PSP: Parappa v. Gitaroo Man

At the end of time and space, the Playstation is certainly known for the creation and flourishment of Rhythm games.  All of Konami's Bemania games starting up with the Playstation hardware in mind, and other niche little title began to sprout up.  Games like Parappa, Vib Ribbon, Gitaroo Man, Guitar Hero, Lumines, Every Extend Extra, and so forth.  Even Sega's UGA branch found an excellent home for Rez and Space Channel 5.

This is probably my favorite genre in gaming because the idea of using music to fuse all parts of your experience together paints a glorious feeling.  Its the only way to push your emotions to the absolute limits and tune everything else out.  Honestly, I feel that music is the ultimate expression of yourself and being able to convey that message is pure nirvana.

Being able to experience other's feelings and thoughts is truly amazing.  Other games like Fzero GX and Wipeout also convey this message through their amazing soundtrack.

But anyways, I spent a good chunk of my morning with my PSP which has really been the center of rhythm based games lately.  As the title suggests, I played some Parappa and Gitaroo Man.

Parappa the Rappa

Parappa is one of the key soundtracks to the Playstation One's life.  A month after its release, everyone was singing the songs together outside of the game.  Even to this day, it's an amazing feeling to be in an elevator with one of the songs in your head and you accidentally mudder part of the song to yourself and then another elevator inhabitant sings it along with you ^_^

Back in reality, though.. Parappa the Rappa is about Parappa.  A little dog kid who's trying to get the girl, but just needs confidence.  Through 8 stages, you help Parappa rap to the confidence he needs to stand up to bullies, drive a car, bake a cake, make money, and so forth.  Parappa's catch-line is "I gotta Believe".  It's very cute and teaches kids to be confident in themselves and your dreams will come true ^_^

The game is pure excellence except for one very large unavoidable train wreck in basic gameplay that will stop this game in it's tracks.

The Timing

The quintessential element to every Rhythm game is so absolutely broken in Parappa, I don't think I'll be able to play the game again.  Each level you have a partner you rap with and you simply copy their moves directly.  There's a little time bar going across the top showing the buttons you need to press to go along with the song.

Except when you do exactly identical to the other person, you lose.  You try to keep time with the time-line, you lose.  I have no idea when I'm supposed to hit the button.  It doesn't make any sense at all.  And then when I go through a line and think that I completely biffed it, it works just fine!  It sounds like crap but the game accepts it!  What the hell!

Game Design Flaw

There's one other piece of game design that absolutely screws you over every single time, as well.  In order to defeat a level, you have certain grading levels throughout the song.  Cool, Good, Bad, and Awful.  When you screw up a line, it'll flash the level below you indicating that if you mess up again, you'll go down a level.  This continues until you screw up twice in a row on Awful.  In order to pass a song, you must complete it in the Good and Cool status.

SO.. that means, regardless how you've done the entire song, if you screw up the last two songs..  YOU LOSE and you must begin the entire song again.  The entire song can be easy as shit, but if the last two lines of the step chart are unique or really tough, you're screwed for passing the song.  It's not possible, just give up.  You can believe in yourself all you want, but the game hates you.

Verdict on Parappa

So screw Parappa..  I love the game a lot, and I don't remember the timing being so horribly broken.  I mean, I beat the original back in the day.. somehow.  I even remember getting Cool on the last level.  When that occurs you simply freestyle by yourself with no grading and I had no idea how to do it.

Parappa had two sequels.. kinda.  Um Jammer Lammy was a spiritual sequel with a guitar playing Lamb, and then the PS2 saw Parappa 2.  I tried Um Jammer Lammy, but I absolutely hated it.  Parappa was all about learning the songs you could sing to..  you can't do that with guitar :/

Gitaroo Man

Speaking of Guitars, Koei released this absolute gem on the Playstation 2 in between releases of Dynasty Warriors.  It met with such bad sales over here, that it became instantly rare.  When I finally learned of the game, copies were going for $80 on eBay.  I thought all was lost, but Koei did us all a favor and re-released it.  I snatched it up for $35 Used at Gamestop without a problem.

Gitaroo Man focuses on child U-1 and his life problems..  He loves this girl, but gets pushed around by bullies, does mediocre in school, and really has absolutely no talent.  Little does he know, that he's actually the legendary Gitaroo Man and holds the power to rid the universe of the evil Gitaroos if he would only believe in himself and unlock his power.

The main premise is very similar to Parappa, except Gitaroo fights his opponents rather than learns from them.

When faced against opponents, U-1 grabs his Gitaroo and transforms into Gitaroo man.

Gameplay

Gitaroo plays very wickedly.  It does have a time-line, but it winds around the screen and you're to connect to it by pushing in the same direction.  Notes come down the pipeline, and you hit and hold the O button to play them.  You're always using one button when playing the song, but the time-line winds around the screen so much, it is still very interesting.

But that's not all.  You're in a battle, and your opponent will fire attacks at you the same way.  To dodge these attacks, you use the rest of the face buttons as the notes center mid-screen.  It gets a little annoying because of trying to judge the correct order of button presses, but it's more challenging than difficult.

The timing is spot on..  You hit the button when the note hits the center of the screen.  What a concept!  How the hell can Parappa gets this so absolutely wrong?!..  ugh, whatever.

Innovation

With these two modes of play, Koei really mixes up the rotation.  The main mode of gameplay is Charge (to regain health), Attack (which will deplete your health if you miss notes), and Finish (which is all attack, but you lose health if you miss notes).  The first 5 or 6 levels are exactly like this, but Koei throws a little curve ball at you.  One level you are running away from a space shark, which involves dodging the entire match.  Just make it to the end!

My favorite level in the game is one where U-1 doesn't even transform into Gitaroo man, he doesn't even play his Gitaroo.  With his recent battles, he's actually gotten pretty good at acoustic and plays a serenading song to ease the soul ^_^.  Later on in the game, this serenade becomes your theme song, and you rock as Gitaroo Man to win over the hearts and souls of an entire planet.  It's quite moving ^_^

Verdict on Gitaroo Man

Koei sets up its gameplay, but doesn't rigidly stick to it either..  They play around with it and compose an excellent game.  The sound fills you with compassion and you become U-1 and battle the evil Gitaroos for control of their Gitaroo.

I fully recommend this game, and if you own a PSP, you must own it.  Definitely pick it up before it becomes rare again..  I picked up my copy a few weekends ago at Gamestop for $18.

PSP Versions

Unfortunately, the PSP version of Gitaroo is exactly identical.  They didn't add any remixes or new levels, which is an absolute downer.

Parappa actually defeats Gitaroo Man in the category.  You can go on the PSN with Parappa and download new remixes of all the stages, but that's really it.  They should have included Parappa 2 in this PSP game, and maybe even Um Jammer Lammy.  It would've been excellent to have the Parappa trilogy all in one pack.  Oh well...

Length and Replay value

Unfortunately, both games suffer from extremely short game time.  That comes with the territory though :/.  Rhythm games, such as these, are short because each stage is the length of a song..  about 5 to 10 minutes.  Each song takes time to craft and compose, so it stands that you'll have no more than a hand full of levels.

Parappa has 8 stages and Gitaroo man has 11.  I just started Gitaroo Man this morning, and after an hour and a half, I'm at the final level.  With those remixes, Parappa has an extended life time, but Gitaroo Man does not.  Sure, you can go back and get perfect grades on levels, but it's nothing you hadn't seen before.

I think both games have multiplayer.  Gitaroo Man has always had multiplayer, but I think they tacked it on for Parappa PSP.  That might be kinda fun..

To recap

Gitaroo Man is an excellent addition in the Rhythm genre, and you'd be a fool to pass it up.  Parappa on the other hand with get sales because of the nostalgia, but shitty gameplay completely ruins this game..  you'd be a fool to buy it, especially at full price.

Though, I find it ironic that I still hum Parappa songs before I'd ever hum a Gitaroo Man song.  I guess replaying the damn level over and over and over again really puts that song into your head. ^_^




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