The rhythm genre is an often overlooked corner of the gaming world. After the rise and fall of mainstream titles like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, music fans have turned to more quirky offerings such as Hatsune Miku, Rhythm Heaven, and Thumper. Last December Sony decided to dip their toe back in the rhythm pond by announcing remastered versions of cult hit Parappa the Rapper and PSP-exclusive Patapon.
The revival of these titles is certainly a step in the right direction, and with a new Taiko: Drum Master game also on the way for the Switch, it’s a great time to relive some of zany rhythm classics of yesteryear. Unfortunately, many rhythm games from the late ‘90s and early ‘00s aren’t available digitally, or have been poorly ported to current generation hardware.
The five rhythm games below would be worthy additions to any gaming library, but their unique visuals and memorable gameplay are in need of a new coat of paint and a few modern tweaks.
Let’s get groovin’.
Bust a Groove (PlayStation, 1998)
The only thing more hardcore than beating someone in a fight is beating them in a dance off... that is also a fight. Bust a Groove (known as Bust a Move in Japan) is the first and only series that managed to twist the gameplay of classic arcade fighting and rhythm into a presentable package. As funky tunes spins in the background players match their button presses to onscreen icons to trigger devastating attacks on their opponents. The longer a streak runs the fresher the moves and the harder the beat down. Maybe if an updated version of Bust a Groove was in the works I could finally convince the the EVO tournament organizers that it would be a worthy addition to the FGC scene. After all...
Vib-Ribbon (PlayStation, 1999)
It doesn’t get much more surreal than Vib-Ribbon. This PS gem is simply oozing with bizarre charm and visuals. The original game was exclusive to Japan and Europe, though a PS Classics version was eventually released digitally in North America. Main character Vibri, a spry rabbit made of fluctuating vector lines, is tasked with overcoming obstacles in her way by preforming various acrobatic maneuvers on cue. Should a player make too many mistakes Vibri will devolve into a frog and, if things don’t improve, a worm. The game comes from Nana-On Sha, the same minds behind Parappa and its spin-off Um Jammer Lammy, so it’s no surprise that it’s a bit “out there” in terms of gameplay. Vib-Ribbon is also notable due to the fact that players could put in their own CD’s and play levels to the beat of their favorite songs.
Who knows, maybe we’ll see Vibri show up in Nana-On Sha’s newest project - Rap Rabbit.
Samba De Amiigo (Dreamcast, 1999)
¡Ay, Dios mío! Samba De Amiigo is the only game (to my knowledge) to come bundled with life-like maraca controllers. A musical feat that has only been rivaled by Donkey Konga’s bongo drums. By shaking in the right direction and striking exaggerated poses players can light the world on fire with their spicy Samba skills. After the initial Dreamcast launch, the unconventional rhythm title was revamped and rereleased twice. The latest version, on Wii, didn’t quite connect with the new generation of players and was soon scraping the bottom of the Walmart bargain bin. With advanced motion technology and HD rumble, the Nintendo Switch seems like the best fit for a Samba De Amiigo revival. Shaking joy-cons like maracas just feels so right.
Gitaroo Man (PlayStation 2, 2001)
With great power comes great responsibility. Just ask any dying relative after you’ve acquired superpowers. In the case of Gitaroo Man, main character U-1 discovers he is the last in a long line of legendary guitar-wielding heroes form Planet Gitaroo. Aided by his talking dog companion, U-1 must transform into Gitaroo Man and face off against all those who wish him harm. This oddball music entry was developed by the cult hit factory known as iNiS (who also had a hand in our next game). Players must shred their guitar py pointing the left analog stick in the correct direction while also hitting the proper notes, a combination that can get very tricky in later stages. Though a port of the original Gitaroo Man came to PSP in 2006, the game is strangely unavailable on any PlayStation platforms as a digital download. What’s up with that, Sony?
Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo DS, 2006)
When life’s got you down it can be hard to get back on your feet. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone there to lend a hand and to cheer you up? And wouldn’t it be even better (and way weirder) if they were literally cheering. This is the premise behind Elite Beat Agents, a westernized version of the Japanese series Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. In both Agents and Ouendan players control a squad of life cheerleaders who attempt to help everyday citizens with problems such as studying for a big test, babysitting, and killing zombies... with a gun that shoots peanuts? Sure, why not. The game relies on touch controls, as players must tap, spin, and trace to the beat of each song. This could easily be replicated on the average smart phone, or Nintendo could go “mobile only” with a reboot on the Switch (much like the game VOEZ). Lord knows I need more of this...
in my life.
What rhythm games do you want to see make a comeback? Shout out in the comments below.