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Dec. 11 2006
Gitaroo Man Lives! - PSP Review
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The main character U-1.
Gitaroo Man, originally released on the PS2 back in 2002, was a game that somehow managed to slip beneath the radar even with all the critics going crazy over it. It seems an odd move that Koei have decided to re-release this zany title on the PSP, but it was one we were happy about the moment we started to look into the game. Purposely not reading anything about it, just seeing a few screenshots, we went into Gitaroo Man Lives! with next to no prior knowledge of what to expect. What we got was an amazingly bizarre experience that is definitely unique to this title, and we should start with this comment: Upon receiving Gitaroo Man Lives! for the PSP we played, and finished, it in one sitting. That should tell you two things about the game. 1 Ė Its insanely addictive, and 2 Ė itís unfortunately quite short, but more on that later.

Players will start the game as U-1, a pathetic loser who is the kid who everyone makes fun of. He has no friends, he gets picked on, he is too nervous and shy to talk to the girl he likes, and the only person who seems to give him the time of day is his talking dog Puma. However, when Puma gives U-1 a strange mystical instrument, the Gitaroo, he is transformed into Gitaroo Man, the prophesized savoir of planet Gitaroo, which is being over-run by Gravillian ruler, Zowie. Zowie is hell-bent on getting all the Gitaroos and taking over the universe, but the people of Gitaroo arenít going to give in that easily, summoning you to come and take on Zowie, and save the Universe.

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One of the many battles.
After some very anime-inspired cut-scenes, players will get their first taste of what itís like to be a universal super-hero with the Gitaroo. Puma runs you through the basics of the rhythm-based gameplay. Basically there are 3 segments to each battle, a charge, a battle and the final. Charges are areas where you play (by pressing and holding O at the right moments while also following the Ďtrace lineí with the analogue stick) to build up your power gauge (basically like a health bar). Once these are completed there is the Battle section. In these you are fighting with your opponent to not only keep your power gauge as full as possible, but also to lower theirs. It alternates, having both the same style play as the charge (with the difference that you have to get it right just to keep your power and damage your opponents) and another style where you guard.

Guarding is fairly simple, at first, but provides the biggest challenge in later levels. Basically symbols will come towards the centre of the screen from any one of four directions. The symbols represent which action button you are to press (X, O, Square, and Triangle). These button-presses must be timed accurately, and as early as the 4th level, most players will be having some trouble getting these down-pat. Finally, there is the Final section of the battle. This is basically the finishing move, where players must, once again, press and hold O at the right moments to diminish the opponentís power. A mistake will cost you your own power, and being that this is at the end of the stage, it can become very intense here. Again, these get massively difficult in later levels.

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More colourful graphics.
Thatís basically all there is to the gameplay. There are variations on the order of charge, battle and final, and many times you will do all but the final several times in each song. One very nice touch is that if you stuff up the pressing of O, or donít get the direction right, or jut completely miss the note, you will actually not play the note, meaning that the song sounds wrong if you donít do it. This helps add to immersion where a lot of other rhythm-based games would just continue the song as-normal. For each button press you do you get a rating of either Miss, Ok, Good or Great, and at the end of each stage you get a ranking. These are used to unlock certain items, though this is fairly useless as the majority of them are just information about certain things, such as characters, etc.

Also included with this delightfully insane game is a couple of two player ad-hoc modes. You have the choice of a Duet, where you both play together, or Vs, where you play against each other. Unfortunately no game sharing is supported, and you cannot play online, so you will need to be lucky enough to find another person with the game, but this is still a welcome addition.

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The guarding section.
Gitaroo Man Lives! is insanely addictive. As previously mentioned, we finished it in one sitting because we simply couldn't put it down! Unfortunately this also brings the biggest problem with the title to the surface. It is incredibly short, with our total game time being less than 6 hours. In total there are only 11 stages and a tutorial. That being said, there is a decent amount of replay value here, as upon completing the normal difficulty (to begin with there is only easy and normal) you unlock the master difficulty, which knocks the game up a notch (BAMM!). If you werenít almost throwing your PSP against the wall on normal, this is the thing that will cause you to! It is, simply put, INSANE! What this does mean is that there are 11 stages, each with 3 variations. So if you were to start with easy, then normal, finally working your way up to master, you would be able to play 33 stages (plus a tutorial). Not too shabby, though more stages would still be a good idea!

The only other big issue that the game has is its load times, which are quite lengthy, often up to a minute for each level, but even though this has taken itís toll on my final rating of the game, I canít say I ever got annoyed with them, almost being grateful they were there, giving my fingers a chance to rest before the next battle.

Even from the opening cut-scene, it is obvious that Gitaroo Man Lives! draws very heavy influences from anime and manga. The style is a zany bizarre one that makes it very clear this game comes from Japan, but it suits the game to a tee. While levels are going on the animations and effects in the background are amazing, and there is an option, upon completion of a level, to watch a replay, which means that you can concentrate on getting the button-presses right then watch it after, which I highly recommend you do. It is quite frankly a beautiful title and looks amazing on the PSPís nicely-sized LCD. Character models also are suitably varied and detailed, and some of the enemy characters are about as far-out looking as you can imagine. Simply put, Gitaroo Man Lives! looks wonderful!

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Go on, go buy this game now!
Thankfully, the audio is also perfectly suited to the game. Voice acting is very high quality and the voices are also very heavily influenced by anime. But really, the heart and soul of this release lies in the music, and with 12 stage-based tracks, all of varying styles and sounds, this is actually the strongest aspect of the game. There is just about every variety from slow ballads, to crazy dance tracks, through to a few hard rock/metal songs. Each is about as zany as the game itself, but none are annoying or a chore to hear over and over as you fail the level each time (and believe me, you will fail!). Gitaroo Man Lives! is a very, very, enjoyable audio title. While the PSP speakers do a wonderful job, we highly recommend plugging this one into some nice big speakers with a sub-woofer to get the most out of it!

Youíre still reading? Obviously I havenít talked you into running out to your nearest store and buying it yet. If thatís the case, then I really havenít conveyed just how enjoyable this game is! Itís really hard not to give Gitaroo Man Lives! a much higher score, because it really is a lot of fun, but certain things do have to bring it down a little. The load times are fairly long, and it is fairly short. On top of this, there is very little changed since the PS2 release, but being that was not a very big release, very few people will have actually played it. On the up side, it is a beautiful looking and sounding game, with insanely addictive gameplay. The difficulties should have been renamed to normal, hard and master, instead of easy, normal, master, but this is one that we definitely suggest you pick up. And with a low price-tag of only $49.95 (RRP AU), whatís stopping you?! Hereís to hoping for a longer sequel soon! Long live Gitaroo Man!

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
GRAPHICSAnime inspired through and through. Watch the replays and you will see some amazing effects! Nice character models. What can I say, it looks great!
SOUNDCrazy soundtrack that fits the game perfectly and high quality voice-acting, again heavily anime influenced. Turn the speakers right up!
GAMEPLAYLoad times are fairly massive, and the game is hard, but there are few titles that match the addictive and fun factors of this game.
VALUEItís short, and those who played the PS2 release probably wonít get much more, but itís also cheap!
OVERALLThis has been one of the best games Iíve gotten to review for the PSP, and all I can say is I hope this spurs a sequel with twice as much content in it! A magnificent release.

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