Here plays the music

Parappa the Rapper, Gitaroo Man and Elite Beat Agents rock your pocket

Actually, the game was only supposed to be released in Japan, because the setting of the game, which was released in mid-2005 for the Nintendo DS, was very different "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan" seemed too wacky for western tastes. Three male cheerleaders help people in need by dancing to Japanese pop songs. The player taps the touchpad with the stylus and tries to hit colored dots in the right rhythm. The songs are accompanied by colorful anime-style video clips on the top screen.

This is where the music plays

Three cheerleaders from Elite Beat Agents dance their troubles away on the Nintendo DS

At the end of 2006 a version adapted to western tastes was released. The dancers became Elite Beat Agents, three dancing agents somewhere between Men in Black, Blues Brothers and the Village People. The Japanese songs, unknown in this country, were exchanged for Western mainstream rock pop. The sound is no longer Tomoyasu Hotei, Asian Kung-Fu Generation or L’Arc-en-Ciel, but well-known songs by David Bowie (Let’s Dance), Madonna (Material Girl) or Chicago (You’re the Inspiration), along with party hits like Jumping Jack Flash, Village Peoples’ Y.M.C.A. or Rock this Town by the Stray Cats. The kitschy charm of the original has been lost.

Because of the cultural closeness to America, Nintendo has now decided to publish the US version in Europe as well, only the on-screen lyrics have been Germanized. Unfortunately, the muddy, distorted sound quality has also remained. To squeeze the total of 19 songs on the memory card, they were compressed too much. It’s not noticeable with the DS’s internal speakers, but if you put on a headset recommended by the game, the distorted, muffled sound becomes inaudible. In favor of the sound quality one should have rather renounced some songs, particularly since no original recordings are used, but all songs are sung after.

The fact that Elite Beat Agents is still a blast to play is due to the wacky characters and the well-tuned difficulty level, which increases cautiously. Each song is divided into individual verses, in which one must achieve a minimum score to advance. The high score varies depending on how accurately one hits a note and how long the passages played without error are.

For those who prefer Japanese pop, the two Japanese pieces released so far are "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan" and "Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2" recommended, which also run on German DS consoles and are easy to use despite the Japanese characters. On a scale of 1 to 10, Elite Beat Agents scores 7 and the two Japanese Ouendan titles each score 8.

Narrow Gauge Rapper

With much less music Parappa the Rapper The main satisfaction of the game, which Sony has just re-released for the Playstation Portable. Graphics and music selection are unchanged from the ten year old Playstation original, which unfortunately means that only six rap songs are included. Certainly, the songs were composed and recorded especially for the game and have an irresistible charm with their droll paper figures in comic design. Parappa takes turns rapping with a kung fu instructor (Kick, punch, chop, block), arguing with his driving instructor (When I say boom, boom, boom! You say bam, bam, bam!) and grooves to the cool ragga muffin at the flea market (In the rain or in the snow, Got the got the funky flow).

Here the music plays

With only six songs and a zero-tolerance approach to the beat, Parappa the Rapper has lost his mojo

Parappa could be a good mood game through and through, if it weren’t for the incomprehensibly high level of difficulty. Not that the sequences of triangle, circle, square and X keys to be replayed were particularly fast or complex. However, you have to hit every note with the precision of a drum machine, which is rarely possible with the not very precise PSP keys. So it can happen that, although a verse was acoustically accurately rapped, the rating abruptly drops from "Good" at "Awful" and the auditioner stops the song. Unlike Elite Beat Agents, the player does not get much feedback about his mistakes and there is no differentiated scoring system for full and half marks. The freestyle raps, where you vary the given rhythms, are more likely to fail than to get additional bonus points.

Sony could have done all this better, since in the second part, which was released for the Playstation 2, they had already lowered the necessary accuracy and given beginners the opportunity to try all the songs on the easy level. In part one, however, many will get stuck with the first three.

Even though there are some song variations available for download online, Parappa offers too little game for the money, especially since Sony charges an absurd 41**Euro for the UMD. (4)

Space Lord Motherfucker

PSP owners are therefore recommended another musical gem, which I recently rediscovered at THQ as a budget title for 20 euros. I am talking about Gitaroo Man Lives. The PS2 original from 2002 was applauded by the critics, but attracted only a few gamers in front of the screen. For many, therefore, the story and the songs may be new, although, as with Parappa, it is an almost unchanged remake.

The involuntary hero of the game is a little boy whose dog Puma one day gives him a space guitar, which transforms him into Gitaroo-Man and saves his rough love Kirah, who has been kidnapped by evil aliens who want to steal the space guitar and use it to subjugate the entire universe.

This is where the music plays

Gitaroo-Man saves the PSP from musical irrelevance with spacey guitar solos

This trashy plot is accompanied by some of the finest music composed for a music game. The Japanese band COIL quotes from all current styles. The selection ranges from heavy metal to dub reggae, drum and bass to a skeleton trio playing a xylophone. Even an acoustic campfire-balade and a guitar duel with a trumpet-blowing funk-bee is part of it.

Although Gitaroo Man only comes with ten songs, due to the more complex gameplay, you’ll be busy with them for much longer than with Parappa’s raps. The songs usually consist of three phases: In the first, you have to fill up your energy bar by following a line with the analog stick, which changes its direction depending on the pitch of the note. At the same time, you have to enter the rhythm with the circle key. This is followed by a battle mode with the opponent, to whom you inflict damage with the right notes or, in the third phase, fend off his attacks by pressing the circle, tricks, square or X key. Especially here Gitaroo-Man demands an almost inhuman thumb acrobatics from the player in the later pieces, so that you are very happy when you save your energy bar through the finish. At times, one would wish for a training mode like in Guitar Hero 2.

As a full price title Gitaroo Man was a bit weak on the chest, but at a budget price the game can be recommended to anyone who is interested in music games in general and Japanese game concepts in particular. (8)

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