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Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Harmonix
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Rhythm/ Party/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
The menu system in Beatmania is very reminiscent of other rhythm games, such as Dance Dance Revolution - or even Karaoke Revolution. There is a song list that you spin around to find the song you wish to select. As you look at the song list, you can also change the difficulty level. Some songs have versions at different difficulty settings, while some don't. Since there are some songs that are exclusive to a difficulty level, you'll want to look at the song lists carefully at each difficulty level, so you don't overlook any songs.

In game, there are two parts to the graphics - the UI part, and the background. A video for the song you're performing plays in the background and the UI part sits on top of it. The video is Full Motion Video that was made for the song, but it is not necessarily the actual music video for the song.

The in-game user interface takes the form of a series of columns that represent the different keys on the Beatmania DJ controller. One column is larger than the others, and that represents the scratch pad. When playing, the notes that are on the white keys show up as white dots and the notes that are played on the black keys show up as black dots.

And... the music. Beatmania is all about DJ remixes and club music. Some of the songs include: Attack the Music, Celebration, Do You Love Me?, Funkytown, La Bossanova de Fabienne, Lift Me Up, Metal Gear Solid Main Theme, Toxic, Virtual Insanity, You Really Got Me, Colors (radio edit), In My Eyes, Nemesis, Spin the Disc, The Cube and The Way You Move, among others. The song selections span the genres of Techno, Techno Pop, Ballad, Rave, Electronica, Soul, Jazz Electro, Hip Hop, Ska, R&B, Jungle, Warp House, Italo House, Trance, NRG, Disco and even 80's Revival. If you've wanted to try your hand at DJ'ing, there's a song in here for you.

Your scoring is based on playing the correct key when the dot crosses over a row at the bottom that indicates that the note should be played. Time it correctly and you'll get a "Perfect". Time it poorly and you'll get something less. You want to get as many Perfects as possible, to raise your rating. Making high ratings lets you continue playing. Getting lower scores will end your game.

One cool aspect of Beatmania is that your performance actually affects the music. You can hear if you're doing well or not. Also, if you play in Freestyle mode, you can try some more artistic expression and play the song with an arrangement of your own design. This works because the keys play specific samples that work with the song. These samples change at different points in the song so that the keys play the sounds that the developers want for a specific part of the song, but playing the note whenever you want will play whatever sound is currently assigned to that key when you press it.

I am a pianist. I play for fun, not for profit, but I have taken 5 years of lessons. The only reason I stopped taking lessons was that it seemed that the lessons simply served as a reason to practice more than anything else. In addition to the technical lessons I have taken, I can play by ear. This really is a separate ability all its own - I've known people who can play from sheet music very well, but can't pick out music very well at all.

I say that to say this - I was really surprised to find Beatmania as difficult as it is. That's not necessarily a bad thing - it just means there's a challenge, but I do feel that my familiarity with the piano gives me an edge in Beatmania, so anyone who has never played keys before might find the learning curve a bit overwhelming. In fact, this difficulty makes Beatmania somewhat less approachable, restricting it to more of a niche market.

Actually, I found the 7-key mode to be easier than the 5-key mode. This may have something to do with my familiarity with playing piano, but I found that when I tried playing with just 5 keys, I would end up getting my hand positioning off while playing and I would wind up playing the wrong keys.

Game Mechanics:
The Beatmania controller is a large part of playing Beatmania. The game allows you to play against someone using a standard PS2 controller, but I would advise against it. If you want to play with others, either take turns or - better yet - get a second Beatmania controller.

Konami has a history of making fun and successful rhythm games that can be a hit at an arcade or in your living room at your next party. Their Karaoke Revolution series has become a prominent fixture at parties that my wife and I attend - whether they have it there or we bring it with us. Beatmania doesn't have the same widespread and easily approachable appeal that Karaoke Revolution does - Beatmania takes more hand to eye coordination, dexterity and requires some familiarity with keyboards, or at least simple music theory. If you love rhythm games and you have some skillz on the keys (or would like to develop some), you should definitely check this one out.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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