Vib Ribbon

   When PaRappa the Rapper was released in 1997, gamers praised its understated graphical design. In a world of light-sourced, raytraced, and fully-textured 3D models, PaRappa's two-dimensional, brightly colored quirkiness was a breath of fresh air. PaRappa producer Masaya Matsuura and developer Nana On-Sha apparently took the praise of their minimalism to heart; their latest title, Vib Ribbon, takes graphical simplicity to an unprecedented extreme. Vib Ribbon is a 1.5 dimensional game with black and white vector graphics--but what it lacks in flash and flair, it makes up for in quirkiness, creativity, and infinite replay value.

The Vib Ribbon

   Vib Ribbon is the tale of Vibri (or, as we at the GIA affectionally call him, "Singing Crack Rabbit"). Vibri hops, skips, and jumps his merry way along an infinitely long line--the "Vib Ribbon." Like most people, Vibri finds it easier to keep moving if he's listening to music. But sound causes the fabric of the Vib Ribbon to molds and change its shape, like an oscilloscope gone horribly wrong. This creates obstacles in time with the music that Vibri (and consequently, the player) must avoid.

   The Ribbon is host to four separate types of obstacles: the block, the pit, the jagged line, and the loop. Vibri can avoid these with a well-timed press of L1, down, X, or R1, respectively. As the music tempo shifts, so does the rate at which the obstacles appear, so Vibri has to stay on his two-dimensional toes. On more difficult songs, the different obstacles combine into combination obstacles, such as a jagged loop or a block with a pit. Vibri navigates these by pressing the two requisite buttons simultaneously. Succesfully passing a series of obstacles will "evolve" Vibri to a higher, winged form. Too many mistakes causes the lines to start wobbling and Vibri to "devolve" into a lower form of vector-based life. Two many devolutions lead to death.

   However, the GIA feels that Vibri himself provides a better explanation of the title than we could ever hope to write; the gameplay makes far more sense when the rules are sung by our rabbity friend.

  Song select
Select a song

   The Vib Ribbon game CD comes with six songs from Japanese group "Laugh and Beats" for Vibri to explore. All are catchy tunes with tempos and sounds designed to bring out the best Vib Ribbon has to offer. The meat of the gameplay, however, comes from a single, ingenious feature: gamers can create levels from their own music CDs. Just drop the CD in and watch as Vib Ribbon works its magic, creating a level that matches the tempo and tone of the music. Stroll along to smooth jazz, make your way through a rock-and-roll strewn obstacle course, or brave the non-Euclidian Hell that is house music. Gamers can play either a single track or an entire CD gauntlet.

   We'll be the first to admit that Vib Ribbon isn't much of a looker, but its quirkiness and charm soon won us universally over to Vibri's cause. Unfortunately, given SCEA's notorious policy towards two-dimensional titles, Vib Ribbon's odds of a domestic release are ... well, we say "low" only because we can't bring ourselves to admit that it isn't coming. There's always the chance that someone will realize what a cult classic they have on their hands and include it as an extra on a forthcoming Sony title or in an issue of Sony's two-disc electronic PlayStation "magazine," the PlayStation Underground, but we aren't holding our breath. Until then, Vib Ribbon will only be found at your favorite import store--and in the PlayStations of finer gamers everywhere.

Preview by Andrew Vestal, GIA.
Vib Ribbon
Developer Nana On-Sha
Publisher SCEI
Genre Rhythm
Medium CD (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation
Release Date  12.09.99
E3: Vib Ribbon Europe impressions
4 cracktastic movies / 7 MP3s and lyrics / 35 intro and menus screens / 24 gameplay screens
The many forms of Vibri / Obstacle chart