Gitaroo Man

Push! Push!... Push!

"Another one? So soon?" That was more or less my reaction to seeing Gitaroo Man pop up on this 1001 list. Another rhythm game. Oh, how I adore rhythm games... But this one is different. This one might just have something going for it.

You are U-1, a pathetic kid by day, superhero by night kinda guy. When armed with his Gitaroo, the foes that seek to upset the status quo will have to think twice or rock out twice as hard to defeat the twangs, and the warbles and whatever other sounds come out of guitars these days.

At the very least, I am intrigued to see what this one has to offer.

Fun Times

A funky, highly stylised introduction movie sets up the basics of this story: if you want to impress the girl of your dreams but you suck at skateboarding, take up playing the guitar and in doing so, save the world.

It's a rather specific piece of advice, and probably doesn't apply to a whole lot of us playing, but that's the gist. Get good by becoming who you were destined to become.

Let's rock out. How are we setting this PlayStation 2 title up?

Have you ever seen controller types that physically alter the way you hold the controller? I can understand Type A - and you can bet your bottom dollar I'm not changing from it. Type B I can't even fathom. Type C I suppose could be held like a guitar? Vaguely? It's a bit of a stretch, but that's how I see it.

After a hard day of failing to find love, again, our doughnut eating dog tells us - literally tells us, he's a talking a dog - how we can win hearts win the aid of a tennis racquet.

Gitaroo Man is unlike previous rhythm games in that we need to move the analogue stick to align with the incoming notes, pressing and holding the circle button at the right time to strum the note.

Doing everything well will reward you with power and attack, depending on which phase of the fight you're in. Oh, yeah, by the way, music is war, and you're fighting with your opponent for who is the greatest musician, or something. You'll charge up your meter and then go through some rounds of attacking and defending, culminating in a battle of attrition as you aim to be the last man standing.

It's a long tutorial, but it's necessary, and the music is fantastic. I've no idea what genre it is - seemingly a mix of all of them - but it's hyping me up for the first of many fights.

After another excellently stylish cutscene - the look of this game is top notch in my book - our dog, Puma, transforms into a robot, our tennis racquet turns into the Gitaroo, and we turn into the titular Gitaroo Man, ready to send this little demon Panpeus back to hell.

Like many rhythm games, you're not necessarily going to catch a lot of what goes on in the background, which is where all the great stuff happens. You are, instead, trying to rotate your analogue stick along a line, curves and all, and press the buttons to strum away at the right time. The cleaner you are, the more power you'll charge up, and the better you'll fare in the upcoming battle.

Let it be known that I got off to a bad start...

Transported to a corridor somewhere, Panpeus and I exchange solos, me with my Gitaroo, him with an axe. Obviously. Lighting and energy effects and all kinds of other nonsense fly between the two of us as we attempt to unleash strong attacks and block incoming dangers.

Let it be known that after getting the hang of it a little more, I wobbled and returned to my poor start...

To be fair, that seemed to be damn close on the health bars by the end there. I'm going to need to up my game for the second attempt.


That there is emulation in a nutshell. The first battle, the rematch, was emulated well. Everything looked and sounded fine, I didn't notice any horrendous lags on my inputs or anything. It was perfectly playable and enjoyable.

The second fight, though... I guess there's just a little bit too much going on for whatever settings I've got. Stutters and frame rate drops all through me off and pushed me out of rhythm, and when you've not got any to begin with, losing more isn't ideal. I might have to look into the PlayStation Portable port instead.

Final Word

But damn, do I want to see where Gitaroo Man takes us. I don't know how yet. It may, unfortunately, be via video for the time being, but it looks impressive enough for even that to be a good time.

In terms of gameplay, Gitaroo Man's addition of the analogue stick is simple enough an idea for me to get behind, and complicated enough for there to be plenty of challenges ahead for players, as the line you follow meanders around the screen, the notes you're required to hit everything from a quick pluck to lengthy held notes.

The music itself is insane. It's funk, it's rock, it's electric. It's all over the place but and it works, and it works well. Could I repeat anything I've heard? Probably not. Did I enjoy hearing it when I managed to actually press circle at the right time? Most definitely.

If PaRappa the Rapper was a humorous little way to kill some time, Gitaroo Man is that multiplied by ten and fully realised, with a story, cutscenes, character development and absolutely banging tunes. PaRappa himself may be the cooler character, but U-1 and Puma especially will give him a run for his money.

I hope to experience more of this game somehow, ideally in my hands as opposed to on a YouTube screen. Would I have imagined saying that after the fun I had with Frequency? That I'd want to play a rhythm game? That's how much I recommend Gitaroo Man.

Fun Facts

I still can't work out how or why Koei, known for historical simulation and action games (think Dynasty Warriors), came out with Gitaroo Man, but they did and here it is. 

Gitaroo Man, developed by Koei, iNiS, first released in 2001.
Version played: PlayStation 2, 2002, via emulation.
Version watched: PlayStation 2, 2002 (Easy Allies Plays)