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  • Rhythm Games: Simplicity and Mass Appeal

    - Marie Ferrer
  •  Defined by the combination of catchy musical beats and quick simplistic controls, the rhythm game can be described as ridiculously fun and addicting or extremely frustrating and mundane. Although the rhythm game may not appeal to everyone, one thing's for sure, its mass appeal reaches a wide audience and grows with each new game. Guitar Hero, Elite Beat Agents, and earlier games like Space Channel 5 and Dance Dance Revolution are just a few of the games in this popular genre. And whether it's the difference in music, or a change in controls, all rhythm games share a common formula that makes them irresistible.

    Music and Games

    You can't have a rhythm game without music. Music is an essential component of a rhythm based game, just as rhythm is an essential element of music. Music is also something that can be enjoyed by gamer and non-gamer alike because it is a form of entertainment that is socially acceptable. No one ever questions your love of music, they may question your taste in music but asking why you love music would seem out of place. Whenever we hear a song being played, it makes us feel something. A rhythm game allows the player to interact with the music. Doing well in a game of this genre relies heavily on a player's ability to keep in time with a rhythm. Non-gamers don't have to feel like they are just engaging in a video game; instead, they experience something new and intriguing. This is also why the appeal of rhythm games spans a wide audience.

    How well a rhythm game is received, can also depend on what type of music is featured in the game. The rhythm game genre combines original Japanese titles with American versions that are, in most cases, derivatives of the Japanese releases. There is a big difference in popularity for rhythm games in North America versus those in Japan. The rhythm game genre seems to be more widely accepted in Japan and this can be seen by the number of import games that exist. Whether an original title or one updated to fit the North American audience, the type of music featured varies for each type of rhythm game.


    Rocker-Centric Guitar Hero 2

    In Konami's Dance Dance Revolution series, which can be cited as one of the first rhythm games, players stomp on arrow keys on a dance pad following the directions that scroll by on screen. A player's accuracy of the button presses are judged with points being awarded for staying on target. Konami took a risk when it released D.D.R. years ago in the arcades. It has since gained significant popularity with the release of different versions on a variety of home consoles. D.D.R. has also been seen on television and in movies so often that it has become part of pop culture. Dance Dance Revolution offers many different musical tracks ranging from J-pop and techno to rock. With each new version introduced, the song list grows and now totals over 1,000 tracks.

    Guitar Freaks, a sort-of precursor to the popular Guitar Hero, and DrumMania (also known as Percussion Freaks in some countries) was also released by Konami around the same time. Guitar Freaks uses a guitar controller while DrumMania is played using a controller designed to resemble a drum set, complete with the foot pedal. Both games can be linked during a session between 2-3 players for a loud but impressive performance. And for an even more extravagant performance, KeyboardMania also by Konami which uses a 24-key keyboard can be added to the session. The music found in these games varies with each version but consists largely of J-Pop with famous Japanese covers and rock music.

    Red Octane took the formula of Guitar Freaks and expanded upon it to create Guitar Hero. The extremely popular Guitar Hero comes with a newly designed guitar controller but similar game play to Guitar Freaks. Guitar Hero has a few versions on the Playstation 2 and is now also available on the Xbox 360. In the game, rock and roll is the music of choice. Songs like Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine" and Wolfmother's "Woman" make players feel like a rock star rocking out on their guitar.


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