Music games are huge right now. Whether it’s that sweaty, three hundred pound guy in wife-beater shuffling his feet like lightning to DDR, or that five year old who can play Dragonforce on expert in Guitar Hero, the “rhythm genre" is big business right now, and it only looks to be getting bigger. But what about those music games that AREN’T the aforementioned three heavyweight franchises and can’t afford to have commercials with Heidi Klum gyrating in her underwear? What about THOSE games? Well, here are some other music games that you may or may not have heard of over the past few years. Brace yourself, one of them is a Sega CD masterpiece. And by masterpiece, I mean, a pile of emu dung sugar.
Gitaroo Man has a pretty simple control scheme: all you pretty much do is direct the analog stick along to the melody coming at you on the screen. It’s the strange storyline that manages to land this game in obscurity-ville with other titles like Ico and Beyond Good and Evil, which were great games that were too niche and artsy for their own darn good. No matter, Guitaroo Man was popular enough that a PSP version port, called Gitaroo Man Lives, was released, so if you didn’t get to play it then, you can play it now, and you really should, because it’s quirky enough to be put up there with Katamari Demacy. The story consists of you being the last legendary guitar player of a planet called Gitaroo. Whatever. All that matters is that the gameplay is addictive, and the music is fun and buoyant. What else do you want from a music game? A plastic guitar that comes with the game? Pfft, you’re asking too much!
A music game with CLASSICAL music? What was Eidos thinking? Still, Mad Maestro! (And by the way, you can probably find it at your local supermarket, as that’s where I found it), is a really fun experience unlike any other music game of its time, which is probably why it failed. Today, Elite Beat Agents isn’t too different when it comes to erratic controls that go along with the music, but in its time, MANY people found Mad Maestro’s! controls to be too confusing and off-putting, since you had to put emphasis on just HOW hard you moved the stick around, as well as focus on the overall melody of the song. You get used to it after awhile, but I understand why it wasn’t a runaway hit. Hopefully, this video below will clue you in to the brilliance of Mad Maestro!. Or not.
Get On Da Mic
Hip-hop gets the shaft when it comes to music games, and I’m pretty sure I know why. To cater to a larger audience, companies sort of have to stray away from that M rating when it comes to music related games, because quite frankly, if they’re selling a peripheral that comes with it, they don’t want to have a title that only a 17 and older crowd can purchase — they want parents picking those games up on Christmas! And that’s why Get On Da Mic fails, even though it actually has a pretty impressive track listing, mostly consisting of classics from the likes of 2Pac, Snoop, and Biggy. The songs are watered down, though to get that teen rating, so anybody expecting to say “bitch,” this, or “ho,” that, is going to be sorely disappointed. For a game relying SOLELY on lyrics, it kind of hurts to sing the squeaky clean, kid tested, mother approved version of “Hypnotize.” And plus, it’s really just karaoke with Sir Mix-A-Lot, so yeah. Get On Da Mic really sucks. No diggity, no doubt.
Samba De Amigo
Sega was really onto something with those maracas. Without a doubt, the original Samba De Amigo (let’s please not talk about the Wii version), was as energetic as you were willing to make it. The game could quite simply not be played sitting down. The rhythm was thunderous, the graphics were colorful, and the music was infectious. Also, the controls were flawless (at least for the Dreamcast version) and the pose feature, which is where you pose in the direction they present on the screen, is a fun little addition, too. Find this game, play it, and enjoy life now! This game is the naz!
Donkey Konga makes your palms hurt until you realize that all you really need to do is tap the side of the respective bongo to get it to register your hit. After that, Donkey Konga kind of loses its luster, but it’s still a great game all the same. Basically, it is what it sounds like—you play a bongo peripheral while the music streams on by. Unfortunately, the track listing is less than stellar, but it’s fun while it lasts. It was definitely inspired, I’ll give it that.
Space Channel 5
Why is Michael Jackson in this game? Because it’s the dancing-est, space age-ingest (And yeah, I said it, space age-ingest) game ever made, and it was more fun than you could ever imagine from mere still shots of it. Really, though, all it was was Simon Says, as the game would tell you where to move, and you would follow its commands. Tthe results were stunningly fun, though and the better you got at it, the faster it went, and the more advanced the motions got. What was the story line? Please don’t ask me such things. It had something to do with a reporter in a mini skirt named Ulala blasting aliens or something like that. But the music was upbeat and stellar, and there was never a dull moment. There are rumors that a new one may be getting made in the not too distant future. But for the time being, watch this clip of Michael being Michael.
While not even really a game at all, KORG DS-10 set itself apart by allowing you to make real music on it. To do so, though, you REALLY need to be patient, as it’s not for the faint of heart who simply want to pick it up and play. The instructions for this one are thick, as they’re based off of the rudimentary commands of a KORG synthesizer, planted down in your DS. Using the stylus to manage through the various interfaces, you switch through the screens and tweak the beat to your liking. It takes some getting used to, but I made a few tracks that weren’t cringe worthy within the span of three hours or so. It’s not for everybody, and I’m shocked it was even made, but KORG DS-10 has its weight in gold if you’re honestly and truthfully passionate about making music.
Okay, you got me, Lumines isn’t a music game, it’s really a regal puzzler in which music plays a part. But WHAT a large part it plays, as the game wouldn’t be nearly as enthralling without that pumping dance music rocking through the speakers as you match the two colors with each other to make a perfect square of a like color. I am VERY much in love with Lumines and put it up there with Tetris when it comes to puzzlers, and DDR when it comes to music. It’s the best of BOTH worlds. Go out and find a copy at this very instant. You will be dazzled, to the nth degree, no less. To the nth, the nth!
Um Jammer Lammy
The follow-up to Parappa the Rapper that nobody cared about, Um Jammer Lammy is a guitar-based game, with you pressing the buttons along with the notes that come along on the screen. The thing I remember most about this game though was that it was SO much harder to play than Parappa, which you could just pick up and play. UmJammer Lammy was a real hit or miss experience, but one definitely worth checking out if you liked Parappa. Just try to find it though. Go ahead, because it’s impossible.
Make My Video
If you want proof that God was a Nintendo fan back in the Sega/Nintendo wars, look no further than the Make My Video series, which was SO bad, that I’m pretty sure it put Sega back ten years. It's probably why they lost in the console wars. Full motion videos were all the rage with the infamous Sega CD (Whoooooa, Sewer Shark), but this batch of four—featuring Marky Mark, INXS, C+C Music Factory, and Kriss Kross—was the absolute lowest you could get. I can’t even DESCRIBE how bad these games are, but this guy can. Watch both videos. So true, so true.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.