Gitaroo Man is a rhythm beat matching videogame which is played through the standard use of a PlayStation 2 controller and is developed by Japanese company iNiS. Players will be tasked to attack enemies and defend themselves using the power of the music and the legendary guitar, the Gitaroo.
The story tells a tale of the underdog as the player will join U-1, a young boy who is seen as a loser and geeky and dismissed from popular society. However his life is turned upside down as his talking dog Puma suddenly reveals the news that he is from the Gitaroo bloodline, which gives him the gift to wield the Legendary Gitaroo, a guitar that is capable of playing and defeating evil with the power of music. He is tasked by Puma and the residents of Planet Gitaroo to save the planet by uplifting it from the evil Gravillian Empire.
Art of the game is provided by Mitsuru Nakamura, who is a famous Japanese illustrator and poet. He is also known as 326, which he is credited under in the game. Music of the game is all original to the title and is provided largely by Japanese band COIL, but other artists such as Chinese band YUAN also contribute to the soundtrack. The soundtrack is hugely varied, covering a large amount of genres from Eurobeat to Reggae.
The game combines the more traditional beatmatching style of rhythm play with a trail following mechanic. As U-1, players are tasked to do battle against opponents with a sort of fighting game mechanic, as both the player and the enemy have life bars which replenish and diminish depending on the players ability. There are five different stages of gameplay during each stage, which will change the mechanic in play. These are -
Charge: During charge the player follows a trail coming towards the center of the screen with the analog stick and moves the analog stick accordingly. The player will also be tasked to beatmatch with the circle button as the trail moves with button prompts. As they match the beat successfully, U-1 will effectively charge his health bar. This mode is often seen at the start of the stage.
Attack: Similar to Charge mode but instead of gaining life U-1 will be attacking your enemy, so every beat matched will inflict damage on your opponent. If a note is missed, U-1 will lose life.
Guard: Changes up the mechanic of the game, as U-1 must guard himself against an attack by his opponent. Button prompts will appear and the player must hit the button prompts as the prompts hit the center of the axis in beat to the music.
Harmony: This is the same as the attack section, but are no defend sections in between.
End: Signals the outro of the song, as U-1 is finally defeating his enemy section. The player cannot lose during this section.
Each stage is scored according to how well the player does, ranking how well the player hits the beat in time to the music and how much misses the player occurs. The ranking goes from E Rank to S Rank, with each rank unlocking a new collectable item in the Collection mode.
After the game is beaten the game once Master Mode is unlocked, which is tougher mode of the story that complicates the arrangements of the songs as well as adding remixes.
There is also a two player versus mode in which one player can take the role of Gitaroo Man and the other can play as one of the bosses against a friend or the computer. In this mode the player can select playable characters that they have met in the single player campaign.
All music in the game is all original to the game, with most songs being performed by the Japanese rock band, COIL. However, there are expections.
Soft Machine / COIL (Pop Rock)
Boogie for an Afternoon / Tomohiro Harada (Synth)
Twisted Reality / COIL (Rock)
Flyin' to your Heart / YUAN feat. a-li (J-Pop)
Bee Jam Blues / COIL (Blues)
VOID / Tomohiro Harada (Hip-Hop)
Nuff Respect / COIL feat. NAHKI (Reggae)
Legendary Theme Acoustic Version / COIL (Folk)
Born to be Bone / Tomohiro Harada & Steve Eto (Latin Guitar)
Tainted Lovers / Tomohiro Harada (Metal)
Overpass / Tomohiro Harada (Rock)
Legendary Theme Album Version / COIL (Rock)
Resurrection / COIL (Metal)
21st Century Boy (Ending Theme) / COIL (Alternative)
Warning: This section contains major plot spoilers.
The story begins with a young elementary school boy called U-1 who slams into his bedroom with frustration, skateboard in hand. Puma, his talking dog, is kicking back watching television when he notices U-1's anger. Taking notice of the skateboard, Puma realizes that U-1 has most likely been out trying to impress his love interest, Pico and once again has failed miserably. Puma tells him that he can rectify this situation by practising how to play guitar and throws him a tennis racket, using it as a pretend guitar to practice with his band, the Animarru much to U-1's dismay, who believes that Pico will only be impressed with people that can skateboard.
After the practice session the guitar axe wielding demon, Panpeus levitates himself into U-1's bedroom who comes to cause mischief. U-1 is afraid, but however it is found that Puma possesses magical abilities and transforms U-1 into a mythical alterego called 'Gitaroo Man'. Puma also transforms into a boom-box speaking dog - the Puma AC-30. Using the skills he has just learnt during the practice session, they together both do battle against Panpeus.
After defeating Panpeus, U-1 gains a Gitaroo to his guitar. However, U-1 takes uninterest in the events that have just transpired, and wishes to only impress Pico. The next day however, he embarrasses himself in public by trying to ride a trolley and losing control of it. He is tripped off the trolley by no other then Kazuya, a young and talented boy who is around the same age as U-1. He is also a talented skateboarder, and can outclass U-1 in every single way. Pico runs up to the two after witnessing the event and asks if U-1 is okay, but is quickly dragged off by Kazuya who tells Pico not to waste time with the loser that is U-1. Pico tells Kazuya that U-1 told her that he is a "great" skateboarder, but Kazuya dismisses it knowing the truth as they both walk away leaving U-1 flat on the floor.
U-1's heart is very much broken as he lies crying in the middle of town center. Before long more danger reaches U-1, as an unknown force approaches the skies of the town. Citizens of the town are initally confused as they do not know what the force is, mistaking it for such things such as a plane, a bird and a hamburger before they realize it's a series of UFO's. The main leader of the UFO's is named Flying-O, and fights U-1 and the townsfolk with his minions with the objective to wreck havok downtown.
After defeating Flying-O and his minions, U-1 and Puma find themselves in the forest after taking hold of Flying-O and defeating it in the skies. Meanwhile, watching U-1 and Puma is an disguised individual is a mysterious figure who has plans to retrieve the final Gitaroo that he has been searching for generations. He asks his minions in hand to dispatch Mojo King Bee, a smooth talking reggae sax playing bee to go defeat U-1. Back in the forest, Puma tries to convince U-1 to collect all the Gitaroo's, telling him the news that he is from the Gitaroo bloodline and that if he can collect them all, he will gain great powers. However U-1 does not care, with his mind set on how to impress Pico and win her affection. Before long however, they are attacked by Mojo King Bee.
After the battle, Puma suddenly transmits a message through his eyes a hologram. The message is from a old man named Elder Miranda, who tells U-1 that only the Gitaroo Man can save them from imprisonment from Planet Gitaroo from the force named the Gravillian Empire. U-1 is reluctant but however as he ponders, Puma has found a plane and they fly off to Planet Gitaroo. Along the way, they are ambushed by a space shark named Ben-K, who tries to eat the ship. They escape from the space-warp that the shark is chasing them in, and land on a planet. However, Ben-K has also warped himself out and also lands on the planet, in where U-1 and Puma regain the ability to warp into their alter-ego's to do battle with Ben-K. Together, they transform themselves as well as the ship to do battle in space against Ben-K.
After defeating Ben-K, U-1 gains another Gitaroo to his guitar. Suddenly, a small mechanical ship appears transmitting a video to U-1 and Puma. It is found that the message is from the disguised individual from earlier, but we see he strongly resembles Kazuya. He demands U-1 to give the final Gitaroo back to him, but U-1 refuses to hand it over. The disguised individual reveals that he is the leader of the Gravillian empire, Zowie, and that he will find U-1 and defeat him and that he does not stand a chance, not "in a hundred million years."
U-1 and Puma make their way to Planet Gitaroo before crash landing. He finds himself crashed along the shore of Planet Gitaroo, in where he sees a figure similar to Pico walking along the shore. U-1 is in shock and meekly asks if it's Pico to this figure. The figure claims her name is Kirah. Kirah sits down with U-1, and asks who Pico is, in which U-1 replies that "she is just an old flame." Kirah sighs and envies that he can love someone, expressing that love is something she can only hope for. When questioned by U-1 on why she cannot, she tells him not to worry, and tells him that she just went out to look at the moon and heard him playing the guitar. She tells him that he is good at the guitar, and that once she tried to play the guitar but could not play as well as him. He then plays for her a theme abstractly called 'The Legendary Theme' by the campfire as they sit by a tree, as she falls asleep on his shoulder.
U-1 wakes up the next morning to find himself alone. Shouting for help, he falls into a trapdoor. Here he finds where Elder Miranda and the prisoners of Planet Gitaroo are locked and finds the guards Sanbone Trio as well as Zowie, who believes he has finally caught U-1 as he has dognapped Puma on this crane-like device above the prison. He commands the Sanbone Trio to attack U-1 and to finish him off once and for all. Unarmed without the power of the Gitaroo, Puma advises him just to keep on dodging the attacks, in which a laser shot by one of the Sanbone Trio hits the crane, releasing Puma. U-1 and Puma then regain the ability to transform once more and defeat the Sanbone Trio. They release the prisoners of Planet Gitaroo, and Elder Miranda tells U-1 of the location of the other two Gitaroo's, and that Zowie can be found at Gitaroo Arena. The two heroes then head to the menacing tower ahead which leads to the arena, with the chants from the residents of Planet Gitaroo chanting "only two more left!"
Along the way he will fight and defeat Gregorio Siegfried Wilhelm III in a chapel to gain the second to last Gitaroo.
U-1 and Puma finally reach Gitaroo Arena, in where he is greeted by Zowie. Zowie exclaims that he has no chance, and that he will have to face Gravillian's finest warrior who has been since birth bred to be the mightest warrior before facing him. The grand reveal shows that the mighty warrior is no other then Kirah. U-1 refuses to fight her, and for the first strand of the fight allows her to attack him freely. When knocked down and ready for the final finishing blow by Kirah, he exclaims loudly that he will not fight her because she is not the real enemy, but claims the real enemy is Zowie. He then plays the theme he played when they first met, The Legendary Theme. As U-1 plays this theme she initially tries to attack him but cannot inflict any damage due to the sheer power and passion of the theme, and then begins to realize that he is correct. She then voluntary gives up her Gitaroo which completes U-1 Gitaroo guitar.
Zowie is furious about the turn of events and challenges U-1 directly, turning into an alter-ego version of himself. Blessed with the power of the Gitaroo, U-1 turns into an ultimate version of himself and take the battle up to the skies and above Planet Gitaroo which leads to the eventual defeat of Zowie.
U-1 then falls from the sky straight into Puma's plane in which Puma jets off straight back to U-1's home, in which U-1 objects too as they fly off as he wants to see Kirah and Miranda. From the distance Kirah and Miranda watch from Gitaroo Arena, who see the plane jet off like a star. Miranda is estatic that he defeated Zowie, while tears fall slowly from Kirah's eyes as she says... "Gitaroo Man."
Back at home, U-1 bumps into Pico who has taken a interest in where he has gone for a large proportion of summer. Kazuya bumps in, telling U-1 that he is starting to get on his nerves. U-1 however has had enough of Kazuya, and pulls a strumming guitar hand gesture which catches both of them off-guard in awe. U-1 takes Pico's hand, and they both run off to the distance leaving Kazuya.
Related Media and Trivia
Gitaroo Man received a sort of cult-following by many fans. A PlayStation Portable re-release was issued by the name of Gitaroo Man Lives!, which adds new modes, songs, a new co-op mode and alterations to the overall game. Most notably is that songs that feature vocals are all now in English in the PSP release.
Due to being published in Japan by KOEI, the name U-1 features as a unrelated non-playable bodyguard in the title, Dynasty Warriors 4. Respectively in another KOEI title, Puma in his AC-30 state is seen as a trinket on one of the game's characters, Zhuge Liang in Kessen II.
The band that supports U-1 is often not referenced by any characters or even named in the game, but are named the Animarru. The name deviated from a fan poll, where fans were asked by the developers what they wanted the band name to be, the term selected due to the word's simplicity in Japanese as well as a pun in the Japanese language in reference to their animal suits.