reviews\ Apr 10, 2006 at 8:00 pm

beatmania - PS2 - Review

I actually have a little history with Beatmania, going back to the summer of 2000. I was in Japan for a couple weeks, and a friend and I saw this interesting game in the arcade. Instead of a joystick, five keys were set up like a fragmented keyboard, and to the side lay a turntable. We had to try it, and immediately we fell in love. Why had this game not made it to America? It was great!

Well, here we are, almost six years later and Konami has finally released it for American Playstation 2 owners. It feels like I’ve been reunited with a long-lost sibling. Beatmania has been around for years, with multiple releases on the original Playstation and Playstation 2. It’s been a popular title among importers, and now the American audience gets a shot.

Beatmania is a lot like the rhythm games we’ve had here in America. If you’ve played DDR, Amplitude, Guitar Hero, Donkey Konga, or any other music game you already know how Beatmania is played. Little bars fall down the screen above the note they correspond to. The point is to hit the correct button as the bar reaches the bottom of the screen. It’s all about timing, rhythm, and reflexes.

The biggest difference between Beatmania and other games of its kind is the controller used to play. Beatmania uses seven keys, laid out to somewhat resemble a keyboard or beat machine, and a turntable. With a total of eight keys, Beatmania uses the most buttons out of any rhythm game in America. If that isn’t enough for you, you can use a second controller and play in double mode, making a total of 16 keys to keep track of. I’ve tried it, and it is nuts.

You can play Beatmania with a Dual Shock, but it’s not recommended and makes the game more difficult than it already is. Luckily a controller is packaged with the game. Also, if you don’t like your turntable on the left side, you can eject the section with the buttons and flip it so that your turntable is on the right.

Beatmania has plenty of game modes to play in. The main mode is Game mode, and until you’ve played each song once you’ll primarily play this mode. I say that because each song you play in Game mode shows up in Free mode. Game mode ends after you’ve played three songs or after failing a song - whichever comes first. Also, when starting Game mode not all the songs are available. You can only play the songs up to a certain difficulty. When you complete a song from that list, more songs are added to choose from. Then for your third and final song the whole list is available. In Free mode every song you’ve played in Game mode is available for play. So once you’ve played them all in Game mode, you’ll most likely spend all your time here.

There is also a Practice mode, where new players can learn the basic concepts of Beatmania, a Training mode, and Expert mode. Training is for perfecting a certain song. You can choose a specific section of the song you want to practice, as well as slow it down to learn where the notes are. Expert mode groups songs into a playlist that you play all at once. Expert mode can even save your scores to be posted on the Internet if you have a network adapter and internet connection.

Whenever you select a mode, you’ll be asked if you want to play in 5- or 7-key mode. Selecting 5-key mode takes you to the old classic Beatmania song list, and all the songs use only five of the seven keys. This is a nice place to start, but the song selection is limited and the songs are some of the worse the game has to offer. I personally don’t recommend spending too much time in 5-key mode, but it is a good place to learn. The song selection in 7-key mode is more varied, and the music is better all together.

Beatmania also has tons of options to alter each song and spice things up a bit. In 7-key mode only you can change the difficulty from Beginner, to Normal, or to Hyper. This isn’t available in 5-key mode since there’s only one difficulty setting. Another 7-key only setting is the “5 Keys” setting. This setting eliminates two of the keys, making 7-key mode like 5-key mode. The settings in both 5- and 7-key modes include Auto Scratch (which eliminates the turntable notes), Hi-Speed, Hidden/Sudden, Random/Mirror, and Easy/Challenge.

Some of the settings really help get used to the game. Hi-Speed especially helps if you’re having trouble with a song. You would think that speeding up the song would make it more difficult, when it actually helps by spreading the notes out more making them a little easier to read. Hi-Speed has four settings, so you can speed it up just a little or have the notes flying off the screen.

The soundtrack in Beatmania is mostly electronic music. When you get a game where the controller is a beat machine and turntable you should expect to play electronic music, just like you’d expect to play guitar music on Guitar Hero. The nice thing is that while the soundtrack is mostly electronica, it’s still extremely varied. Just about every subgenre of electronic music is represented. Trance, house, psytrance, hip-hop, trip-hop, ambient, and many more are featured. There are even some songs borrowed from DDR and a remix of the Metal Gear Solid theme.

Beatmania is definitely the hardest rhythm game we’ve got in America. Part of the reason is that it’s hard to get used to the controller at first. Where do you put your hands? Do you use both or just one? You just have to try different things and come up with what’s most comfortable to you. The fact that Beatmania is so hard just means it has a lot more replay value and room to improve, making it one of the most entertaining and rewarding rhythm games out there. Unfortunately for some the difficulty will be discouraging. All I can say is give Beatmania a chance, especially if you like music games or electronic music, because chances are you’ll like it.          

Review Scoring Details for Beatmania

Gameplay: 8.0
The learning curve is steep, but once you get used to the controller Beatmania becomes just as addicting as any other rhythm game. The difficulty adds a lot of replay value, plus there’s no way to duplicate the feeling you get once you can play those tough songs that looked impossible before.

Graphics: 7.0
Beatmania ignores all the fluff and gets straight to the point. The videos that play with the music aren’t too impressive, but you don’t even see them when you actually play. The menus are easy to read and navigate, but other than that there isn’t much flare.

Sound: 8.5
Since Beatmania is based on a beat machine and turntable controller, you can expect the soundtrack to be primarily techno. With that expectation in mind, the soundtrack sports a lot of variety. There are a lot of good songs, but of course there are some pretty bad ones in there as well.

Difficulty: Hard
Beatmania is not a game for beginners to the rhythm genre. Beginners can play it, but most likely won’t enjoy it without practice. Gamers with some music game experience under their belt should get a hang of it quicker, but will still have trouble early on. Having to follow 8 separate notes can be pretty overwhelming at first.

Concept: 7.5 
Since Beatmania has been out in Japan for years, this is pretty late to finally bring it out in America. Konami only used about half the disc capacity, too, so hopefully that means we’ll get some sequels. Other than that, Beatmania has a great design, and with rhythm games becoming more popular here it’s nice to have a new one.

Multiplayer: 8.4
Beatmania’s multiplayer is a lot of fun. Instead of having both players playing the same notes, each player is assigned different notes to the song so you make the complete song together (which is a really cool feeling).

Overall: 8.0
Beatmania is a great rhythm game, but it’s not intended for a wide audience. I don’t think too many gamers will have the patience to get better and enjoy the harder songs. Patient gamers will get a lot out of Beatmania, though, and anyone willing to give it some time will really enjoy it. I know I did.

Great

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