Gitaroo Man

released on Jun 21, 2001
by iNiS



Gitaroo Man is a rhythm video game featuring visual production by Mitsuru Nakamura and an original soundtrack by Japanese band COIL.

The game was later ported to the PSP under a new title: Gitaroo Man Lives!

Released on


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unfortunately will have to try to pick this up again at a later date, was already falling in love with its vibes and gameplay, all the characters are incredibly charming and expressive and the way it actually works is completely unlike any other rhythm game i've played. but much like parappa the rapper, this game cannot work on a modern display due to overbearing input lag, found myself missing on so many notes that should have been hits just because i wasn't playing on original hardware on a CRT, so hopefully i can find this for less than like $100

I honestly don't get the hype around this? It was a cute little rhythm game, but all the aspects I heard people hyping up just didn't do it for me. I definitely agree with the graphics being nice and (most) the soundtrack being good. But the story was pretty cheesy and generic, the most unique gameplay element is the line tracing, and the game itself wasn't difficult. This is ignoring master mode, which from my first attempt at level 1 definitely seems like it would be a challenge, and I might go back to give it another shot in the future.
Overall, a fun way to spend an hour or two, but nothing that blew me away.

Despite my repeated assertions that I don't "get" music and that I have all the rhythm of a boulder, I again tried to play an early 2000s rhythm game. See, my good pal Larry Davis holds Gitaroo Man in pretty high regard (we met in a penal colony and have matching prison tattoos of Puma), but I've never given it much thought. That is until I picked up a PS2 and realized I could finally play this - and other games like Parappa the Rapper 2 - without emulation-induced input lag.
However, even with lag out of the equation, Gitaroo Man is an incredibly precise game that is built for more talented people than I. Following "trace lines" while tapping buttons to the beat of the song just doesn't come easy to me, and some of the late game tracks (the Sanbone Trio in particular) are challenging regardless of my own personal shortcomings. I spent a whole afternoon trying to clear that stage, and although I was too weak to clear the subsequent fight against Gregorio, I still consider this an accomplishment.
To cut myself a little slack here, I don't think all of this is on me. There are some large and very abrupt difficulty spikes that will trip up new players, even those who are more experienced with early-aughts rhythm games. I was also playing with a third-party controller that came with my PS2, and I can't pretend to know if the dead zone on the analog stick is any different from a first party pad, though the game is good about locking you onto a trace line roughly 20 degrees relative to where it appears. Still, anytime it twisted around I found myself struggling to keep the analog aligned. I feel like I need to play this game with one of those robots used for micro-surgery...
Which is why I called in a ringer. A Gitaroo Man surrogate. Larry Davis was kind enough to stream the game for me over Discord, allowing me to see everything past Gregorio III, and witness what it looks like to play Gitaroo Man competently. Did you know if you actually hit all the notes you can hear a full song? Crazy, I know!
Leaning back and watching someone else play did at least give me a better appreciation for what Gitaroo Man is going for tonally and narratively. The acoustic Legendary Theme U-1 plays for Kirah is much better when U-1 doesn't immediately start hitting every note out of time like he's never held a guitar in his entire life, and it was nice being able to drink in all the action happening behind the trace line. However, I do feel I missed out somewhat by not being able to experience the penultimate battle with Kirah, during which the Legendary Theme is reprised to a very effective degree. I am glad I at least got to see the rest of Gitaroo Man, though, and being able to see the final fight against Zowie was all the proof I ever needed that I am physically incapable of finishing the game. Lary is a wizard on the X's and O's and was able to do it on a freaking emulator. They say God gave him a gift, but I think he made a deal with the Devil...
Gitaroo Man is delightful. The music is great, it's aesthetics are beyond charming, its story has a lot of heart, and the gameplay is fun as hell despite some uneven difficulty pacing. If you aren't lame and actually know your way around a beat and did not previously suffer from tendonitis that you are still experiencing the longterm effects of, then I think you should give it a shot.
Shelved because I do see myself messing around with it some more in the future, but I also do not expect to ever beat it. That's fine. I can just play the tutorial over and over and pretend I'm a real Gitaroo Man. Got a B rank on that. Pretty impressive!

When you are having trouble it's the most disheartening thing in the world. Then you hit a power solo and Develop a god complex. the directional input takes a lot of getting used to but I'll be dammed if it isn't rewarding.

I don't get it.
Gitaroo Man is okay. Those are the strongest feelings I can muster towards it.
I'm left grasping at what people actually like so much about this for it to have the reputation that it does. I've heard a lot about the story, and the gameplay, and the music, and I'm wondering what it is here that connected with others and didn't with me. It's as if we've all played different games. What I've seen isn't worth much celebration, but that hasn't stopped the party from raging on without me involved. I'm lost. What is it about Gitaroo Man that I've missed?
The gameplay is finicky. Timing windows feel just a little out of sync no matter how much I fiddle with the delay. The Dualshock 2 analog stick was not designed for the precise movements that the game implies you're meant to be doing. Every whammy bar sequence where the line wobbles actually fails if you try to wobble along with it; you just keep holding the stick down through the middle of the the line, and the game automatically compensates and wiggles it for you. The Charge/Attack/Final sequences are an interesting touch, but all they are in effect is the ability to prematurely end a song if you play it well enough. It's still an engaging and difficult enough loop to justify playing through all ten stages, but it's not something that impressed me.
I feel as though any piece of Japanese media with a child character in it will immediately have a legion of fans who give it acclaim as "a story about growing up", even if that doesn't apply in the slightest. I don't mean to vaguepost about any reviewers here — Lord knows I probably am anyway, but I've very purposefully avoided reading anyone else's words on Backloggd about this — but everything I've seen elsewhere online is full of people who can't stop insisting that it's about maturity, or the joy of being a child, or whatever. I don't see it. A loser kid gets powers and goes on an adventure where he comes back a little cooler. You couldn't have a more basic Saturday morning framework if you tried, and this one is as simplistic and boring as a wall painted beige. Gitaroo Man gets unduly hailed as one of the most moving stories in video games solely for the reason that there are two good songs planted right at the end of it.
The soundtrack is...fine, mostly? The Legendary Theme fucking rocks, as does Resurrection, but there are some pulls on here that are just mediocre. Twisted Reality, Born to be Bone, and VOID are the especially goofy-sounding songs. Flyin' to Your Heart has the double dishonor of being the worst track here and being the longest by three entire minutes. If we're being honest, the last two songs in the game are good enough to justify the existence of the entire soundtrack, but they're pulling a lot of weight.
And that's it. There isn't anything left to talk about, and there isn't anything here that I've loved. I don't know. I get the distinct feeling of being stupid. Of missing out. But I really just don't see what everyone else sees in Gitaroo Man. I'm disappointed, but it's probably my own fault. Maybe I just had unrealistic expectations. Everyone else got a pleasant surprise, and I created an unattainable standard in the wake of its reception.
I wish I'd gotten the same experience as everyone who loved this.