■ publisher: Inis ■ Year: 2001
The PS2 is home to a number of underrated music games, and Gitaroo Man happens to be one of our favourites. U-1 (a Japanese pun for Yuichi) is a loser schoolboy who is transformed into the heroic Gitaroo Man after being gifted a Gitaroo by the talking dog Puma. His job is to fend off a variety of enemies in musical battles using the Gitaroo.
Battles have a few steps. Firstly, there’s a charge phase, in which you build your life bar. This involves following a directional track with the left analogue stick, and pressing a button in time to the on-screen prompts. Then, in the battle proper, you’ll use this process to attack, and defend yourself by hitting the four main controller buttons as icons fly from the edge of the screen to the centre. You’ll alternate between these attack and defence phases until either U-1 or his opponent is defeated.
While the in-game action is well designed, it’s the music you play to and the story that unfolds that you’ll remember. The soundtrack from the Japanese duo COIL is excellent, and the game’s signature track The Legendary Theme deserves to be mentioned in any conversation about the greatest music in videogames – particularly the brilliant acoustic version, which plays during a sentimental stage in the middle of the game.
Gitaroo Man didn’t sell very well originally, and the current going rate is £15. This price is already starting to creep up as the game gains popularity via word of mouth, despite the existence of a much cheaper PSP conversion. Thankfully, the developer lived on to give us Osu! Tatake! Ouendan/elite Beat Agents and the popular Lips series of Xbox 360 karaoke games.
[PS2] Spinal Tap would have loved lightning-shooting guitars. Thank the gods nobody let the group have any.
[PS2] Best level in any music game ever? Maybe – it definitely runs Parappa’s toilet stage close.