Bust-a-groove was released in 1998 for the PlayStation, following the music game successes of games such as Beatmania and Parappa. In Japan, the series is known under the name Bust A Move, however, in the United States, by that time, the Bust A Move name was already trademarked for use by Taito's popular Puzzle Bobble series. While Bust A Move was developed by Enix prior to its merger with Square Soft, in the United States, the domestication was handled by Sony's defunct 989 Studios. Enix continued the series for two more entries beyond Bust A Groove, with the third, which is one of the final games published by Enix prior to the aforementioned Square merger, never being released outside of Japan. The series features various colorful characters who must do battle through dance to a variety of music genres, which reflect the personality of the character associated to the stage.
The game involves pressing various button combinations in time to the music to outperform your opponent and win the competition. Each measure of the song is broken into four beats and players must enter directional commands without being tied to the song's timing, but the move is executed by pressing the indicated onscreen button on exactly beat four of the measure. Each dancer also has a unique special move which can be used twice per song by pressing triangle on the fourth beat of a measure to throw your opponent off and temporarily stun them for a few measures. However, once an attack is launched, the opponent can dodge the attack by pressing square on the fourth beat of the measure. A character's dance moves are broken up into levels (indicated by an on-screen gauge) and by choosing more difficult commands, players can level up faster, opening up more impressive and higher-scoring dance moves. At certain points of a dance string, a player is given two choices of commands, the top branch leading to easier, but lower-scoring commands, and the top branch leading to more complex and higher-scoring commands. Dance moves are strung together until the player reaches a pre-determined pose move after five combos. After five dance moves, the player can still execute three levels of moves depending on their current dance level, labeled with the terms (from lowest to highest) "COOL", "CHILLIN'" and "FREEZE." After a successful pose input, dance commands won't appear for one measure, after which the player begins a new dance string.
A majority of the song length is spent with both players freely following this format but at predetermined sections of each song are solo segments where players execute two to four measures of commands individually with unique moves (each character has one hidden solo string that awards massive points). During solos, players are not able to attack each other, however, if a player is hit by an attack just before entering a solo, they can potentially miss one or two measures of inputs. Each successful dance move awards a number of points to the player and the player with the highest score at the end of the song is the winner (draws are also possible). While no points indicator is displayed onscreen, the camera scrolls toward the character with the highest score and if a player is seriously crushing the opponent, the camera focuses solely on their player with the opponent being completely ignored and off camera. Much like the background reflections of performance seen in Parappa, at certain point intervals, crazy events begin triggering in the backgrounds and if the winning player reaches a set point total, a "Fever Time" animation is triggered where the winning character does a victory solo dance. While the series never reached the popularity of games such as Parappa or DanceDanceRevolution, it has a very dedicated cult following and is known for its competitive nature.
The most noted highlight of the series lies in its diverse cast of wacky characters, each of which favors and exemplifies a particular genre of music. With the characters comes a surprisingly deep catalog of back stories that brings each character to the competition. Bust A Groove isn't merely a standard dance tournament, but, instead, the winner of the tournament challenges Robo-Z, a 50-foot robot skilled in dance that houses an energy known as Groovetron. If Robo-Z is defeated, the winner is granted the powers of Groovetron and obtaining this power is the motivation that drives the characters to enter the tournament. Upon clearing the game, the player is treated to a short CGI movie which details the aftermath of the tournament and how the character chooses to use this power.
Bust A Groove features three game modes - an arcade-style single player mode, a two-player versus mode and a training mode. The single-player mode pits your chosen character against the roster of selectable characters with special battles in the middle and end of the mode. The "mid-boss" is a pair of aliens skilled in the dance/martial art of Capoeria, while the final boss is the already detailed Robo-Z. Through extended game play, players can unlock both of these bosses, as well as two other mascot characters. After beating the game with a character, the player may also enter a dance view mode where every dance animation the character uses in-game can be viewed.
| Heat was a former professional race car driver, but this all ended after a serious accident. Upon recovering, he realized he could now control the element of fire and isn't afraid to use it during dance battles. Heat's stage is an abandoned warehouse surrounded by flames. By accumulating enough points during the stage, the windows begin breaking and the intensity of the flames increase. Heat is dressed in a flame-embroidered jump suit and dances with b-boy flair. When attacking, Heat assumes a "Dragon Ball Z power-up"-type pose, channeling a burst of fire, which is launched into the air and down on top of the opponent. His stage's song is entitled "2 Bad," a fast-tempoed breakbeat song with male rapping lyrics describing Heat's superior dancing. Most people tend to not be able to understand the female sample, "Straight up!," repeated through most of the song. Heat seeks the power of Groovetron in order to get his career back on track and strengthen his control of fire.|
| Frida is an artist who embraces hip-hop and urban culture. She dances with a pop-lock style and is looking to take first place in the tournament and absorb Groovetron in order to bring her art to life. Frida's stage is a seaside shack where she resides and practices her craft of painting. Frida has blue hair, camo pants and an orange shirt and attacks by painting a picture of a wolf, which then attacks the opponent. Her stage's song is Sora to Umi to Niji no Yume ("Dream of Sky, Sea and Rainbows"), a hip-hop style song featuring female Japanese vocals and a short chorus of male rapping.|
| "The Natural Playboy" Hiro-kun is the embodiment of John Travolta, straight out of Saturday Night Fever. Hiro is totally obsessed with himself and is billed as a ladies' man, however, he oddly passes the time in between Saturdays, fixed in front of his computer. By entering the tournament, Hiro hopes to use the power of Groovetron to bring on an endless Saturday. Hiro dresses in a white leisure suit and dances with a '70's disco style at the local disco, Dance Fashion. When Hiro wants to get dirty, he attacks by flinging a glossy photo of himself at the opponent. Performing well on the stage will trigger a number of lights and stage effects on the dance floor. The stage's song, "Natural Playboy" further reflects Hiro's narcissism as it is essentially a song about how great he is.|
| While Gas-O is an extremely disturbed child who is said to have put an axe straight into his father's head, he is actually an extremely intellectual scientific prodigy. He is constantly seen protected inside of a biohazard suit and gas mask and he curiously sports a metal tank through which a mysterious gas flows and is emitted through pipes emitting from his shoulders. No one knows what Gas-O is up to as he aims to win the contest and use Groovetron for his newest "experiment" - a brand new gas to pump through his respiration system. Gas-O prefers to dance from the comfort of his own laboratory where players can see his experiment tank in the background. Through point accumulation, the experiment will begin to steam and pulsate as it seemingly loses stability. When Gas-O feels the need to attack his opponent, he punches in a quick command on a remote, causing a tank of mysterious green liquid to trap the opponent. His stage's song "Chemical Love" is an upbeat house track with female vocals and brief male rapping, depicting Gas-O's odd love of chemicals. Similar to heat, Gas-O has a unique style of break dancing. |
| Hamm was once a slim, trim dancing machine, however, with age, he packed on a number of pounds. With a love for hamburgers, he inhabits the local Burger Dog joint for his fix of the food. Fortunately, Hamm hasn't lost a step along the way, and he's looking to use the power of Groovetron to shave off his extra weight. Sporting a T-shirt, shorts and a stylish goatee, Hamm jams with an Detroit-type urban street style. During the competition, Hamm uses the local Burger Dog joint as his home location and by earning enough points, the Burger Dog mascot himself celebrates by showering the location with food. The stage's theme is "I Luv Hamburgers," a rap song similar to many popular '90s rap tracks, which details Hamm's love of hamburgers in a humorous way. Hamm attacks other dancers by summoning a gigantic hamburger that crushes the opponent.|
| Kelly is a rather strange woman with an odd love of costume playing and in Bust A Groove, she is grossly infatuated with infantile matter, going as far as dressing in a blue body suit typical of those babies wear while in their crib. To make matters even more odd, Kelly has to continually hide her hobby from her daytime employer and is aiming to find a love interest who isn't detoured by her natural curiosities. While she has a very baby-like appearance, this attractive blonde secretary dances in a very seductive manner. Her dance environment is tailored to her infantile fixation and after accumulating enough points, the stage will begin to spin and the bottle in the middle of the stage will start erupting milk. Kelly's stage theme "Transform" is a slow-tempoed ballad with both female and male locals detailing Kelly's search for true love. When she needs to go on the offensive, Kelly attacks with energy stored in the bottle she carries while dancing.|
| Kitty Nakajima is more affectionately known as Kitty-N, star of the mega-hit television show Litterbox Warriors 5 (Love Love Senshi Miracle 5 in the Japanese version). Seemingly, for Kitty-N, however, being a television star isn't enough - she aims to use the power of Groovetron to become the biggest star in the entire world. Kitty-N's "home" location is a private dance studio situated toward the top of a city skyscraper and she is rarely seen outside of her glamorous, white cat suit. As players amass points on this stage, the cat graphic in the background will begin emitting laser from its eyes and snow will fall from the ceiling. She dances in a very aerobic/gymnastic style along to her song "Bust A Groove," a high-energy pop tune with female vocals and male vocal samples. When she needs to trip up her opponent, she uses energy in the form of hearts to overtake her rival.|
| Perhaps the game's most versatile character, Pinky Diamond has such diverse talents as being a showgirl, a fortune teller and a contract killer. Pinky seeks the power of Groovetron in order to pump up her powers of the supernatural, seemingly for evil purposes. As a showgirl, Pinky naturally dances in a showgirl/diva manner at her Vegas-style dance stage, which features a projected image of a pyramid in the background. As points are accumulated in the stage, the pyramid begins pulsating and a laser light show intensifies. Pinky's sense of style also goes in hand with her professions as she sports short, pink hair and skimpy pink shorts and top. Her theme music "I Know" emulates a '70s diva track with female vocals with male rap samples and details her fortune teller prowess and when a dance battle gets heated, Pinky will toss out a cursed tarot card at her opponent.|
|Shorty is a very young girl who is growing bored of her spoiled life provided to her by her famous parents. Sporting blue overalls and a long-sleeved striped shirt, Shorty's best friend, Columbo the E-Z Mouse, accompanies her on her dancing escapades and when the player achieves a "FEVER" pose, Columbo will actually jump out of her pocket and dance by her side. Looking for some excitement, Shorty joins in on tournament, using the local carnival as her home turf. If the player scores high enough, the dancers will be showered with candy that begins flowing through the stage. The stage's theme "Shorty and the E-Z Mouse" is a pop-styled tune with female vocals detailing how Shorty wants to enjoy her youth and be free of responsibility. She has spent large amounts of time practicing dance with Columbo so she can hold her own in competition, but when things get out of control, Shorty can attack by dropping a large piece of candy on her rival.|
| While Strike's past is a bit of a mystery, it's very apparent Strike isn't on the same side as the law. As an incarcerated prisoner, Strike has formed a dance team with fellow cellmates and has enough confidence in his dancing to enter the tournament to use Groovetron as means for freedom and power to continue his illegal ways. His dancing venue is the state pen and has dancers performing down a line of cells on a metal grate. As dancers accumulate points, eventually, the prison will glow with an evil red light and steam will flow through the floor. As a gangster, Strike dances with a very rough style of hip-hop/pop-locking along to his theme "Power," a hard rap track featuring male vocals. When Strike wants to put a stop to his rival's dancing, he pulls out firearms and sprays a line of bullets at his opponent.|
|Halfway through the game's arcade mode, the player will be sucked up into Capoeira's UFO stage, where they will take part in a battle against two silver aliens named Kiki and Lala who move in unison with dance/martial art of Capoeira (most famously portrayed in videos games through Eddie, Tiger and Christie in Namco-Bandai's Tekken series). Apparently, the duo are members of the alien race who produced the dance energy known as Groovetron. The pair dances to a reggae-style track titled "Capoeira" with female vocals and through satisfactory performance, the UFO's windows will open up revealing the sky. If Capoeira needs to gain some ground on their rival, they can summon a wall of energy to take down the opponent for a short time. When players complete arcade mode on the normal difficulty for the first time, they can then select Capoeira as a playable character.|
| Robo-Z is the mysterious champion of the Groovetron tournament and houses the energy of Groovetron within its body. When encountered as a final boss, Robo-Z stands at 50 feet tall and players will have to compete with him via the rooftop of a city skyscraper. The only way for the competitors to obtain the powerful dance energy is by destroying Robo-Z, however, Robo-Z himself is a very accomplished dancer and can emit shockwaves to take down a rival for a few measures. The final battle of the tournament takes place right in the heart of the city with Robo-Z standing in the middle of an intersection and if the player can amass enough points, large lines of traffic will start going out of control and crashing at the feet of Robo-Z. The arcade mode's conclusion pumps out a high energy tech song titled "Flyin' to Your Soul," which features female vocals and electronic voice samples. When players complete arcade mode on the hard difficulty for the first time, they can then select Robo-Z as a playable character. When chosen as a player character, Robo-Z is reduced to the size of a normal character.|
"Secret Mascot Characters"
| Burger Dog is the mascot which runs the restaurant of the same name. When players complete arcade mode on the normal or hard difficulty while using Hamm for their character, they can then select Burger Dog as a playable character. Burger Dog shares the same moves and stage as Hamm, but since he lacks a few appendages, his dancing appears a bit floaty and quite humorous.|
| Columbo is the name of the E-Z Mouse, which is Shorty's best friend and dancing companion. When players complete arcade mode on the normal or hard difficulty while using Shorty for their character, they can then select Columbo as a playable character. Columbo shares the same moves and stage as Columbo, but when chosen as a character, he increases in size to match the other characters.|
The Japanese release of Bust a Move saw two different packages - the standalone game and a two-disc set which featured movies that unlocked with a Bust a Move save file as players met certain requirements. One of the videos showcased a number of Bust A Move creation features including artist interviews and a live-action recreation of the game while the others previewed other games being published by Enix in Japan.
A number of the songs were re-recorded to feature English lyrics in Bust A Groove. However, if a player switches the vocals option toggle to "off," they can play an instrumental version of the original Japanese recording for Kitty N's stage, "Blue Knife," and by running the game disc through certain media programs, you can find a few more of the original Japanese recordings. Not only were the songs re-recorded, but a few of the hip-hop style songs already in English received some heavy content edits. Hamm's song has edits which remove trademarked fast food restaurant names as well as racial slurs and Strike's song "Power" had alcohol references removed from it.
Further adding to the in-game content censoring, Hiro-kun smokes a cigarette and Strike drinks from a flask instead of a soda can while preparing for a dance in the Japanese version. Also, the skin tone of the character Hamm was altered in the U.S. version to avoid racial stereotyping (his original model had black skin with pronounced lips).
The male sample heard in "I Know," Pinky's theme, is familiar to many Bemani fans as it is heard in the Konami original track "Put Your Faith in Me," found in games such as DanceDanceRevolution, Beatmania IIDX and more.
The first Bust A Groove title actually spawned an officially arcade cabinet port. While it's extremely hard to find now, the cabinet featured a stand-up design for two players where directional commands were entered via four buttons on the panel and the move execution button being mapped to a foot pedal at the bottom of the machine.
- Blue Knife (Start G Move Mix)
- 2 Bad (Heat's Song)
- Transform (Kelly's Song)
- Performed by: Atsuko Yamaoka
- I Luv Hamburgers (Hamm's Song)
- Performed by: RAVEMAN Feat. Terry T and Sweet Jodi
- Uwasa No Kapoera (Capoera's Song)
- Performed by: Rui Tsurumizu
- Chemical Love (Gas-O's Song)
- Performed by: Kaleb James
- Sora To Umi To Niji No Yume (Frida's Song)
- Performed by: Akiko Sugawara
- Fly'n To Your Soul (Robo-Z's Song)
- Performed by: US-TOM Feat. Donna
- The Natural Playboy (Hiro's Song)
- Performed by: Kaleb James
- Waratte Pon (Shorty's Song)
- I Know (Pinky's Song)
- Performed by: Donyale Fredericks
- Power (Strike's Song)
- Performed by: Terry T & Sweet Jodi
- Aosora No Knife (Kitty-N's Song)
- Performed by: Hatasumi Morinaga