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I severely dislike the “rhythm game” genre. Ever since Dance Dance Revolution came out, I’ve always found the genre to just be a bit ridiculous. I’m a real musician and I already like to dance – making DDR, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band seem a bit superfluous – but there’s a much better reason, in my opinion: In these games, all I’m doing is pressing buttons to my favorite songs.

There is only one rhythm game I’ve ever played that actually had a thoroughly interesting concept to me: Gitaroo Man. Originally released to obscurity on the Playstation 2 way back in 2002, it got a re-release four years later on PSP. Now, to be honest, I don’t think Gitaroo Man’s gameplay is that great, either; but it certainly got me closer to enjoying a rhythm game than the “big three”  ever did.

To give a rundown of Gitaroo Man for the people who have never played it: Gitaroo Man features completely original music. You and your opponent start out with a lifebar that starts out maybe half-filled. You fill it by playing the intro as best as you can. Afterward, the song goes into a bunch of back-and-forth solos. When you’re playing a solo, you’re on the offensive, trying to take down someone’s lifebar. When your opponent is playing a solo, you’re on the defensive, hitting buttons at the right time to guard against damage. If both players make it through all the solo sections alive, the winning player will play the outro alone, giving him a final chance seal the win or totally blow it.

The problem is, Gitaroo Man‘s gameplay is done in such a boring way. The game is played on a PS2 controller. When you ‘play’ your instrument, all you do is hold down a button and turn the analog stick in a certain direction. When guarding against attacks, you press the correct corresponding front panel buttons. The guarding isn’t bad, but it’s easy to see why the game isn’t quite as exhilarating as Guitar Hero or Rock Band: the “controller playing” is just so disconnected!

I can’t help but think, though: what if there was a game played with the toy guitars, mics, and drums, but blended it with the gameplay concept of Gitaroo Man? You’d have tons of original music (no pressing buttons to your favorite songs) and about thirty different solos recorded over the solo section (that way, the song would always sound different every time you played it). The intro/solo/outro phases would add a fun spin on the competition, as well.

I’m way too cynical to believe a game like this will ever be released, at least not by Neversoft or Harmonix. After all, why should they? Guitar Hero and Rock Band are huge money-making successes; why change the formula? Still, a rhythm game like this would be the kind of thing that actually made me really enjoy them – and believe me, I want to enjoy them. Alas, until that happens, I’ll continue to go to parties where Rock Band is played, explain to people why I don’t want to play when it’s ‘my turn’, and usually do better than them when they dare to taunt me with the words, “I bet you just don’t like it cuz you suck.”

  1. “Rock Band,” “Guitar Hero,” and other peripheral-centric games were clearly not made for your type of gamer anyway. (Not an affront!) You already stated that you don’t like the rhythm game genre, so what are you trying to say in this article?

    Games such as “the big three” (which by the way, nobody calls them that) that use peripherals are made to simulate–not re-create–playing an instrument. They are NOT made for people who necessarily want to play a real instrument, muchless learn how to play one. People who play those types of games are *gamers*, not musicians. We don’t care to do anything except for pretend (again, simulate) being rock stars. When you play CoD: Modern Warfare, should I criticize you for not being a real Spetsnaz? No, because it’s all simulation and, ultimately, for fun.

    People–especially musicians who, when they rant about how RB/GH/etc. are nothing like real the real guitar experience–need to get off their high horses. Gamers don’t outright criticize undiscovered musicians for playing “I’ll never get signed so I guess I’ll keep playing at the local bar” Hero. Relax. It’s gaming. That’s it.

  2. To preface my post, i just wanna say that I know no one calls them the big three, it was just easier than writing out all three game names. :P

    That being said, the argument about rhythm games not being made for a ‘realistic experience’ is really debatable; the peripherals are constantly updated to be more real, and Neversoft consulted popular rock drummers when making their drum peripheral. There’s also the fact that they frequently try to get the licenses for the real versions of songs, instead of covers. It feels to me like Neversoft and Harmonix do everything they can to give a player the most realistic experience they can while still making it a fun game.

    But, for the sake of argument, let’s just say they’re not made to be real and immersive (although I don’t think that’s the case) The point of my article has nothing to do with the realism of the games. It was about how playing commercial music in a rhythm game is a factor that I don’t enjoy, and would like to see a game that used original music, in original ways. In the article, I even suggested a game that used the concept of Gitaroo Man combined with the peripherals of games like RB/GH to make what I would consider an incredibly fun game, so clearly the realism factor is just a minor reason for my dislike of the genre at best.

    I understand where you’re coming from, but you’ve largely debated an argument that I didn’t make (and I also think that the games strive as much towards realism as they can get away with).

  3. I would love an announcement from Harmonix in the future stating that they’re going to attempt to make one game that tries to simulate a real musical experience. Jamie is not saying he “wishes all these games would just explode”, he’s just not choosing to play them.

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