When PaRappa the Rapper came out in Japan in 1996, it opened up the new genre of "rhythm action." One of the first titles to join the fray was Enix's Bust-a-Groove (Bust-a-Move in Japan). With a two-player mode, catchy music, and original character design, the game found success for U.S. publisher 989 Studios upon its release in 1998. Nearly two years later, Enix has returned to U.S. shores as a publisher. One of their first titles is Bust-a-Groove 2 for the Sony PlayStation. How does the sequel stack up?
Shorty gets out there and busts a move
Unfortunately, not too well in this day and age. Bust-a-Groove 2, like its predecessor, requires tapping controller directions and buttons in time with music. In the years since PaRappa and the original Bust-a-Groove founded the rhythm-action genre, the genre has improved by leaps and bounds. Konami's Dance Dance Revolution introduced actual dancing to the field, and Sega's own Sonic Team gave us the maraca-shaking classic, Samba de Amigo. Konami's other Bemani titles (Beatmania, Guitar Freaks, Drummania) have been universally praised. Lest you think that good gameplay requires an investment in an expensive controller, Sony's Vib Ribbon, SNK's Cool Cool Toon, and Sega's Space Channel 5 have all offered a more compelling game play experiences with their system's standard controller. Why do these games succeed where Bust-a-Groove fails?
A rhythm action game lives and dies by two factors: its music and its style. Bust-a-Groove 2 falls below its peers on both fronts. The music has its share of catchy gems, but falls below the best the genre has to offer. Too many of the songs are merely "good enough" -- unlike the first Bust-a-Groove and many other rhythm action titles, you feel no desire to listen to the songs outside of the game. Also, for a title based around music, the gameplay is distressingly sloppy. Every four measures, the player is required to input a string of d-pad directions and button presses. As long as the final button is pressed on the fourth beat, the rhythm of the preceeding musical string does not matter. Experienced gamers will probably complete the game in around an hour. A music game where you can succeed without rhythm or timing seemingly defeats the purpose of the genre.
Heat's got the touch! Heat's got the power!
Bust-a-Groove 2 also lacks the necessary style to catch the player's attention. Vib Ribbon had its minimalist (but surprisingly deep) line artwork; Space Channel 5 had its retro-future chic. What the Bemani series of games lack in visual flair they make up with the sexiness of a custom controller and completely new gameplay paradigm. Most of the ten core Bust-a-Move characters are well-designed and attractive, but the eight hidden characters are almost entirely disposeable. And after seeing Ulala strut her stuff through massive, detailed levels, it's hard to be excited by two dancers dancing in place.
Bust-a-Groove 2 is not a bad game--it just fails to excel in any way. The Japanese version came out in April 1999, and the intervening months have not been kind to the title. Die-hard rhythm-action fans should still check the game out, as it has some good qualities. Others should probably give this one a pass; unfortunately, the rapidly evolving music genre has left this game behind.
Review by Andrew Vestal, GIA.
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|Bust-a-Move 2 |
|New Bust-a-Groove 2 gameplay system |
|116 English screenshots |
|10 character renders |
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