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Video Game / Gitadora

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In 1999, Konami, who had cemented themselves as masters of the arcade Rhythm Game with beatmania and the recently released Popn Music and DanceDanceRevolution, decided to expand their horizons into games that didn't just involve hip-hop and dance. It began with GuitarFreaks; a game that involved playing a relatively simplified rendition of a guitar by holding down one or more of the three buttons on its neck (colored in red, green, and blue) and using a switch at the bottom to "strum" it. Konami knew what they were doing so much, that with the release of GuitarFreaks 2nd Mix later that summer, they also introduced a companion series known as DrumMania (which was Exactly What It Says on the Tin, having to use a five-piece set of drum pads attached to the cabinet as instructed). The two games could also be linked for multiplayer in an arrangement they called "session play".

Much like other BEMANI franchises, the series uses a soundtrack with a mixture of original music by Konami's in-house artists, along with songs from J-rock acts and U.S. or European rock bands (the latter occurs infrequently in recent versions, but was more common in the early era). In 2010, Konami pulled a IIDX and introduced an upgraded version of the franchises known as XG; which brought revamped cabinets with a more powerful sound system, high definition screens, and redesigned instruments (specifically, the guitar now has five buttons, sustains and an effector pedal, and the drumset got two additional drum pads, double bass pedals, and a raised stage platform)

In its homeland of Japan (which is, as usual, the only place you'll really find plenty of it), you'll rarely find matching versions of the two games separated from each other. In fact, when new versions come out, they now come out at the same time, the Play Station versions always compiled the two games together, and the Portmanteau Series Nickname Gitadora (ギタドラ) is used as shorthand to refer to both GF and DM at once, and became the official name of both games beginning on the 2013 version (which also introduced new cabinets best described as white, downsized versions of the XG cabinets. So much so that the guitar cabinet only supports one player now).

The series has been most prominently cited as the influence for Harmonix's franchises Guitar Hero (originally published by RedOctane, a company whose other claims to fame include making third-party dance pads for DDR, and publishing the In the Groove home version. Later turned into a Cash-Cow Franchise by Activision before its untimely death in 2011), and Rock Band (which took Guitar Hero and added drums, plus karaoke built off its work on fellow Konami franchise Karaoke Revolution, and lots and lots of Downloadable Content). While the first GuitarFreaks got a U.S. release, it flopped. Konami hasn't officially released the series in America since: when faced with the aforementioned competition, it decided to play Follow the Leader with itself and release the dismal Rock Revolution instead, and then played a Heel–Face Turn as the publisher for an arcade version of Guitar Hero.

Okay, let's start! Are you ready?

  • Announcer Chatter: Early GF mixes had an announcer say things like "Good!" and "Cool!" when reaching certain combo counts (like DDR). Later mixes only have the announcer talking during song selection, and not at all during actual gameplay (like Beatmania).
  • Continuity Reboot: First in 2005 with the shift to the "V series" (beginning with GF/DM V, then V2, etc. This also fixed the long-standing issue of DrumMania always being one number behind its brother series).
    • Then we have XG, which ran in parallel with the V series as a Spin-Off (kinda like beatmania IIDX) for two versions until it was phased out (GF/DM V7 and V8 just used the content and portions of the UI from their XG counterpart grafted onto the legacy engine/gameplay). Now we have the shift to "GITADORA" as the name of the series for the newest release in 2013 (which, for all intents and purposes, is XG4). The title screens brand them as "GITADORA: GuitarFreaks" and "GITADORA: DrumMania" respectively.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: One of the biggest draws of the series is that multiple players can play as a band together: two on GuitarFreaks and one on a linked drummania cabinet. Two versions of the pair allow linking up with Keyboardmania as well for a five-player "Super Session", but the songlist drops in quantity dramatically when playing in Super Session mode.
  • Copy Protection: Much like DDR 2013 and beatmania tricoro, GITADORA requires a connection to Konami's e-Amusement network in order to run.
  • Cover Version: A frequent sight throughout the series, mostly of Japanese songs ("Tentai Kansoku", "Luvly Merry-Go-Round") with the occasional English song every now and then ("Born To Be Wild", "Paranoia").
  • Difficulty by Region: The international releases of the first GuitarFreaks added an alternate setting for the Excite Gauge that is reminiscent of beatmania IIDX or pop'n music, where the gauge must end past a certain threshold to clear the song. This was made the default setting for the American and European releases. This is generally much tougher, albeit the player cannot fail mid-song.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: When playing edit data on GuitarFreaks, the game will make the player confirm that any song that they created is their own (i.e. is not a replication of an existing song), in a weak attempt to thwart copyright infringement.
  • Downloadable Content: The 2014 release, GITADORA Overdrive, is essentially a patch (similarly to other Bemani games as of late) rather than a complete upgrade kit, as was the case for previous installments.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Like most other Bemani games, it's had its fair share of experimentation early on, and it took a few installments to streamline the two series.
    • Until GF/DM 4th/3rd, songs were introduced that were exclusive to one game or the other. Starting with 4th/3rd, all new songs have been added to both games. Since then all but one song in each game has either been subsequently given charts in the other game or removed. As of EXCHAIN, the only songs exclusive to a game are "MAGIC MUSIC MAGIC" to GuitarFreaks and "Depend on me" to DrumMania. All 1000+ other songs can be played on either game.
    • Similarly, the games had vastly separate interfaces from each other until 4th/3rd.
    • The games used separate menu music and sound effects until 5th/4th. The sound packages were mostly unified then.
      • Some parts like the demo loop music and and the coin insert sounds still remained different though. Incidentally GuitarFreaks used a different coin insert sound until 5th mix.
    • The games' logos became much more unified in 6th/5th.
    • GuitarFreaks had a separate note grading scale of Cool/Good/Bad until 5th mix, when it was changed to match DrumMania's.
    • Songs from GuitarFreaks 1st mix and 2nd mix had Secret notes in 2-player play. They would be revealed in a section of the song once a player played one of them. The secret notes feature was supported through 4th mix, though no songs introduced in 3rd mix and 4th mix had them.
    • Similarly, songs from GuitarFreaks 1st mix and 2nd mix supported edit data from their respective Play Station versions. Similarly, this feature was supported through 4th mix.
    • GuitarFreaks 1st mix used a jukebox-style music select like DDR did in its earliest versions. This was changed to the list/wheel style in 2nd mix, and DrumMania had used that style from the beginning.
    • The Basic/Advanced/Extreme difficulty names were not established (nor common to both games) until 5th/4th. Before that, the difficulties were Normal/Expert/Extreme/Extreme+note  on GuitarFreaks and Normal/Real/Expert Real on DrumMania.
      • DrumMania locked the player into playing the same difficulty on every song.
    • Originally song ratings were 1-10 starsnote , until 5th/4th established the out-of-99 rating scale. That scale was rebalanced in 7th/6th (moving most of the ratings quite a bit downward for more granularity at the top), but after that, it stuck around for the rest of the classic series.
    • Through GF 6th mix, the charts would have separate charts for each player. A code had to be entered to have both players play the 1-player chart.
  • Gameplay Automation: "Auto" modifiers allow players to automate some of the note lanes (such as the last one, two, or three lanes for guitar and the pedals, cymbal, and/or hi-hat for drums), and for guitar, the player can opt to automate either the fret buttons or strumming. However, doing so reduces the player's maximum score, may disqualify the player from reaching Extra Stage and/or Encore Stage, and imposes a penalty multiplier on the amount of Skill Points earned, with the penalty being higher for more assists, and yes the minimum penalty multiplier is zero.
  • Gratuitous English: Being Bemani, some songs have their fair share of these. "Departure", however, is this series' most prominent example; it even comes with karaoke lyrics for anyone to sing along with.
    • GF 3rd mix, the first mix to feature licensed covers (and in GF's case, all classic Western rock songs), had lyrics displayed for a couple songs in the videos.
    • The gameplay instructions are spoken in English during the "How to Play" sequence on many iterations... even though the on-screen instructions are in Japanese. This happens in GF 2nd-4th, and in both GF and DM in the V series.
  • Harder Than Hard: Master difficulty, introduced in XG, which is available on select songs.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels:
    • For most games in the classic series, the difficulties are Basic, Advanced, and Extreme.
    • The XG series renames them to Novice, Regular, and Expert, but also introduces the Master difficulty.
    • GITADORA reverts back to Basic, Advanced, and Extreme, while keeping the Master difficulty.
  • Konami Code: A variation back in the very first DrumMania. While selecting the difficulty, inputting "hi-hat, hi-hat, snare, snare, high tom, low tom, high tom, low tom, bass, bass" would enable the selection of Expert Real (what Extreme was called back then).
  • Mascot: Prior to the 2013 release, they were a drummer with a Bucket Helmet, and a guitarist with a Brown Bag Mask. GITADORA replaces them with Otobear, this odd Mix And Match Creature with a speaker for a face.
  • Medley: The series has a number of these as playable songs:
    • The "Classic Party" series by Hideyuki Ono, which are medleys of rock rearrangements of classical music.
    • "Riff Riff Paradise" and "Riff Riff Orbit" by Mutsuhiko Izumi, medleys of Izumi's various songs in the series.
    • "Pot-pourri d'orange" and "Pot-pourri d'marmalade" by Orange Lounge.
    • "Jake in the Box", a medley of classic GF/DM songs.
    • Boss Rush: "ENCORE CONQUEST" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a medley of five boss songs note  compressed into 2:26 of pain.
    • Overdrive added two more, "The ULTIMATES -Brightness-" (the unlocked Encore songs from Gitadora), and "The ULTIMATES -Darkness-" (a medley of unlocks from Extra Rush cycles).
    • Some of the early games' long songs were just medleys of three songs from the game. "HAPPY LUCKY BOY" for example is almost Exactly What It Says on the Tin, with each word representing one song in the medley.
  • Mercy Mode: Starting with V6, failing the first stage will still allow you to continue playing.
  • Mini-Game Credits: Boss songs in early games (LUCKY?STAFF in GF1, King G in GF2, Say What You Mean in GF3, DAY DREAM in GF4/DM3) have credit rolls in their videos in the mix they debuted in, but are removed from subsequent mixes.
    • CS 1st mix moves the credit roll to the CS-exclusive song "J-Staff". CS 2nd mix has one in "Member Introduction" (though still has a credit roll in "King G").
  • Miniscule Rocking: Most BEMANI songs are already short enough by most people's standards at only 90-130 seconds, but "Thank You For Playing" from the console version of V3 holds the honor of the shortest playable in any BEMANI game ever at five seconds long.
  • Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode: Normally averted; the games encourage multiplayer play through "Session" play that allows for up to two players on GuitarFreaks and one on drummania for a band experience. However, two early versions of GF&DM allow linking up with Keyboardmania for a five-player "Super Session" game, which would be great if the Super Session songlist wasn't a mere ten songs.
  • Nintendo Hard: The drummania portion stands out in being not only hard to master (in fact, it's one of the hardest BEMANI games at the highest levels, alongside pop'n music and beatmania IIDX), but also hard to learn. Whereas other BEMANI games can be simply learned by figuring out which buttons, panels, or part of the screen to hit or step on, drummania requires you to understand some real-world drumming basics (for one, non-drummers may see crossing one's hands to hit the hi-hat as Violation of Common Sense) since you are playing on a real simulated-drum set and not just pressing buttons; failure to use proper technique can be damaging to your hands and even your back. And once you start trying to learn the charts, you realize that many higher-end charts require you to keep multiple rhythms in your head at the same time.
  • No Fair Cheating: In more recent mixes, playing Extra stages with "Auto" on will not allow you to play the Encore even if you reach the requirements.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Early V mixes had Hazard mode, where making only two mistakes (anything below a Good) ends the current song in failure but allows you to continue playing if you have stages left to play. Later V mixes replaced this with Risky mode, where you can select the number of mistakes to failure (4, 2, and yes, even 1) but is identical to Hazard otherwise.
  • Optional Boss: Early mixes of GuitarFreaks had Extra stages that are played if you do well enough. Starting with GF 4th, Encore stages are also playable if you do well enough on the Extra stage. Early DrumMania mixes actually had no Extra and Encore stages until DM 3rd.
    • Starting with GF/DM 10th/9th, any song can be selected as the Extra stage but only the actual Extra stage songs (usually colored red) will let you play the Encore afterwards. And from GF/DM V3 onwards, throughout the "life" of a mix, new bosses are cycled in as the extra and encore.
  • Sequel Escalation: GF/DM 5th/4th changed the difficulty system to use Basic, Advanced, and Extreme difficulties out of 1 to 99 for ratings. In GF/DM 7th/6th, the songs were re-rated on a 1-99 scale, pushing many songs' ratings down significantly to account for harder charts. XG changes this to use 1.00-9.99 ratings (and used different level names entirely until GITADORA). An unlockable "Master" difficulty also became available on certain songs beginning on XG.
  • Spin-Off: Keyboard Mania. 3rd Mix could also link with GF/DM on a limited number of songs in a mode known as Super Session: with guitar, drum, and keyboard playing at once. You thought GF/DM alone was Rock Band before its time? This is Rock Band 3 before its time.
  • Rank Inflation: For most of the series, grades ranged from an E (failing) to an SS. Played even more straight recently, where the lowest possible grade is a C.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: When "Rock to Infinity" is played as an Extra Stage on V5, all of its Extreme charts have a rating of infinity. When the song is selected outside of this circumstance, its charts are rated 99 instead. Not exactly infinite, but it's still the highest possible difficulty rating.
  • Required Spinoff Crossover: Yes you, Nadeshiko Rock. (V5)
    • "FLOWER", which has appeared on every other Bemani series. Since it's a trance song and not a rock song, it was retooled into a remix for this series.
    • "CaptivAte ~裁き~" is an interesting case; it is part of a series of songs that originated from IIDX (which are typically remixed vocal versions of IIDX ending themes), but made its first appearance on GF/DM V2 as the Extra Stage song.
    • V5 introduced a re-arrangement of "VANESSA" from IIDX 14; even better, the video also features the same painting from the original version, but with a fitting twist in the end.
  • V-Sign: According to Yoshihiko Ota on its website, GF/DM V got its name from just this, the letter shape of the peace sign.
  • Uncommon Time: The infamous boss song DAY DREAM uses the rather uncommon time signatures of 17/16, 16/16, and 15/16 note .
  • Updated Re-release: GITADORA Tri-Boost Re:Evolve

Well, we're done practicing. Alright then, let's enjoy GuitarFreaks/DrumMania!

Alternative Title(s): Drummania, Guitar Freaks