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April-June 1999

Music Video Games

Most people think video games are something you play by staring at a screen and moving your fingers around, but this isn't always the case anymore. A popular new type of game at video arcades requires players to score points by dancing and performing in front of friends while keeping rhythm to music.

The company that took the lead in developing these machines is Konami Co. In December 1997 it released an arcade game called Beatmania (known as Hiphopmania outside of Japan). In this game, the players first select a genre of music like techno-pop, hip hop, or reggae. They score points by following an indicator on the screen and tapping any of five buttons on a keyboard and spinning a turntable to produce rhythms in sync with the music. Players seem to get a kick out of trying their hands at being a DJ. The game has become a big hit, and three upgraded versions complete with the latest hit songs have recently been released. On the newest version the number of buttons has been increased to seven, making it even more challenging.

On November 1998 Konami released a slightly different type of music game called Dance Dance Revolution. The object of this game is to score points by keeping rhythm with one's feet. Following arrows on the screen, players dance on four floor panels, which flash when they are stepped on. Each song lasts about a minute and a half. Players with a good sense of rhythm go on to the next song and accumulate high point totals. For those who aren't so agile, however, the game ends quickly. Some players get their entire bodies into the action and produce cool dance moves that draw applause from onlookers.

Controllers are now being sold that enable people to play at home, allowing them to practice and improve their steps before showing them off at the arcade. Players can even program their own dance patterns at home, which they can save on a memory card and bring to the arcade.

Music-based games have zany names like Pop 'n' Music, Parappa the Rapper, Paca Paca Passion, and Um Jammer Lammy. In March 1999 a new type called Guitar Freaks was introduced. This game lets people simulate guitar playing by following the screen's directions, pushing any of the three buttons on the neck and using a pick to produce sounds. Grown-ups who've always wanted to be able to play the guitar have been drawn to this game, too.

Photos: (Top) With Beatmania, players can experience what it's like to be a DJ; (above) as with the other music-based games, two players can compete against each other on Dance Dance Revolution. ((C) 1999 KONAMI ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)