Tag Archives: rhythm

WW #14 Everyday Today’s Menu for Emiya Family

Due to the subject matter today, some items may be NSFW. In fact, let this serve as an outright trigger warning for sexual material, rape, rape via magical insects, workplace sexual coercion, and just all sorts of stuff that is traditionally not discussed on this blog. This is confirming that today’s article is rated M for Mature, even if the game itself is not. Also: general spoilers for various TYPE-MOON franchises. Also also, this article is weirdly long! Guess there is a lot to say on this subject…

Let us beginI.

Let’s talk about feminism, Joss Whedon, and at least one cooking videogame.

I suppose we should start with what has been on my mind lately: As a point of fact, I enjoy strong female protagonists. Nine times out of ten, I prefer a female protagonist to a male protagonist. If I am in the mood for noir, I like Veronice Mars. If I want to see some cheesy action, I’ll take Xena: Warrior Princess. I vastly prefer K-On or Azumanga Daioh to any male-centric anime comedy I could name. And when we are talking about ensemble casts, I do often gravitate toward the women (who are usually relegated firmly to “supporting cast”). And, in some randomly introspective moments, I have wondered why that seems to be the case. If I am being generous, I ascribe to the simple theory that I have been watching men’s media since I was a child, so I am tired of hearing about Optimus Prime, and would like to move on to Arcee for a change. I have also never been a particularly masculine man, so it is possible I more readily enjoy characters with arcs that involve less punching and more introspection (Spike has a shootout to solve his problems, Faye gets to reckon with a VHS tape). There are all sorts of reasons that I, a cis white male, would more readily enjoy a woman’s story.

It also might be because…

FGC #603 Dante’s Inferno

Let us address the many sins of Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno. We shall see if absolution is possible.

The Sin of Violence: Dante’s Inferno gets a brutal update

Let's fightLet’s get the big one out of the way first: who sits down to read Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and thinks, “Damn! This would make a fine beat ‘em up”? This is something that apparently must have happened, as, here we are, living in a world where Dante ventures forth to tear Hell a new one with a magical scythe. The OG Dante was a poet who wrote his self-insert character into a complicated, but generally mellow, fanfic; this Dante is in a continual state of grating the bones of his enemies across his washboard abs. It is a significantly different interpretation of the same character. And, what’s more, OG Dante’s Inferno is amazingly descriptive in its journey from the underworld to the heavens, but it is also clearly meant as something of an allegory or “imaginary tale” right from the start. Dante was having a dream about his own moral standing in the world! Meanwhile, VG Dante is exactly fighting to save his fiancée and rescue a world threatened by Satan and the unrelenting forces of Hell. Nothing allegorical about pressing X to drive a blade into a sinner’s face!

Excuse me. I’m getting ahead of myself. My own prejudices against PS2/PS3-style “mature” games are shining through here, and I apologize for dismissing Dante’s Inferno for being a reimagining that was beholden to (then) modern videogame trends. This is unfair, as Real Dante’s Inferno likely survived to the present day entirely because it was contemporary. It was an epic poem, but it was not written in Latin. It involved historical and fictional celebrities that were bumming around various parts of the afterlife. The main character was the prototypical everyman hanging with a trendy historical figure. Complete with more name-dropping than a Kardashian feature, the Divine Comedy was made from its outset to be a popular piece of media, and it is only through centuries and gradually changing standards that it now seems so stiff and religious. I mean, it was always going to be religious as hell with all those popes running around, but popes were basically the Avengers of 1320.

So, alright, VG Dante’s Inferno can be forgiven for going the “popular” route with its interpretation of OG Dante’s Inferno. History has proven that Dante Alighieri clearly would have forsaken all the indie JRPGs of the era to make his story a 3-D action title if he had the technology. But there is still the problem of…

The Sin of Heresy: Dante must cry

OopsDante’s Inferno was released for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PSP in 2010. Given the marketing blitz that accompanied the game (“Please visit our E3 booth and be tortured by something other than long lines!”) and the years that have passed since, we will likely never get a real answer on exactly what the designers and marketing department responsible for Dante’s Inferno were thinking. In an obvious way, this deadly Dante screams “this isn’t your daddy’s epic poem,” and lurks around the caverns of Hell doing all sorts of things that could not even be imagined by an epic poet from 690 years prior. This is a videogame from the future, old man, get out of the way and start hammering O to earn salvation!

On the other hand, Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno is inexplicably beholden to the original source material. All of the Circles of Hell are followed precisely according to the source material, despite the fact that figuring out an action-game interpretation of “Level 13: Wood of the Suicides” must have been a pain in the branches. The setting is also firmly rooted in its original epoch, and many of the damned souls that appear across the game are not only seven centuries out of fashion, but also punished for a number of sins we wouldn’t even think about today (“Oh, damned to the circle of violence for… being gay? Really?”). It would have been wholly in the spirit of Dante’s Inferno to update Hell for the modern damned (“Do you punish for forgive this prominent ex-president that may or may not have started a hostage crisis to further his political career?”), or at least drop in period-appropriate fictional characters that are more familiar to modern audiences (not like Dante was doing anything but biting on myths about Helen of Troy anyway), but, nope, you get to make measured choices about Emperor Frederick II. You know! Emperor Frederick II! From all those movies!

And then there are all the little “flourishes” to remind you of the original poem. Game over screens drop annotated passages after every death (and there are quite a few before you see a repeat… assuming you don’t die every seven seconds). Virgil makes absolutely no sense as a character, but stops by to offer his (sometimes literally) same advice and narration as in the original work. And, if you need to answer the question of “what is the absolute worst way to experience a piece of literature”, you can read the entirety of this third of the Divine Comedy via a saved file on your Dante’s Inferno disc. Press L1 to scroll the text faster!

But this, too, could be forgiven. It is cynical to interpret all of these choices as some bizarre, aborted attempt at tying a videogame into school curriculums or college literary programs. Maybe the designers just loved the source material, and wanted to expose the unwashed masses to some culture. Maybe all of these attempts to cram more epic poetry into an epic game was wholly altruistic.

Though that would raise questions about tone…

The Sin of Fraud: Is this supposed to be serious?

The baby!So it is God of War, but instead of Greek/Roman mythology, it is Christian mythology (and, to be clear, I am a Christian, and I can tell you that 99% of Dante’s writings do not appear in the Bible, so “mythology” is the best way to designate this imagining of Hell). And the God of War franchise is known for being equally deadly serious about deicide or Icarus tripping down a hole. It is almost funny how Kratos responds to literally everything from enemy warriors to a dude trapped in a box with “this person must die”, but that is just who Kratos (circa 2010) is as a person. He lives in a serious, violent world, and he has serious, violent solutions to problems.

And then there’s Dante. Dante fights babies.

Dante’s Inferno has an amazing, unique bestiary with delightfully grotesque monsters symbolizing the various sins. There are also the unbaptized babies of limbo, which are literally just toddlers with swords for arms. And, since babies are not generally known for their threat level, you often fight many of the little tykes at once, prompting bizarre fights wherein you are viciously reaping widdle cutiepies. It is… a choice, and, while the grim and focused start of Dante’s Inferno tells you that this is supposed to be a tale of serious betrayal and heartbreaking consequences, the fact that you are slaughtering babies shortly thereafter undercuts the narrative. Earning the “bad nanny” achievement for “Kill(ing) 20 Unbaptized Children” is something that leaves an impression, too.

And, lest you think we are merely focusing on one ill-advised enemy, there are plenty of moments in Dante’s Inferno that turn hell into a circus (though, in case you are wondering, all clowns do go to Hell). The choice of torturing or absolving sinners is a constant struggle throughout this adventure, and, while torturing prompts a quick and gory cutscene, the road to salvation involves an unusual rhythm game that is shockingly reminiscent of Gitaroo Man. Then you have the fact that Hell is apparently littered with enough collectibles to make a bird ‘n bear proud, complete with happy little messages every time you find Tristan’s Desire or complete a challenge or whatever. Oh, and every goddamned person Dante has ever met in his life has apparently been damned to Hell, so get ready for the most family-reunion-based journey into darkness you could ever imagine.

And, individually, any one of these transgressions against sincerity would not impact the narrative. But when they all combine, they form an unstoppable Voltron of silliness that threatens to blazing sword any shred of dignity in Dante’s world to pieces. You can have a story about a disgraced knight fighting his way through Hell to save the world, but you cannot involve this many angry babies in the proceedings and expect it to be taken seriously.

But being silly should not be a sin. A sin should be something like…

The Sin of Sloth: This Hell is Tedious

It's a little chilly hereWriting in a contemporary vernacular is often cited as a prime reason Dante’s Divine Comedy has endured through the ages, but it is likely there is another, more obvious reason people have been reading The Inferno for so long: it is friggen fun. For being a tale of woe and suffering, it is enjoyable to see all the ironic punishments that Dante has imagined for the various sinners of the ages. In an unusual way, when you consider the number of “celebrity” sentences involved in the Inferno, Dante’s Inferno could have and likely did read as a revenge tale in its day. Did not like that one Emperor that overtaxed your grandpa? Well now he’s rutting about in poop for the rest of eternity! That’s what you get, loser! And that kind of thing persists into the modern era, because the concept of your landlord forever being tortured by Lucifer’s freezing wings is everlasting.

Gamer Dante’s Inferno is less everlasting, though. In defense of the game, there is a consistent, intimidating art style, and the monsters you fight across Hell are a lot more unique and diverse than your average beat ‘em up of the same three guys (or an army of the same shadow people). But sometime around when you explode your twelfth super fat puking guy, you realize that there is not much there there. This has a very American McGee’s Alice or McFarlane Toys Reimagining vibe to it, as everything has been reimagined to be broadly edgier… but that’s about all they got. Once you get past Dante’s bizarre fashion choices and slaughtered a baby or two, you realize that the best they will ever be able to do with the final boss is toss a few extra pentagrams into the proceeding. And once you do come to that realization, Hell becomes boring. There is a palpable tedium to seeing “shocking” items over and over, and it really does not help when those same outrageous opponents start looping endlessly during the finale.

And abandon all hope ye who believe the gameplay will save this adventure. That dreariness is locked in practically from the start, with the only real ability enhancements that significantly impact playstyles being reserved for four distinct points across the journey. Beyond that, you simply have relics and upgrade trees that make insignificant changes to the action (“Stop the presses! The combo meter has an extra two seconds of forgiveness!”), and the action is only ever “it’s God of War”. There were already, like, a bunch of God of War games before Dante’s Inferno hit the Playstation, guys! And the PSP does too count!

Look, when your Hell is defined by its monotony, you are committing a mortal sin. But even that sin is nothing before…

The Sin of Lust: Forsaken Beatrice

There is no saving thisThis Dante is not a poet or everyman. This Dante is specifically a knight of the Crusades. This Dante is a man that was deceived by The Church, and was told that his sins would be absolved if he was a good little soldier. When he died, he found he was damned, so he fought back against Death, stole his scythe, and then decided to fight to redeem his myriad sins (though you have to wonder how super damned you would be after literally killing the anthropomorphism of a cosmic rule). Unfortunately, he was dragged to Hell when he returned home and found his father and fiancée were both killed in his absence. Now the soul of said fiancée is in the hands of Lucifer (also his father, but nobody cares about that jerk). Dante dives into the pit to rescue Beatrice, and save us all from Satan along the way.

So before we go any further in this sad tale, let us examine the original Divine Comedy’s Beatrice. To be clear, in reality, Beatrice was not ever Dante’s wife, and was merely a nine year old girl who made a significant impression on ol’ Dante when he was also nine (if this sounds ridiculous, please consider that this whole scenario apparently worked for Darth Vader). Beatrice was a real person first, and never a lover. In the context of the Divine Comedy, Fictional Beatrice basically steals the chronicler role from Virgil when Dante hits Heaven, because Virgil isn’t allowed past purgatory. But don’t worry, Beatrice is more than a replacement Navi, as while Virgil is the eternal symbol of man’s intelligence and reason, Beatrice is meant to represent the divine, and the holiness of the humanities and man’s general impulses towards art. Yes, it is a bit of a cliché that a poet would consider poetry to be sacred, but you must give Dante a break, as you are someone reading these words on a gorram videogame blog. Beyond all that, though, Beatrice is certainly an unattainable beauty to Dante, but she is also literally the most helpful person in Heaven. That says a lot about the measure of the woman that is the celestial Beatrice.

In Dante’s Inferno for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Beatrice open mouth kisses Satan. For a while.

Big sloppy kisses

That looks vaguely uncomfortable for a woman that avoided the male gaze a few centuries back by simply being described as having fair skin and emerald eyes.

Once again, if you squint, you can almost see how this story was created. Dante is an unrepentantly (okay, not technically true) violent man that is irredeemable (again, the whole point is…) in his many murderous actions, so it is easy to see how he needed something “pure” to fight for to endear himself to the player. So if rescuing a princess worked for Link, let’s apply it to another knight. Unfortunately, that immediately delves into the “women as objects” trope, so someone likely thought it would be a good idea to give Beatrice some of her own agency. So no longer is Beatrice simply being damned by Dante’s actions, now she is a woman that chose to go the evil route with Lucifer as her new groom. Apparently selecting Hell in the stratum of the mortal sin of lust is… well, no two ways about it, you’re gonna turn into a whore. Like, literally, complete with pinup transformation and a whole lot of necking. And then, of course Dante has to rescue his former bride from the clutches of almost certainly kinky sex with the Prince of Darkness, because, dang, wouldn’t Dante feel bad if he went through all of this nonsense, and he didn’t win a sexy lady out of the deal?

And, hell, that’s terrible.

Just like the rest of Dante’s Inferno.

Yeah, let’s go ahead and damn Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno for all eternity. Some sins are beyond forgiveness.

FGC #603 Dante’s Inferno

  • I always liked NormanSystem: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PSP. The Playstation 3 version was used for this review, and the PSP is clearly some kind of mad dream of a deranged, damned king.
  • Number of players: Virgil would have been the obvious second player, but no dice there. Just Dante.
  • Pick your poison: In other games, Classic Mode implies the greatest challenge. Here, apparently, “classic” is meant to denote “based on a literary classic that does not involve buttons”, so Classic Mode is 100% easy mode. You can switch at any time, too, so maybe “practically invincible” mode can come in handy once in a while.
  • Eat the baby: Dante’s Inferno was released during that era where every game had to have a superficial morality system (thank you very much, Bioshock). Thus, you continually have the option of punishing or absolving sinners and/or demons. And, much like in many games of the era, absolving appears to always be the proper answer, as you continually gain more “holy bullets” and experience points from showing mercy. I appreciate the moral, but it is yet another example of Dante’s Inferno going about 30% into an interesting idea before immediately giving up.
  • Speaking of Morality: Okay, so the sin that damns Beatrice in the first place is that Dante forsook the vow he made before God to never make love to another woman. And why did he do that? Well, because an “enemy” woman begged for her brother’s life to be spared, and Dante satisfied this request for the nookie. But! The saved soldier was not her brother! He was her husband! And said husband then spent the remainder of his life tracking down Dante’s family, and then killing his father and Beatrice! And what are we supposed to take from that? Mercy leads to more violence? Sinning in the name of kindness leads to more sins? Sex equals homicide? Murderers are always gonna murder? Going to be a while before I unpack that one.
  • Plot Twist: At the finale of the adventure, Lucifer reveals that the gigantic chains Dante/you have randomly severed throughout Hell were actually the only things holding ol’ Scratch back. This would have been a much bigger surprise if you couldn’t hear Satan laugh maniacally every single time you cut a chain. Dude just has zero poker face.
  • What is he thinking?Downloadable Content: There were eventually legitimate expansions to Dante’s Inferno that offer a prelude (based on the poem, and involves werewolves) and an additional playable character (Dante’s guardian angel in the flesh). But right there from launch were purchasable “experience points” to kit out Dante with new moves faster for a few bucks. This is likely why the save file for Dante’s Inferno is locked against copying, because what is player autonomy in the face of potential DLC sales?
  • Watch along: Dante apparently stitched his own cross onto his chest, and that iconic quilt offers animated vignettes about Dante’s various sins. This… is actually kind of cool, even if it does raise more than a few questions about Dante’s apparently enormous embroidery skills. Less cool is that there was an animated tie-in film that corralled some pretty big name creators in the name of Dante’s Inferno: The Anime. Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic seems to maintain the general visuals of its source game, but dodges some pretty important plot beats, like Dante conquering the Grim Reaper and stealing his signature weapon. And given it was Direct-to-DVD, watching it through traditional means may be all but impossible now. Maybe Dante could sew a recap blanket for you.
  • Did you know? They motion-captured an actual toddler to get realistic baby motions for the murder-infants. The designers were so proud of this, they made a featurette about it that only unlocks after completing the game. Learning more about child monsters is your reward for trudging through Hell. That has to be a sin, too, right?
  • Would I play again: I was very happy to see this disc leave my Playstation 3. I played the silly Dante game, Lord, do You want me to suffer again?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance! It just wouldn’t be October without a trip to Castlevania! Please look forward to it!

Eat up!

FGC #592 Muse Dash

Let's DashSo you’ve decided to get into the wonderful world of the videogame rhythm genre. Good for you! Rhythm games are some of the best pickup and play games out there, as they traditionally feature challenges that are exactly one song’s length. No half-hour failure states to be seen in this genre! And the music! Who doesn’t love music? Nobody, that’s who! So everyone should love rhythm games, too!

But, please be aware that there are three distinct kinds of rhythm games. In an effort to help a neophyte understand what has been happening in this genre that has been kicking around for 25 years, please enjoy a quick rundown of the places you’ll see.

The Artisanal Rhythm Game

There were proto-rhythm games practically as long as gaming has existed (anyone remember that bit in Back to the Future? I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet), but many point to PaRappa the Rapper as the true origin of what we consider to be rhythm games. And it makes sense! This was one of the first games released on a CD-based system that could handle something like “real” songs (if there is a library of early PC games weeping in the corner at this statement: good), and, after a slew of games where children wearing their pants backwards demanded that you make their videos, someone had finally figured out a good way to marry music to gameplay. On a superficial level, PaRappa was just pressing prescribed buttons to a preset beat. But on a practical level? Like all artisanal rhythm games, PaRappa was an inimitable experience that left an indelible impression on anyone that dared take driving lessons with a rapping dog.

Take it easyAnd why was PaRappa so unforgettable? Well, quite simply, because it was fun while goddamned everything about it funneled back into “make this more fun”. It was fun to press buttons to the beat. It was fun to be ranked “cool”. It was fun to meet these goofy characters. It was fun to see this unique art style in motion. The music was fun. The graphics were fun. Even seeing a game over screen, complete with PaRappa lamenting how he apparently did not believe hard enough, is fun. Absolutely everything about PaRappa fed back into one incredibly solid presentation, and, while the game was maybe not as long as those “70 hour JRPGs” that were also on the system, every moment you did play was incredible. It was not just about the songs or the lyrics or the characters, it was everything.

PaRappa the Rapper itself had a handful of sequels, and there were a few other games outside of PaRappa’s universe that tried for something similar. Gitaroo-Man immediately springs to mind as one of the luminaries of this era of rhythm games, but there was also the likes of Mad Maestro and Vib-Ribbon. All of these titles were unique not in just their subjects and presentations, but also in that they generally had wildly different ways to interpret “rhythm” as more than merely “press X when I say so”. Um Jammer Lammy and Gitaroo-Man both strummed their guitars in very different ways. And, give or take the classics of Mad Maestro, all of these games had wholly unique soundtracks that had to be good songs and good levels.

Unfortunately, it seems that this kind of presentation was not sustainable. Even at the height of the artisanal rhythm game age, there were only a few Space Channels to tune into. Entirely “artisanal” titles basically required that the games last about as long as your average album (or maybe a 2-disc greatest hits CD set), and, amazing presentation or no, people wanted more content. Pouring piles of resources into a 40 minute experience was never going to be viable, and the only reason we have a modern descendant of this age of rhythm games is that apparently Hatsune Miku is more prodigious than we ever could have imagined. If you want a Gitaroo-esque experience, you basically need to sign on with a Vocaloid. Otherwise, you are probably playing with the rhythm genre that ate artisanal’s lunch…

The Song-based Rhythm Game

Stay classyThis one makes sense, right? You play rhythm games for the music, so why not base the entire game around the music. Drop any unnecessary graphics, give up on even the illusion of a story, make all the characters generic avatars, and pour your entire budget into licensing rights. Maybe invest an extra six bucks in some hunk of plastic vaguely shaped like a musical instrument, and, bingo bongo, you’ve got an award-winning genre. Guitar Hero killed the Gitaroo-Man.

And that may not have been a bad thing.

If we acknowledge that artisanal rhythm titles were unsustainable, then perhaps we should admit that the likes of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, or even Dance Dance Revolution could be an infinite source of games. There is new music being produced every second of every day, and it would not be impossible to adapt every week’s Top 40 to a Rock Band chart. And, looking at a few digital storefronts, I am pretty sure the Rock Band DLC model tried that! And why wouldn’t they? When divorced from the burden of things like varied presentation or any semblance of a plot, you can just sync up your game to the radio and call it a day. Nobody is ever going to complain about more Beatles songs!

And while it may sound harsh to repeatedly insult an entire genre because nobody wanted to dress a teenager up in a winged helmet anymore, let us be clear on one thing: these rhythm games are just as fun as their more intricate forbearers. There is a reason the Guitar Hero controller became a staple of households in the early 21st Century, and you will pry my Taiko: Drum Master drum from my cold, calloused drummin’ hands. Some attempts within this genre did not work particularly well (hello again, DJ Hero), but whether you were rolling out a dance mat or an entire multipiece rock band, the rhythm games that existed to support their song libraries were universally fun. And modern releases in this genre (Taiko drumming is back, baby) remind us that we do not need ridiculous peripherals to have fun. Of course, Just Dance 20XX already knew that…

ShinyBut, as Rock Band gradually faded into memory (and Dance Dance Revolution barely made it out of the 90s), a simple question was posed: could rhythm games get back to being games? Sure, we have all seen people use a DDR mat to beat Final Fantasy 7, but could there be games designed to be videogames and rhythm games? Not quite the rhythm experiences of the artisanal titles, and something that could include a playlist like your typical Guitar Hero? Well…

The Rhythm Game Games

What makes a videogame a videogame? Why is digital solitaire considered some kind of empty diversion, while Triple Triad is lauded as the second coming of Cyber Jesus? How is Tetris the most important videogame of all time, while Candy Crush is exploitative dreck? Because nerds are snobs we have certain expectations about what makes a videogame a videogame. If you want to differentiate Lord of the Rings cosplay from a formal Final Fantasy game, you need a few of those trappings that always work as bullet points on the back of a box. Leveling system? Item management? Crafting? Gimme something, potential videogame, otherwise you will have to wallow in the Minesweeper pit.

Hit itDespite ranking and scores, there is a lot about the Song-based Rhythm Games Collection that does not feel like a videogame. It is just pressing buttons to a rhythm! You could annoy the rest of the freeway and just do that with your FM radio and a car horn! Similarly, while the Artisanal Rhythm Game may have all the progress and “numbers go up” you would expect from seeing Cloud venture forth to murder the guy with the best hair on the planet, the natural limits of the presentation preclude unlimited song variety. If only there were a way to keep a rhythm game visually interesting, include a variety of “systems” to keep the gamers happy, but still keep it simple enough to slot in an entire Top 40 worth of content. And it wouldn’t hurt if there were unlockables for days, too…

The Rhythm Game Games scratch the rhythm and game itches equally. On one hand, you have a game that is simple enough to support an initial pile of songs, and then include DLC tunes that will last until the workers stop building them new ones. On the other hand, you have all sorts of interesting “systems” included, and many of these systems allow you to unlock new songs, styles, and playable characters. Can you do such in other games? Of course! But in a Rhythm Game Game, it actually matters.

Take the title that inspired today’s article: Muse Dash. Muse Dash touts “97 initial popular songs” and “continuous free updates” as of its 2019 launch. Playing this title two years later, I am pretty sure I have discovered it currently includes 9,409 songs… though my math may be a tweak off. It takes a while to scroll through the song menus! And the sheer variety of songs available is important, because you are going to want to play through a lot of songs as Muse Dash allows your “player profile to level up”, and earn a lot of bits and baubles along with every level up. Want to earn all the playable characters? The “playable” assistants? Loading screen images? Marginally animated title screens? Well then you better get to playing through some of those 88,000,000 songs, because you have a lot of trophies to earn!

Look awayActually, referring to all the collectibles in Muse Dash as “trophies” is wildly reductive. Star high school quarterbacks and gamers alike all eventually learn the same truth: trophies are useless. But in Muse Dash, you earn actual gameplay elements. There are multiple characters to unlock (well, technically, there are only three characters, but they have multiple costumes that apparently change said character’s personalities, so same diff), but, more important than the cosmetic changes, every character allows for a different play “style”. One choice allows “excellent” ratings to be more easily attainable, while another continues the combo count regardless of an errant button press. One option even transforms the game into a vertical mode! In much the same way that playing as different characters in a fighting game radically changes the experience, the possibilities in Muse Dash similarly change the game. And that is before we get to the “helper” characters that not only offer different possibilities individually, but may combine with the playable characters in strange, unique, or just plain profitable ways. Think of all the different ways you can combine these choices into a game that is wholly customized for you!

Why, it is almost like there is an entire game in these menus before you play the rhythm game proper. It is a Rhythm Game Game.

This is, of course, nothing new in gaming. The idea that you spend more time outside of battles fiddling in menus in Pokémon or Final Fantasy alike is something that was established well before the turn of the millennium. And, in fact, simulating that “menu play” from Final Fantasy may have accidentally birthed this whole genre in Final Fantasy Theatrhythm. This is all nothing new to gaming at large, but it is new to the rhythm genre that has never really found the same kind of foothold as beat ‘em ups, fighting games, or even rogue-likes. Thanks to games like Muse Dash, people who “like videogames” can like rhythm games!

Or… uh… it looks like the company that made Muse Dash filed for bankruptcy in April?

Looking forward to updating this article with the next, next generation of rhythm games!

FGC #592 Muse Dash

  • Good coloringSystem: Nintendo Switch is where I played it, and this apparently also has a following on mobile devices. … But playing without buttons is not for me. Warioware can go touch itself.
  • Number of players: You could see how split screen could work for this without much effort, but this is definitely one player.
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: There does not seem to be a single named male character in this entire game. That’s good! And the first item on the PeroPeroGames webstore is a statue of the Muse Dash heroine in bunny lingerie. That’s bad! The background noise of Muse Dash seems to split its attention between “bubblegum cute” and “these characters are sexy and bouncing” amongst its various menus, but the actual gameplay and general tone leans closer to “cute”.
  • Favorite Song: I would very much like to tell you my favorite song, but… I lost it. There was one in there I really liked! And I should have marked it as a favorite, as now it is lost in the hundreds-strong playlist of Muse Dash. The dangers of always adhering to that “random” button…
  • Favorite Stage: If I have one major complaint about Muse Dash, it’s that it contains a whole seven stages for its billion songs, and of those, approximately 80% seem to utilize the boring “Space Station” area (which looks more like a construction site). That said, the Castle area, filled with ghosts, skeletons, and a succubus, should be the dominant level. Those goofy vampires look so happy!
  • Get 'emDid you know? This game recommends you wear wired headphones on every boot. I have not worn headphones with a gaming system since… the Sega Genesis. What? I usually play in a room by myself! I like a warm sound in the room… Or to be listening to something else.
  • Would I play again: This is a fun game to have loaded on my Switch forever. I could see playing a song here or there when I have a few moments between more dedicated playing experiences. … Or when I’m waiting for Smash Bros. to download an update… Whatever! This is a fun gamey game, and I can continue to earn bibs and baubles while playing great songs anytime.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest! It’s time to see if we can reassemble even a single Dracula! Please look forward to it!

Let's go!
Sometimes things can get hectic

FGC #587 Hannah Montana: Rock Out The Show

Yes, let us all rockHannah Montana: Rock Out The Show is an “Only on Playstation” PSP title that sees Disney’s Hannah Montana rock out a variety of shows. While Hannah is rocking, it is your job to dress her and her backup dancers, prepare the stage, and then press a series of random buttons so your star can rock as optimally as possible. It is a pretty straightforward example of a rhythm game, though there is a smattering of a plot with Hannah stuck planning on her own world tour while her dad reminds Disney lawyers that the man responsible for Achey Breaky Heart does not appear in videogames. And, since we have a plot going anyway, may as well act out a few “skits” that are similar in tone to the television series that made Hannah Montana a household name.

Actually… uh… sorry to show my whole ass here, but I’ve never seen an episode of Hannah Montana. I apologize! I wasn’t the right age for Disney Channel programming, and… Wait, sorry, that’s a lie. I watched a lot of Disney Channel shows, because I am a perpetual adolescent that will always be excited about fantastical adventures (for further evidence, please see the entire rest of this blog). I just didn’t watch any live action Disney Channel content. I have enough real life in my real life! I don’t need to be reminded of a grotesque world that looks like mine, but Corey is somehow in the house! So I missed Hannah Montana when it was new, and thus do not know if her taking a tour to Madagascar or Mumbai is supposed to be normal, funny, or ironic. Are these characters always so antagonistic to each other? Is the obvious and impending fratricide a normal part of the programming? I just don’t know!

However, I do know one thing, and that is that you can judge an artist by their songs pretty easily. I do not have the time to consume 98 episodes of content to determine whether this Lilly character is relevant to the overarching themes of the concept. But I can listen to the eleven songs included on this humble UMD. And, from listening to these eleven songs long enough to parse out some lyrics, it has been determined that Hannah Montana has four, evidently Disney-approved themes:

Hannah Montana Likes to Party!
Song examples:

  • Pumpin’ Up the Party
  • Let’s Get Crazy
  • We got the Party
  • Let’s Do This

FancyOkay, easy one! Hannah Montana is an entertainer grown in Nashville labs for the express purpose of entertaining teens and tweens (“tweens” are presumably teens that enjoy the comedic antics of Wario). And what does that age group love? Partying! So don’t worry, not-kids, Hannah Montana is here to help you party like a rock star! Well… a Disney approved rock star. You can’t get too cray-cray when Lord Mickey is watching.

So Hannah Montana has at least four songs that are “party songs”. They are party songs that are about as generic as possible (yes, Hannah, let us all “get loud” in an authority-approved way), but they are at least teen-appropriate with a number of references to adults not understanding (“parents might not understand”) while the rocking is happening. And, hey, the songs do actually rock! Or at least there’s a steady beat! These songs are more exciting than… uh… singing hymns? Surely you would not be allowed to rock this hard in the presence of a nun.

“Let’s Do This” also contains references to the artist wishing to invite the whole of the audience backstage for the rockin’ “real party” after the show. This neatly brings us to our next point…

Hannah Montana is Secretly Better than You
Song Examples:

  • Best of Both Worlds
  • Just Like You
  • Rock Star

Dance itSo this is apparently the “conflict” of Hannah Montana. Hannah Montana is a stage persona, but the “real” Hannah Montana is Miley Stewart, a normal teenage girl just like you or me! Wow! She’s a rock star, but also has to go to math class! She can be the best of both worlds!

And, like, that’s great for you, Hannah, but this boasting doesn’t have to be the focus of, like, half these songs. There is probably some wonderful wish fulfillment here for teens who want to experience that same “the best part is that you get to be whoever you want to be”, but you will note that these songs do not sing about the glories of finishing your English homework. They are all about “living the dream” and “signing autographs” and having “dreams come true” despite being “just like you”. She doesn’t want to be treated differently! Except maybe she can still go to lavish movie premieres!

Can’t you see I’m just an ordinary girl? Who may or may not have servants that dance for her personal amusement? You don’t? Wow, that sucks.

And the stated surprise of “Rock Star” is “I might even be a rock star,” which seems to denote that this secret life could be the secret of most anyone. It, ya know, isn’t, but the implication brings us to…

Hannah Montana is Downright Better than You
Song Examples:

  • I Got Nerve
  • Supergirl

Something about butterflies“Supergirl” seems to posit that you do not want to be a super girl like Hannah Montana. This clearly-not-a-kryptonian claims in an opening lyric that just because she is a star, it does not mean she gets whatever she wants when she snaps her fingers “just like that”. And that is likely true! But the rest of the song outlines how she is on the “covers of your magazines”, is the center of attention literally everywhere she goes, and is apparently a trendsetter in everything from fashion to leisure activities. She once again claims to be like you or I, immediately before noting that she is “super cool, super hot,” and whatever the hell “super super” is supposed to be.

The message is clear: Hannah Montana has deep feelings and bad days just like you or I, but she is also the center of the universe. Even in your wildest dreams, humble(d) listener, you will never reach the lofty, exalted position as The All-Hannah Montana.

And then there’s “I Got Nerve”, which could be a great “every girl” anthem about having the nerve to understand that anyone in Hannah’s audience could be someone that says “I know where I stand, I know how I am” and “gonna get what I deserve”. But it starts with “we haven’t met, and that’s okay, ‘cause you will be asking for me one day” and ends with a haunting refrain of “I’m what you want” and “what you need”, thus reminding you the listener that Hannah Montana is not “every girl”, she’s Supergirl. She is unique. She is special. You are… what was your name again? Anonymous Fan #67,163? Wow! That’s cool! Are you named after your grandma?

Hannah Montana is Every Woman
Song Examples:

  • Nobody’s Perfect
  • Life’s What You Make It

Keyboardists rock!Bah, perhaps this is all too cynical. It is not about identifying Hannah Montana as some inaccessible, marginally impossible goal of super stardom at the age of thirteen, it is about escapism. Nobody chastises anyone that enjoys Peter Parker and his secret identity as the Spectacular Sticky-Man, and Hannah Montana should not be judged like a “real person” just because Miley Cyrus actually is a real person that got to achieve the rock star dream before she was old enough to drive. It is unerringly contemptuous to interpret these anthems as musical arrogance.

And besides, you have songs like “Life’s What You Make It”, which plainly states that you can make life hard or a party, it’s all up to you! You can party with Hannah Montana, you just have to believe in the Hannah Montana in your heart! You decide! Your life is under your control! And “Nobody’s Perfect”, which has a distinct refrain about everybody making mistakes! Hannah Montana has to “work it again and again to make it right”, and that’s a good lesson for anyone! “Try again!” It works for pop idols and regular losers alike!

Hannah Montana is a celebrity, but she is also a teenage girl, just like her intended audience. She is as mundane and universal as her songs. She is not perfect. She is just a woman trying to make her life what she wants to make it.

And you can help her by watching her internationally broadcast show, buying her albums, playing her videogames, purchasing her officially licensed Sony Playstation Portable variant model…

FGC #587 Hannah Montana: Rock Out The Show

  • System: There are Hannah Montana games on other systems (mostly related to the movie), but this specific game is only on the PSP. Did it make the jump to the Vita? Only Miley’s brand manager knows for sure.
  • Number of players: You can share your performances with other players, so does that count as multiplayer? If not, it is just Hannah Montana singing alone.
  • World Tour: Hannah Montana starts in Nashville, but then travels to international locations like Mexico City, Venice, and Tokyo. Even if this is a non-canon adventure on top of a fictional show, I appreciate any time a “world tour” visits more locations than “everywhere in the United States, and London”.
  • Hardware: There is a solid pink PSP-3000 that was packaged with Hannah Montana: Rock Out the Show. To my knowledge, it was the only PSP-3000 that was distinctly “for the girls”. Also, it is the only PSP-3000 that I own.

    Also the sound you make for a cat

    What? I wanted something stylish for when I have to output my PSP games! Did you think I was emulating these things this whole time? Gitaroo Man does not deserve that.

  • A sign of the times: You can use your PSP’s online functionality to access the websites for Hannah Montana and Radio Disney! Yay! You would never be able to type those links in a browser on your own!
  • What’s in a name: Apparently Billy Ray Cyrus’s name on Hannah Montana is Robby Ray Stewart. I don’t know why this makes me laugh every single time.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: It is goddamned impossible to find the proper track list for this game anywhere online. I had to complete the whole story mode, and then transcribe the song names just to get this article started! The things I do for an article about a PSP game written to appeal to exactly no one, least of all the author!
  • WooooooDid you know? Apparently there is an episode of Hannah Montana that was pulled and repurposed in America because it upset the Children with Diabetes organization. The episode was titled “No Sugar, Sugar”, and was offensive thanks to its complete inability to portray diabetes in a remotely correct fashion. The episode did manage to air everywhere else in the world, though, and occasionally showed up in Disney syndication thanks to human error and/or the nefarious forces of Blubberman. Why does it still air in other countries, when its comments on diabetes are just as wrong outside the US? We may never know.
  • Would I play again: Is this a decent little rhythm game? Yes. Is it also entirely superfluous in the face of other, more modern videogames? Also yes. I will only play this game again if I want to revisit the fabulous world of Hannah Montana… which isn’t likely to happen ever again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Disney’s Kim Possible: What’s the Switch?! It’s our final look at Disney nonsense, and it’s probably even more alienating to my audience than this Hannah Montana nonsense! Hooray! Please look forward to it!

It's vaguely funny
Okay, the little skits are somewhat charming