Back in the early days of the PlayStation 2, the popularity of rhythm games in the US was on the rise thanks to Konami's quick 'n dirty ports of their Dance Dance Revolution titles. This was before the likes of Karaoke Revolution or Guitar Hero; when everyone was dipping their toes in the musical waters. It was then that Koei released its charming and bizarre music game, Gitaroo-Man. Now those who missed this little gem a few years back (which is probably most of you) have another chance to experience the rock.
You are U-1, loveable loser and secretly the last of the Gitaroo Men, a race of musical Power Rangers (you got a better analogy?) charged with saving Planet Gitaroo using nothing but your guitar and the help of your dog. Over 10 stages you'll battle the forces of evil - such as UFOs, a man in a bee costume, a space-faring shark and so on - by performing songs and dodging musical attacks.
The game's soundtrack is superb. While the songs aren't anything you'll hear on the radio, they're charming and catchy, and they range from hard rock and jazz to classical. And as a bonus, Gitaroo-Man's PSP outing includes two completely new songs, though you have to play in one of the new multiplayer modes to access them.
This PS2 port is pretty spot on. All the levels and songs feel right, and the control setup is identical, right down to the slight auto-aiming of the analog aiming system. Basically, you alternate between guiding your cursor along a snaky, winding trail and tapping the buttons as they zoom into the center of the screen. The auto-aim is especially nice to have now that we're trying to rock using the PSP's awful analog nub rather than a DualShock 2 controller.
One complaint, though, is the issue created with the PSP's widescreen format. The buttons you need to press while dodging come from all four sides of the screen, but because the screen is so squat, it's hard to prepare for the icons floating from the top and bottom of the playing field. Considering how fast Gitaroo-Man's songs get near the end of the game, this can be downright frustrating. You'll find yourself just mashing the buttons during the final few levels; hoping for the best.
A bigger complaint is the game's price tag. Koei wants you to part with 40 bucks for a remake of a four-year old game that you can probably find in your local budget bin. It's hard to justify the cost with only two new songs and a couple of multiplayer modes, especially if this isn't funding a full-blown sequel.
Don't misunderstand. Gitaroo-Man Lives! is a fun - if entirely too short - music game with loads of personality and great tunes. It's just overpriced.