Saturday, 13 June 2009

My favourite levels of all time, Part 1

Okay, so I'm going to start a running series. Hopefully I'll finish this one, I've got the first few entries already written to give me a head start! I'm basically going to discuss my favourite video game levels of all time, explain why I like them and talk about why I think they're important to gaming. Enjoy!

Sanbone Trio - Gitaroo Man

Gitaroo Man is one of the best rhythm-action games you've never played... In fact, it may be one of the best games you've never played. It manages to combine playing music in a relatively realistic way on just an analogue controller, with a surprisingly enjoyable story. The story is told through the songs themselves with a few small cutscenes between each 'battle'; the tale of a young man coming of age, overcoming a bully and winning the girl is by no means new, but the innovative visuals (highly reminiscent of Mexican folk-art) and imaginative setting really sell it.

For those of you who have never played Gitaroo Man, your character is a weedy, whining kid... That is, until your dog Puma (who turns out to be a talking robot dog) throws you your Gitaroo (sort of like a more awesome Guitar). Holding your Gitaroo, you transform into the legendary Gitaroo Man, and lay down all kinds of guitar-based smack-down on the bad guys.

There are so many great moments in this game it's hard to pick one that stands out in particular; other great moment include a duel with an enormous Jazz-loving beeman (called, appropriately enough, King Mojo), a chase involving a Drum & Bass shark, an effeminate Goth who capers around while the main protagonist claims to be 'scared', and a wailing heavy guitar duet version of the Legendary Theme, played back-to-back with your girl in a packed stadium. However, there can only be one winner... The fight against the Sanbone trio is probably my favourite moment in the game.

Towards the end of the game, you are ambushed while asleep by a trio of Spanish (?) skeletons who enjoy playing their ribs like some sort of Xylophone. They tie up your dog and proceed to start beating on you... As your dog is captive, you have no way to get access to your Gitaroo, and all you can do is dodge their attacks. Eventually, they make a mistake, and your dog is set free, allowing you to start wailing on them with riffs of your own.

My favourite part happens around 1:05

What I love best about this level is just the feeling you get when you FINALLY get your weapon back; it makes the hair stand up down my neck when I've finally got the chance to start getting revenge on my tormentors (it's even better as Gitaroo Man is a fiendishly difficult game for newcomers; I died countless times before I ever to that point, and TRULY hated those bleedin' Skeletons!). Other games have done similar things, usually at some point after the Level Where All Your Weapons Get Taken Away (TM). Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is a close second here; after silently strangulating your way across your garden, you get to your shed where ALL the rest of your weapons are kept. Then, it's time to rain down some hell...

In summary, this level really shows you that a well thought out story and sympathetic characters can really involve you in a game, no matter what the genre. Here endeth the lesson!

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