Top Five: Unique Rhythm Games

Get in the groove and pump it up with these unique titles.

5. Taiko: Drum Master

Namco’s offering in the rhythm game genre is not only fun, but can allow for some fun and creative performances by the player. The premise is simple: drum on the traditional Taiko drum, to the symbols displayed on a horizontal timeline. Each symbol signals when and how to hit certain parts of the drums, and trickier still, when not to.

Execution is another story. While some of the songs fall into the fun and approachable spectrum, others will challenge you until your hairs go gray. Your goal is to keep your approval meter at a certain level. Do this, and you’ll advance. Rank under, and it’s game over.

The list of tracks on Taiko: Drum Master can vary from Pop, down to Classical and Namco original tracks.

Many iterations of the title exists, all across various platforms including the WiiU, PS2 and even the 3DS and PSP. Obviously, the best possible experience exists at your local arcade, that is, if you still have one of those around.


4. Beatmania

While many credit Dance Dance Revolution as being their first foray into rhythm games, Beatmania was the spark that set the rhythm genre into motion.

Beatmania was conceptualized by Konami to be a “DJ simulator”. Your job is to use the special controller, which mimics a mixer and turntable, to hit certain keys and spin said turntable to the queues displayed on the vertical meter. Just like most games in this genre, you must reach a level of satisfactory, or else your entire attempt falls apart, ending in a game over.

The amount of versions that Beatmania spawned would be too long to list here. Rest assured, it’s one of the most popular games in this genre, specially in Japan, where the arcade iterations alone saw thirteen releases.  Numerous console versions also exist, but at this stage are hard to come by, not because of availability, but rather due to most gamers already moving away from the archaic platforms they exist in (PSX, Wonderswan, GB Color).


3. Samba de Amigo

There’s no denying SEGA did something absolutely right with Samba de Amigo. The theme it revolves around allowed for one of the most diverse soundtracks in the genre.

Much like the games mentioned in this list, the premise remains entirely similar: Shake the maraca controllers in the height and placement the indicators request. You must hold up a passing grade in order for you to continue your set. Failure results in, you guessed it: a game over.

The most notable feature outside of the stellar soundtrack, is the visuals. The samba/Latin American flare is found in every square inch of the presentation. I dare say, the only thing better than playing Samba de Amigo, is watching the amazing display of fun colors and animations when the players are hitting their strides, as well as the gloom that can occur when the opposite is true.

The playlist contains a wide array of genres and artists, from the Gypsy Kings, all the way down to Ricky Martin. SEGA even blessed the production with tracks from Sonic Racing, Jet Grind Radio and Burning Rangers (in Ver. 2000).

While the Wii version may be possible to find, you would be better off going all the way and obtaining Version 2000 on the Dreamcast. It boasts a more complete list of tracks, and using the original maraca controllers will grant you more accuracy when compared to the Wii version (and in rhythm games, accuracy is everything). Keep in mind, the Dreamcast game and maracas combo at this point in time is hard to find, and will demand a pretty deposit from your bank account.


2. DJ Hero

Activision took the Beatmania formula, and made major improvements in gameplay that in the end gave us DJ Hero. Much like it’s source of inspiration, the game forces you to take on a DJ turntable, and scratch your way into approval from the venues you must entertain.

Unlike Beatmania, which focused heavily on the mixer keys, DJ Hero went on another route and focused on channel mixing, scratching methods, note keys (much like it’s inspiration) and rewinding for bonus scores. This gave players a new gameplay approach into what it could potentially feel like to be a DJ, as it meant there was a nice spread mechanics one could challenge themselves with outside of the typical tap/scratch option it’s inspiration offered.

The other glaring difference: the soundtrack. Unlike Beatmania, DJ Hero in a sense had an advantage in this arena due to it’s focus on being able to blend music from extremely popular artists and genres. Scratching to a mix of Queen and the Beasty Boys will make you feel like an international superstar. Top to bottom, the soundtrack and mixes were filled with the heaviest hitters in popular music and culture, easily recognizable not only in Western culture, but all around the world.

Without a doubt, this was an excellent rhythm game, that released at a time in which the community itself was exhausted from the genre (Guitar Hero and Rock Band were on their height of exposure). Because of this, sales were lower than expected, but in no way reflects on the fine work that went behind DJ Hero.


1. Dance Dance Revolution

If she don’t know what DDR is, she’s too young for you, bro.

Dance Dance Revolution may not have been the first kid on the block, but there’s no denying that it it was the dynamite at the end of the fuse which Beatmania sparked. There are so many versions of the title, that it would have another article just to break it all down. To deny it’s overwhelming popularity is the equivalent of denying that fire burns.

From tournaments displaying who can obtain the best grade, down to freestyle presentations, DDR allowed you to play the game with many approaches in mind, as long as you followed the core template of hitting the arrows scrolling vertically, when prompted to. Just like the games mentioned, it’s all about good grades. Obtain a passing grade, and you continue. Fail, and you’re done.

What made Dance Dance Revolution such a unique game in it’s genre is the pure fact that it was totally dependent on your cardiovascular effort. It forced many gamers to not only challenge themselves on a mental spectrum, but also in the physical realm. Just do a Google search, and you’ll come to find out just how many gamers used it as their launching pad to better health choices, be it losing weight, or a strong reinforcement of their cardio work.

Every iteration gave exposed is to fantastic tracks in the J-Pop genre, as well as many brilliant tracks from the Euro scene (Captain Jack comes to mind). The DDR experience simply was not about stepping on arrows. It was a fine example of cultural exchange, and one that the world of gaming heavily embraced.



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