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The History of Music Games

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan - DS Japan 2005
Elite Beat Agents - DS North America 2006
Ouendan 2 - DS Japan 2007

Here’s a game funkier than thou. Each level of Ouendan/EBA consists of a dire situation - presented on the DS’s top screen - which a cheer squad must dance to in order to resolve the dilemma. Using the stylus, players tap specific hit markers to the beat (and in sequential order) to rack up points. It’s tough, quick and “Canned Heat” is a complete bitch to play.

Electroplankton - DS Japan 2005, North America 2006
Another entity from media artist Toshio Iwai that’s neither game nor creation tool, Electroplankton enables you to experiment with a selection of notes and tones. There are a number of different modes, all played differently. The real shocker is there’s no way to save your work, partly because of technical limitations. You’d need some computer setup to record your output. Good luck finding a cheap used copy. It’s been criminally out of print for two years.

Guitar Hero - PS2 2005
Guitar Hero II - PS2 2006, Xbox 360 2007
Encore: Rocks the 80s - PS2 2007
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock - PS2/PS3/360/Wii/PC 2007

You’ve heard about this little number, yah? Play songs using plastic guitar controllers - with five fret buttons and a strum bar - to achieve ultimate rock god status. GH has skyrocketed into the culturalsphere as the ultimate party game and has been featured in other media, notably in an episode of South Park.

The first three entries - including Rock the 80s expansion - featured mostly cover versions of popular songs - yet, arguably the sudden rise of popularity ensured future releases had playable masters. Here’s where things get tricky. In 2006, Activision bought RedOctane (creators of the guitar controllers) and MTV bought Harmonix - meaning Neversoft (under the Activision banner and known for the Tony Hawk games) would develop all future releases of Guitar Hero. While Harmonix created Rock Band, Neversoft put out Legends of Rock and will continue with Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and World Tour - the official fourth entry.

Rhythm Tengoku - GBA Japan 2006
From the wacky developers of WarioWare, comes this oddity where you perform actions in sync with the rhythm of a song to create a beat with the background music. For example, the first stage features a guy in a karate gi punching to random objects thrown at him. Essentially you’d hit the action button to punch on each quarter note. Additional zany minigames follow. Recommended for anyone who digs WarioWare, strange art aesthetics... and music.

Hiite Utaeru DS Guitar M-06 - DS Japan 2006
Jam Sessions - DS North America 2007

Replacing the actual activity of learning how to play the guitar is Jam Sessions, a guitar sim for the DS. The basic gist is that each direction on the d-pad represents a chord that you hold while strumming the touch screen. Tutorial modes assist you in learning how to play actual songs like “Yellow” and “What’s Going On?” You can even output to an amp if you feel like taking your one man band on the road.

Def Jam Icon - PS3/360 North America 2007
From EA Chicago (Fight Night Round 3) comes this hip hop treat where artists fight each other to the beat of the background music. During each brawl, the backgrounds bounce with flair, while foreground hazards like gas tanks explode on each bass hit. You can also deal more damage if you’re attacksare on the beat of the song as well. However, the gameplay was deemed sluggish and inconsistent. And sadly, low sales factored into the dissolution of EA Chicago. Shame.