Gitaroo Man Lives! PSP Review
When Gitaroo Man first surfaced for the PlayStation 2, not many people thought about picking it up. However, the Koei offering was unlike anything anyone had ever seen from the company before, and soon the following began to catch up on it. Must've been something within the amazing soundtrack or the interesting control scheme. Well, either that or the fact you could fight keyboard robots, I dunno. Regardless, the game became a cult classic and eventually became a hot item on Ebay, until Koei relented and finally gave it a small reprinting so those who hadn't caught up on its madness yet could happily endure without having to kill their cash flow. If you STILL haven't taken part in it yet, take heart, as the game is coming to the PSP later this year in the form of Gitaroo Man Live!, an "expanded" version of the original. We managed to pick up the import version, and it's not too shabby.
The game follows the formula of the original. You're this typical kid who is suddenly turned into the heroic Gitaroo Man when all sorts of menaces begin to submerge on the planet, and you must use the power of rock and roll in order to be victorious. Each stage is broken up into three parts. There's Charge, where you charge your instrument with a great deal of power; Battle, where you have to dodge incoming enemy attacks and blast out a few of your own; and Final, where the cards are laid on the table and there must be a winner in the fight. The gameplay system is divided in two parts. There's mini-sections where you have to press coordinating shape buttons to avoid attacks, and then you use the analog stick and the buttons to "play" out a rhythm track that lies ahead, in which you must follow in perfect timing for your attacks to work. It's a great gameplay system, and it works surprisingly well for the PSP.
The PSP edition does have a new addition in its Duet Mode, and while it feels a bit gimmicky at first, it does have a schazzy multiplayer approach to it, where two players can basically "duke" it out in rhythmic battles. This section also introduces two brand new songs that haven't been introduced before, which are just as cool as the other songs we remember from the original game. The soundtrack is one of Gitaroo Man's highlights, filled with all kinds of funky beats and wild rhythms that everyone should own in their own private music collection. I'm a big fan of "Flyin' To Your Heart" (stage 2's song) myself. You can check these awesome songs out in Jukebox Mode as you unlock them.
The game looks pretty good, although it's obvious to see that Koei's cut a few corners to make the game fit on the PSP. Some of the graphics break up a little bit, and there's a few bugs that come up during the game that get rather annoying (especially in stage 8). Also, one can't help but notice that the loading times are more strenuous here, almost a minute or so long. If you have patience, however, you'll find this greatly rewarded. There's also a tutorial mode that starts the game, and, although it's in Japanese (and watching a dog speaking Japanese is hilarious), it's pretty easy to figure out and do, especially if you've played the game before.
Past that, there really isn't that much different here, which is a slight let-down. Yes, the new songs are cool, and the multiplayer component has a nice feel to it, but past that, most of these stages are ripped right from the PS2 game. Still, there aren't really that many games like this on the PSP. And none with a rock god battling his own demon, anyway.
Gitaroo Man Lives is still a great game, a rhythm/music game that bends the genre in new directions with its creative design, heartily original soundtrack, and unique gameplay system. Not too much of it is new, but there is a little to explore here that's worth at least a few tries, even if you have to put up with some hiccups just to get past it. The hardcore fans will definitely want to import, although everyone else will probably be best off waiting for the US release. Unless, of course, you like Japanese-talking dogs. And who doesn't?!
What's Hot: Fun multiplayer option; GREAT soundtrack; gameplay system is perfectly intact.
What's Not: Some bugs and graphical glitches; long loading times.