- along with PaRappa- largely responsible for the explosion in popularity of music and rhythm games in Japan. Debuting in Japanese arcades in 1997, players took on the role of a DJ, pressing the buttons and scratching in time with the music. The game boasted a unique control deck, featuring several keys and a replica turntable. When the game was converted to home consoles starting with the Playstation, Beatmania was packed in with it's very own deck peripheral, years before Guitar Hero and Rockband. Konami's classic was a game years ahead of it's time.
A lesser known rhythm game from the creator of PaRappa, Vib Ribbon was a strange creation indeed. The mechanic was as simple as they get- guide the main character (a white stick figure rabbit) along the ribbon tracks, avoiding various obstacles by ducking or jumping. Graphically, it was even simpler, with nothing more than white vector lines against a black background. The courses, however were generated by the soundtrack- with the obstacles being created based on the rhythm of the track. The game came with several specially recorded tracks- consisting of some seriously catchy J-Pop- but would also allow you to put in a CD of your choice and randomly generate courses of your own.
Created by Sega and Sonic Team, this debuted in arcades in 1999, before being converted to the ill-fated Dreamcast. Although pretty much a standard entry in the genre, the game is distinguished by it's Latin flavour and it's unique Maraca controllers. Also, for bonus awesome points it features a monkey in Sombrero- and who could possibly resist that, I ask you? The game was eventually ported to the Wii in 2008, with the Wiimote controllers being used in place of the maracas. This was a lot more practical, and certainly a lot cheaper, but somehow it was never going to be quite the same.
Years before they brought us Guitar Hero, Harmonix created a very different music-based game. Much closer to a traditional game than the franchise that would make their name (but not a million miles away from it either), players controlled a "FreQ" down an octagonal tunnel, capturing notes and releasing sonic energy. The 2001 PS2 game featured more than 20 tracks from popular dance acts of the time, including Orbital and The Crystal Method.
This 2006 oddity is perhaps one of the strangest games ever to be released for the Nintendo DS,- in the West at least. Featuring a highly amusing story, told in comic-book style introductions, the titular Elite Beat Agents help those in need- through the medium of dance. To do this players use touch-screen controls to keep in time with the music and complete each mission. Beat Agents is actually a westernised edition of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, a Japanese only release which features the same gameplay but replacing the music, story and characters with one designed for western audiences. Fun as EBA may have been, for fans of wacky Japanese games a properly translated Ouendan would have been even more welcome.
Koei's guitar game for Playstation 2 may not have set the world alight, but it was something of a cult hit, with copies becoming quite rare and highly sought after. Following a youngster by the name of U1 who discovers he is actually the legendary Gitaroo Man of Planet Gitaroo. The unique characters and style made the game stand out from other rhythm games, and the soundtrack was a very popular element too. The levels were pitched as kind of musical battles, with Gitaroo man trying to out-play his enemies. More recently the game was ported to PSP, with Gitaroo Man Lives hitting shelves in 2006.