So, I could go on forever about my top favorite video game soundtracks (which I probably will do at some point), but, today I want to talk about when the soundtrack is the game. I’m referring to nothing other than the “Rhythm” genre.
PaRappa the Rapper
Let’s start this with not only the first game to be credited as the first true rhythm game but also one of my earliest memories of paying attention to music in video games. A classic tale of a rapping dog trying to win the heart of his crush, while an alpha dog tries to win her over at the same time. Going through multiple levels and rapping your way through them by pressing the corresponding buttons on the screen in time with the music, you work your way through the game with extremely catchy songs, and his crush’s heart by singing your way through kung-fu dojos, DMV driver’s tests, cooking shows and even backed up bathroom lines.
Dance Dance Revolution
This heart-pounding, blood-rushing, sweat-inducing game was a wonderful way to work out without really “working” for it.
Now, if anyone knew me personally in the mid-2000s, I was addicted to this one, more specifically the DDR Extreme and Extreme 2 machines. Back when I was the ripe old age of 17 or so, maybe even younger, I discovered this game while I was on a youth bowling league in the arcade room and spent as much time waiting in line for my turn as I did actually playing it and probably spent enough quarters to buy my own machine! I don’t have the stamina for this one anymore, but I clearly remember playing most of the songs on the hardest difficulty available while people watched in awe and even recorded me playing. I eventually got a job at said bowling alley where I could load up the game with a bunch of credits for free and play to my heart’s content. Some of my favorite songs on that were “Daikenkai,” “Captain Jack,” “Speedover Beethoven,” “321 Stars,” “Waka Waka,” “The Witch Doctor,” “Afronova,” and of course, you can’t mention DDR without PARANOiA and Twinbee!
Sean, if you’re reading this, I’m still jealous of that one Christmas where you were gifted an all-metal arcade-style dance pad for your Xbox, to play DDR on your Xbox, without that stupid crinkly mat that slipped all over the place.
Here’s where we get to where music games actually influenced my love for a lot of music I still listen to today. I’m gonna be honest and say I never cared much for Classic Rock until Guitar Hero came out, and I thank Harmonix for expanding my musical tastes to include tracks I wouldn’t have listened to otherwise. Just as proficient with the guitar controllers as I was with the DDR dance pad, I “shredded” my way through Guitar Hero 1-3 ending my career there and never getting 4. A couple of my favorite add-ons for Guitar Hero were Guitar Hero: Metallica and Greenday. I had enjoyed Metallica in passing when it came on the radio, but, playing the game got me to enjoy them as a band, and opened me up to more Metal music than I had already listened to at that point in life. Greenday on the other hand, I had already been a fan of them for a while, but still had great fun with it.
Rockband was no different. It was though, one of my first online gaming experiences with me in North Carolina either on guitar or drums, one friend on vocals in Virginia as well as the other drums and guitars in Virginia. We had a lot of fun with this one, but my family did not with me playing the drums.
Rocksmith on the other hand was on a whole other level; the idea that I could literally plug in a guitar in my game system or PC and play REAL guitar in real-time was and still is a confusing concept on how this worked, but it did. I had gotten a guitar for Christmas not long before this one and I failed at learning how to play. I tried YouTube tutorials, in-person lessons, tried to learn chords and whatnot. Rocksmith was an amazing tool to help me learn, but my brain couldn’t just seem to grasp hand/eye/brain coordination to make things happen. It had a ton of learning tools and mini-games, and an amazing lineup of songs to play.
Last but not least, is Beat Saber. I’m not gonna say I bought an HTC Vive just to play Beat Saber but it HEAVILY influenced my purchasing decision. This fun little game packs a huge punch in the rhythm genre. Going back to my roots of “working out,” this game has an amazing setlist for anyone to enjoy, especially with the “Beat Saver mod” where users make their own beats with an endless amount of songs to download. I’m not afraid to say “Take On Me” and “Beat It” are a couple of my favorites. This game remains one of my most played virtual reality games in my library, and rightfully so. It’s addicting, challenging, fast-paced, and just plain fun!
We all know I missed quite a few games, but these are the ones that had the most impact on my life so here’s some I still had tons of fun with!
There was a wonderful little mobile Guitar Hero clone called Tap Tap Revolution that satisfied my hunger for music and rhythm on the go.
Lumines: Electronic Symphony for the Playstation Vita had reignited a long-lost addiction to Tetris that resembled Tetris, but with a horizontal and music twist.
Tetris Effect: Connect which was just recently released, and is itself a mix of Lumines and Tetris. Highly addicting with wonderful music, and visuals
All in all, video games aren’t just mindless fun rotting our brains (not that there’s anything wrong with that of course). You can learn a lot, and they can introduce you to things and songs you may never have seen, or heard, without them, and they help you to discover new and old favorites.
Dig this? Check out the full archives of A.M. Radio, by Anthony Montalbano, here: https://vinylwritermusic.com/a-m-radio-archives/