Never satisfied with its current success, Konami continues to milk its BEMANI music series for all it's worth. The latest home incarnation has occurred on the Sony's new PlayStation 2 in the form of the drum simulation game, Drummania. A port of the 1999 Japanese arcade game of the same name, Drummania should continue in the ancient tradition (since 1997, at least) of quality BEMANI games.
Descending bars

   Like Beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution before it, Drummania is based around two things: gameplay and music. Bars representing different drums scroll down the screen, and when a bar hits the red line near the bottom of the screen, the player has to strike the respective drum. At first glance these bars may seem nearly random, but as they are hit successfully, a song forms. More experienced players will hear their drum playing take the form of drum rolls and the like. While the learning curve may prove to be a bit steep, especially for the rhythm-impaired, after a bit of practice the game should prove to be quite a realistic and fun drum simulator.

   Unlike the simplified gameplay systems that Beatmania and Guitar Freaks offer (when was the last time that you heard a guitar song that used exactly three frets?), Drummania offers plenty of realism. In addition to the realistic techniques used in the game, the original arcade version contained five electronic drum pads and a bass pedal supplied by Yamaha; in other words, they were real electronic drums. When porting the game to the PS2, Konami wisely decided that a $600 controller may be a bit much for the average player and chose to scale down and simplify the pads. Although it's not nearly the quality of the arcade version, the PS2 Drummania controller should prove to be the best BEMANI controller by far. About two and a half feet in width, the red, black, and silver controller features soft rubber pads and a cord connected foot 'pedal.' This bass drum pedal works through a pressure sensitive pad similar to the DDR controller (or the old NES Power Pad), and is adhered to a piece of soft foam. In addition to the controller, Konami has created a stand for it as well, adding to the realism. The controller, stand, and a pair of drum sticks are packaged with the game itself (for the Japanese release, at least), meaning that everyone that has the game is able to get the full realistic feel of it.

Song select screen

   While previous BEMANI series games feature a more limited range of genre, Drummania should prove to be quite broad in its musical palette. Genres from the arcade version, such as Ska, Samba, Love Song, Fusion, Heavy Metal, and Big Beat, are joined with home exclusives such as Epic Rock and Hard Core. This easily should make for the widest range of styles in any existing BEMANI game, veering away from the techno/dance slant of Beatmania & DDR and the rock-based Guitar Freaks. Players should find no difficulty finding a suitable play level as well; Drummania provides 4 difficulty modes and 10 levels of song difficulty, as well as rating songs in such areas as Taps, Technique, Rhythm, and Speed. Songs range from the easy BritPop tune "Eyes of Kids", which sports a mere 116 notes and requires no specific skills, to the middle-of-the-road Rhythm-heavy Big Beat song "Hypnotica", all the way to the insanely difficult "Across the Nightmare", which contains 300 beats per minute and 770 notes and should prove impossible for everyone but drumming experts.

   Drummania also supports multi-player play, but not in the way that most would think. Instead of going about 2 players in a dueling drummers fashion, the title opts for a rarely used arcade feature: Session Mode. While the arcade Session mode required both the $25,000 Drummania machine and a $20,000 Guitar Freaks machine (placed near each other and connected by a cable, as well), the PlayStation 2 version of Drummania merely needs a controller plugged into controller port 2. Not only making for a more cost-efficient way to jam with your friends, Session Mode adds three more songs, along with a general spicing-up of the title. Players can opt to use either the Dual Shock or Dual Shock 2 controller or the original Guitar Freaks guitar controller, and through the PlayStation 2 Multi-Tap up to three players can be supported (two on guitar and one on drums). This makes a game that was generally one-player in the arcades into one that could be quite a hit at parties.

Trilinear mip-mapped alpha channel raytraced graphics

   Of course, many people may be turned off by the simplistic graphics. Polygons are nowhere in sight, let alone in the absurd numbers that the PS2 can support. Konami went for a straight arcade port in terms of graphics, meaning that the graphics could easily have been supported by the original PlayStation. This shouldn't affect gameplay in the least, though. Anyone that has played earlier BEMANI games knows that while playing, graphics are one of the last things on people's minds; keeping up with the ever-falling notes is hard enough. Instead of putting added time and manpower into the graphics, Konami focused mainly on the music and gameplay factors, which, if the arcade version is any indicator, should prove to be a large plus for the game.

   Though the game was a launch title for the PS2 in Japan and would prove an easy port (the only Japanese in the game is in the 'How to Play' section and one of the PS2-exclusive songs), multiple factors, including Konami's lack of North American BEMANI support and the inherant cost of the controller, make this title a fairly low candidate on the localization scale. Drummania does make for very kinetic and fun gameplay, and the simple fact that you can use the game to play drums in your living room makes it very cool indeed. With any luck, North American gamers will be beating to the rhythm in the comfort of their own homes sometime soon.

Preview by J.T. Kauffman, GIA.
Developer Konami
Publisher Konami
Genre Rhythm
Medium CD-ROM (1)
Platform PlayStation 2
Release Date  03.04.00
Famitsu rates PlayStation 2 titles
71 screenshots
3 wallpaper images
Japanese packaging and controller