Gitaroo Man Lives! Review
Gitaroo Man Lives box art
System: PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: Koei 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Koei 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov 2006 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 - 2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
Review by Cole 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Gitaroo Man Lives is music to my ears. But like the perfect pop song, it’s short and sweet.
by Cole Smith

It seems that lots of gamers have heard about Gitaroo Man but not many have played it. This is your chance to get in on the ground floor, one more time. Gitaroo Man Lives is essentially a port of the PS2 version of Gitaroo Man that was originally released in early 2002. It’s a rhythm-based game which means it’s not very deep and there isn’t a lot of variety. There isn’t a lot of replay value despite the inclusion of a two-player co-op and competitive mode - but it’s a lot of fun and certainly different than any other musical rhythm game on the market.

 Gitaroo Man Lives! screenshot

Everything blends well to make this a very enjoyable, cohesive and professional package. The storyline is embedded into the gameplay. Without it you would have a difficult time conceptualizing the imaginative environments, enemies and situations. Graphically the game is fantastic. It looks virtually identical to the PS2 version but the load times are extremely long, up to a minute in some cases. The focus of the gameplay is on timing. It’s a matter of hitting the proper button at the appropriate time which will be determined by lines and bars on the screen that move to the beat of the music. Graphically you can see everything clearly without the backgrounds obscuring the musical icons. The controls are responsive and the music is diverse, loud and clear. Everything is set for your adventure. If you do poorly, you have no one to blame but your lack of rhythm. Keep practicing.

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Who is Gitaroo Man? And what does he do? Gitaroo Man is a young, shy boy named U-1 who doesn’t have any friends and was generally picked on at school. Urged on by his only companion, a dog named Puma, U-1 is presented with the Gitaroo which will give him special powers with which to defeat the evil aliens known as Gravillians. They want to capture the Gitaroo and harness its powers to rule the universe. U-1 will do battle with a range of musical enemies to keep them from acquiring this special instrument. These Gravillian characters are incredibly imaginative. You’ll do battle with a Goth rocker and his scary-sounding church organ. Or how about a soul man in a bee outfit trying to blow you away with his trumpet? There’s also the Sanbone Trio, comprised of three zany skeletons with a penchant for music from the islands.

These musical battles take place in different arenas with various stylish futurist settings. The Gitaroo looks more like a futuristic weapon than a guitar but that’s because it’s a little bit of both. With the Gitaroo in hand, you blast away, in an attempt to make the thing sing and sting. Lines converge into the center of the screen. When they are highlighted that’s the signal to hit the circle button. Some of the musical passages are not just notes but phrases which means that you’ll often have to hold the circle button down for the entire phrase, only releasing it to coincide with the exact ending of the phrase. All the while you will have to position the PSP’s nub to follow the line in order to maintain your character’s pose which allows him to launch destructive power chords at the enemy. The gameplay get more complex and varied as you go. The line becomes more wavy and difficult to follow as the pace increases. You will notice that the music changes and tends to get a little sour as your performance suffers. But when everything is going right, you can actually “feel” it. To get into this zone you have to learn how to simultaneously see and hear the music.

 Gitaroo Man Lives! screenshot

It’s very easy to improve your timing and rhythm skills. All you have to do is practice. It’s that simple. The developers know that gamers will progress at different rates so they have included three different difficulty settings should you feel the need to push yourself to the limit. Most gamers will find that the current mode they are in will provide enough of a challenge as the difficulty increases with each subsequent level. If you find that you’ve reached a plateau and you just can’t seem to get past a certain level my advice is to just take a break. It’s amazing how you can come back later and kick ass. It’s like rebooting the computer, although it takes a lot longer than 10 seconds to refresh a human brain.

 Gitaroo Man Lives! screenshot

The music is performed by a very diversified Japanese musical group. The tunes rock, roll, twist, sparkle and pop. They are catchy, upbeat and certainly worthy of repeated listening. The game is presented in a very colorful style with all the flair of a quality cartoon with incredible 3D backgrounds. The two-player modes offer some replay value but the competitive mode isn’t all that different from the single-player mode and the co-op mode still feels like you’re in a competition.

Gitaroo Man Lives is definitely a must-play game but I would recommend a rental since it’s relatively short and the replay value is limited.

 Gitaroo Man Lives! screenshot

Features:

  • With his unique collection of battle songs and his talents for blazing out shark shattering anthems, Gitaroo Man is tuned up and ready to hit the road.
  • Gitaroo Man Lives! makes clever use of the PSP's analogue controls and includes brand new wi-fi games where two tunesmiths can either join forces or pit their talents against each other to see who is the ultimate string legend.
  • With a playlist worth blowing your speakers for and some of the most colorfully bizarre visuals on PSP, you’ll be rocking and jamming for hours on end.

    By Cole Smith
    CCC SeniorWriter

    Rating out of 5
    Rating Description

    4.4

    Graphics
    Great looking 3D environments. The background don't interfere with the gameplay.

    4.7

    Control
    The controls are responsive and precise. With practice you can dramatically improve.

    4.8

    Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    The music is well recorded. The tunes are catchy and diverse.

    2.5

    Play Value
    Despite the two-player modes there is not much replay value here.

    4.2

    Overall Rating - Great
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
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    Power chords, talking dogs & cool music....sounds good to me. by Vaughn Smith

    If you've tried to snag a copy of Koei's original Gitaroo-Man for the PS2 (released in 2001 and 2002 in Japan and US respectively), all I can say is "Good luck." Although there were rumors of a reprint version circulating last year, I haven't found evidence of this.

    Gitaroo-Man is one of those cult classic games that you either get or you don't. It's an RPG-like music rhythm game with a bizarre story, great tunes and compelling gameplay. The original game stars U-1, a boy with crippling self-esteem issues who is introduced to the guitar by his loyal dog Puma. Puma is a pretty remarkable dog as he cannot only talk, but he can teach guitar! Impressive. My dog could only crap in the backyard and bark like a moron when someone came to the door....and he was a lousy guitar teacher. Anyway, Puma teaches U-1 to play the guitar, which ramps up his self-esteem so that he can finally start making some headway with the girl of his dreams, Pico. Unfortunately Pico prefers hanging out with Kazuya, that snobby, rich, good-at-everything creep. As the newly created Gitaroo-Man, U-1 is transformed into a guitar playing hero who must save the day..and try and get the girl!

    If that sounds deliciously awkward and fun, you bet it is. We're excited that Koei is releasing this PSP port of the original game (with two new songs) next month in Japan and while we're not aware of a North American release we bet that we'll hear something at E3. The two new songs are Metal Header and Toda Pasion and were written by "tomzuin h" and recorded by Sonica Studio. The music in the orignal game was written by COIL, but it sounds like the new tunes fit right in. You can visit the official site here.

    The gameplay is quite different from your standard music rhythm game. Each level consists of four phases: Charge, Attack, Guard, and Harmony. The levels start with the Charge phase, where the player must build up their health via playing the guitar (gitaroo). After this, the Attack and Guard phases alternate. The attack phase involves you attempting to separate your opponent from their health, while the guard phase puts the shoe on the other foot. If you can survive until the end of the song, you will then go into the harmony phase to complete the level.

    During the Attack, Guard and Harmony portions, players will see a "trace line" which scrolls toward a dot in the middle of the screen. This area is called the "attack point". Phase bars are yellow circles with red tails which move towards the attack point and correspond to the rhythm of the song. Much like in other rhythm games, when the phase bar reaches the attack point, the player must then press the analog stick in the direction of the tail, while simultaneously pressing the circle button for the duration of the phrase bar.

    Each level typically opens with a Charge phase, in which the player increases their health through playing the Gitaroo. A series of alternating Attack and Guard phases follows, in which the player attempts to drop his opponent's health bar by playing the Gitaroo, and avoids the same by dodging incoming attacks, respectively. If the player survives until the end of the song, then he must complete the Harmony phase to finish the level. The mechanic is the primarily the same for each particular phase - it just depends on what phase you're in that will determine either an increase of health or loss of opponent health. The guard phase is played differently and requires the pressing of the face buttons as X, Triangle, Circle and Square will move towards the attack point. Players must press the corresponding button as the symbol enters the zone.

    Hitting the phase bars as accurately as possible is the name of the game as missing them will result in a loss of guitar track. If it sounds complicated, don't panic. We're sure there will be another couple of tutorial levels to get you on your way if you haven't played the game before or are a tad rusty.

    While details are sketchy, we have learned that the PSP version will support ad hoc (but not online) play between two players in either a head-to-head mode or co-operative play in Duet Mode. Koei has not made any mentions of a North American release, but we're hoping more is revealved at E3. If you don't mind wading through some Japanese text, remember that the PSP is region free so feel free to import Gitaroo-Man Lives when it's released May 25th in Japan.

    By Vaughn Smith
    CCC Site Director

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