beatmania Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : 6.0
Overall : 8.6
Review by Andy Levine
Current generation consoles are slowly losing their popularity now that the Xbox 360 is on the market and the PS3 and Wii are planned for release later this year. Luckily, some developers out there are still aware that there could be a lot of PS2 owners who won’t be willing to drop $600 on a PS3 right away, so they’re still pumping out innovative titles. With that being said, beatmania for the Playstation 2 has finally made its way to the US after being a hit on Japanese consoles for quite a while now. Best of all, the suggested price tag of $60 includes the full game and the stylish controller, making this DJ simulator a great deal. Whether you’ve been a fan of the arcade version for a long time or you’re just looking to try something new, beatmania on the PS2 can deliver a rewarding experience if you’re willing to put in the time.

Basically, beatmania is a rhythm game in which you need to press the keys or spin the turntable as their corresponding icons on the screen cross the action zone. At the bottom of the screen are both 1P and 2P player models of a beatmania controller with vertical lines going up from every button. Once the music starts playing, the buttons you need to hit will scroll from the top to the bottom, and you’ll need to time everything perfectly if you want a high score. The game has two modes; traditional beatmania and IIDX. The regular beatmania mode, recommended for beginners, only use 3 white keys on the bottom row, two black keys on the top row, and the turntable. The IIDX incorporates two more keys, and although this upgrade seems simple it can actually be a lot harder to follow if you’re just starting out. The notes that scroll down are color coded based on the keys; white notes correspond to white keys, blue notes correspond to black keys, and the lone red note corresponds to the turntable. Occasionaly you can come across the free spin zone where you can rack up points by rapidly spinning the turntable back and forth, which can help you receive an overall ranking in the end. The game’s interface emits an odd purplish glow which seems a little odd, but fortunately there are so many pulsating colors and music videos playing to distract you from the strange color choice. The highest ranking is an AAA, and although this doesn’t mean all of your keys were perfects like in DDR, it still requires a lot of precision to achieve such a ranking.

The only major turnoff about beatmania is its steep learning curve, but if you manage to overcome this you won’t regret it. A few training missions are included to give you the gist of the gameplay, but the only real remedy for being a newbie is practice. Sadly, there is only one difficulty in the beatmania mode, but luckily Konami included charts ranging from ‘easy’ to the godly ‘another’ for the IIDX style. The ‘another’ difficulty originally can’t be selected until you play every song in the game, and even playing that much won’t get you close to prepared if it’s your first time playing. Song difficulties are rated by stars as well, making it easy to find a variety of songs that you should be able to play. In order to pass a song, you need the groove gauge, your health meter, to be over 80% by the end of the song. Several songs have extremely hard finishes, which can be a little frustrating if you lose all of your health at the end and get a game over.

For the more experienced players, there are plenty of gameplay modifiers and expert courses at your disposal. Gameplay modifiers affect a handful of aspects, including the speed of the notes scrolling to the difficulty of the judging meter. The auto scratch modifier automatically spins the turntable if you find it to be a nuisance, while the random modifier will randomly edit the song’s chart. In the expert mode, predetermined courses can be played in a different manner than normal. Here, your groove gauge starts at 100% and can never refill, and your objective is to pass a series of songs before all of your health runs out. In addition, upon completing a full set of songs you’ll receive a code which can be entered into an online database and compare your scores against the best in the world. There are plenty of goodies left for the experienced players in mind, and it’s surprising to see how well the first US release of beatmania turned out.

Easily the most controversial aspect of beatmania is the song list, which you’ll either hate or love depending on your taste in music. Most of the songs fall into a category known as Jpop which consists of fast paced techno-style pieces. Some memorable tunes such as Funkytown and a remix of Britney Spears’ Toxic can also be found. If you miss keys when you’re playing then certain parts of the song won’t play, thus creating the illusion that you are actually creating the music. Veterans of the series will be pleased to see songs titles such as 5.1.1, V, and even 321 Stars, but a few popular songs like Kakumei will probably be found in a future US release. Overall, there are plenty of bass pumping songs inner anime inside of everyone, but if you’ve never been a fan of the whole Japanese music scene then chances are this release won’t change your mind.

Considering that there has never been a US release of beatmania even though Japan has seen at least ten releases by now, Konami managed to make up for the delay by delivering a solid title. You can rest assured knowing that you’ll get the most bang for you buck because the bundle includes a controller and the game, and beatmania can even be played with a standard PS2 controller if you want 2P action without having to purchase another controller. The song list is suiting for people of all difficulties, and as long as you’re willing to take the time to learn to play you’ll find beatmania to be a rewarding and long-lasting game.