If you are a music game fan you need to check out Gitaroo−Man.

Just to start off let me state that Gitaroo−Man is probably my single favorite music game. That is, among the following games, Parappa the Rapper, Um Jamma Lammy, Space Channel 5, Rez, Space Channel 5 Part 2, Parappa the Rapper 2, and Vib Ribbon that Gitaroo−Man is by far the best of the lot.

But, I also have to tell you that Gitaroo−Man is probably not for everybody. It's harder than the other games and some people will give up early and not get to experience the joy that is Gitaroo−Man. If you are going to give it a try I suggest you do the following.

First, EACH TIME YOU START THE GAME SET IT TO EASY! The game starts in *normal* mode. That mode is too hard for most players (me included). You can go back and play again in normal mode (or master mode) later. For now, trust me, put it in easy mode.

Second, you'll probably pass the first stage no problem but the second stage is pretty hard. It probably took me over 20 tries to get it and that's a lot. Why I didn't get so frustrated and quit I don't know. Maybe I liked the song enough to want to hear the next one. Or maybe it's just how good the game feels when you do well. But, those 20+ tries prepared me for the rest on the game. I was able to pass every level after that in 1 or 2 tries except for level 4.

Level 4 is H A R D. So hard I almost gave up because after 10 or 15 tries unlike level 2 where I kept getting a little farther each time I played, on level 4 I kept dying at exactly the same place making zero progress. This is in fact what prompted me to search for a difficulty setting and how I found that there is an easy setting. Fortunately level 4 is short so once I put it on easy it was only a few more measures to finish.

So, with all that out of the way what makes Gitaroo−Man so good. #1 it's the music. Most of the music is just a pleasure to listen too. There are few execeptions. Stage #1 is pretty annoying and Stage #5 though interesting is a little out there. But the rest is just great. There's a jazz tune, a techno tune, a j−pop tune, a spacey reggae tune, a spanish guitar tune... This may also be the first music game with a ballad. It rulez!

The story in Gitaroo−Man is also better than average. Well, actually, at a basic level it's the same story as Parappa. Guy with little self confidence gains confidence and the girl through music battles. But, Gitaroo−Man does it much better than Parappa. Probably because a few of the songs really pull out the emotions (if you are into that kind of thing.)

Finally, Gitaroo−Man has a unique control system. There are 2 kinds of play. There is button play (or defensive play). In this mode you have to press X, O, Square and Δ. What's cool though is they come from their corresponding sides of the screen to the center so Δs come from the top, Os from the right, Xs from bottom etc. That means you don't have to remember X, O, Square, Δ you just have to press UP, DOWN, LEFT or RIGHT depending on which way the symbols are coming from. It's much easier.

The other kind of play is Attack mode where you are playing the Gitaroo, a scifi guitar like instrument. In this mode there is a curving line that flows through the center of the screen. You have to push the analog stick in the direction of the flow. It's fairly forgiving, you only have to be within like 20 degress or so and if the line really waves you can pretty much ignore the waviness and just push in the general direction.

On that line are thick parts. When a thick part passes under the center of the screen you have to press O and hold it for the direction of the thick part. These two actions represent strumming on a guitar. The direction pad represents bending the sounds, a wha−wha type of effect. Pressing the button represents strumming the gitaroo and holding the button represents letting the sound continue.

The thing is, what makes this game so much better than the others, is that because of these actions you actually feel like you are playing some kind of instrutment. I'm not going to claim this is anything like actually playing a real guitar but regardless it feels like you are jamming the music out. That's something that none of the other music games mentioned above do. I suppose the BeatMania, Drum Mania and Keyboard Mania series might have that feeling to some extent, I never got into them, but I suspect the wha−wha curvy line thing really adds more .... emotion .... to your interaction.

If you are at all a music game fan check it out. I didn't do well in the market even with several good reviews so you can now pick it up pretty cheap. It's quite a bargin. I still break it out once in a while even after 3 months of playing it. I usually start from stage #6 and play to the end. I've also tried playing Master Level but that is just friggin impossible. Still, it's fun to try.

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