It’s Christmas. A time for making merry and spreading joy. And frankly, after all the crap we’ve all had to go through this year, not even I can act the cynic this time around. So, instead, I’m just gonna sit down and talk about something I love for a little bit.
Music is a huge part of what makes me like media. If a series has a killer soundtrack, I’ll be more willing to overlook the issues, no matter how glaring. I love a good tune!
This is mostly because of my own history as a musician. No, I wasn’t some professional player in a full-blown band. But I did spend a good five years playing the viola in my school orchestra. Not to brag, but we were pretty good. When we got to high school, we started playing an orchestral version of Smoke on the Water to cap off our concerts. One kid even brought in an electric guitar to complete the ensemble, it was awesome! Those five years were some of the most fun I’ve had in my whole life! There are few things I regret as much as dropping out of that class in my senior year. Much to my own shame, I haven’t even touched a viola in… god, nearly five years now!
But my hands still remember. And if you stuck a bit of sheet music in front of me, I’d be able to read it. God, I should really get back into it. But I’m getting off topic.
Rhythm games are a simple genre. You play along to the rhythm of the music by pressing buttons and making motions on your controller; hence, rhythm games. At their core, they’re really quite simple.
Don’t think that all games in this genre are just reskins of one-another, however. Many of them have their own unique perks that set them apart. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, for example, has you fighting enemies to the rhythm of the music and integrates the series’ trademark RPG mechanics into the gameplay. Beat Saber is all about slashing notes with the proper timing and motions while dodging oncoming obstacles. Crypt of the Necrodancer is a top-down adventure game where you can only move or attack to the beat of the song. Guitar Hero is basically just ‘play a guitar simulator’.
Then you fight Satan in a guitar duel for your soul. Holy shit, I need an HD remake of Guitar Hero 3 in my life!
They even make great party games! I can’t count the number of times my family gathered in the basement on a holiday to play Rock Band! We’d all take turns on each instrument, picking our favorite songs and failing miserably to play them! It was especially great when the adults got too big for their britches and tried to play on the hardest difficulty. Watching them immediately get booed off the stage by a non-existent crowd was hilarious to me.
Not just because I got to enjoy watching adults struggle; I’m not entirely a sadist. It was mostly because of the simple reward system these games offered. If you played well, you got to enjoy great music. If you failed, you’d tear the song apart and the crowd would boo you away. Real simple.
This goes into the simple joy that comes along with playing music. Sure, you can do it to get a job as a musician. You could do it to become some renowned artist. But in the end, what’s your reward for spending a hundred hours practicing a song? What do you get for spending all that time mastering your fingers, getting them to go in the right places at the right time? Well, it’s simple: you get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re creating sweet, beautiful sound. That you’re bringing a tune written down on paper to life for people to hear and enjoy.
Before I became a musician, I’d play games like these every now and then. I didn’t have much of an appreciation for music when I was younger, so it wasn’t a frequent thing. After I picked up an instrument for the first time, however, I stopped playing them altogether. Why bother when I already had to learn the real thing?
And now I’m an adult and I play neither. That is a problem I need to fix.
It’s not like I’m short on options. There are still three Persona dancing games I need to play. Melody of Memory is like a siren in the lake, waging a finger to drag me back into the black hole that is the Kingdom Hearts story. Muse Dash has been sitting in my Steam library for months now, still completely untouched. Hell, I’d bet I could get my roommate to lend me his setup for Donkey Konga!
Maybe that’d be a New Years resolution I’d actually be able to stick to: get back into music. I don’t think going into the deep end right away and buying a new viola would do me much good. Maybe I’ll just pick up a whole bunch of rhythm games for cheap and blast through those. If you’ve got any recommendations, let me know. I’d greatly appreciate it.
Although there is one little problem with the genre: nothing hurts more than messing up a perfect run right at the end. Seriously, don’t bother someone playing a rhythm game. That’s a good way to get your friend to hate you immediately.