Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School Musical

K-On!_Houkago_Live!!I watched the first season of K-On! a few years back, and it really didn’t make much of an impression.  I finished it, so I probably liked it, but it was really just kind of a moe-by-numbers show, designed to sell the maximum amount of merchandise by having at least one character tuned to appeal to any given viewer’s sensibilities.

While the show didn’t make much of an impression, I do like rhythm games, so I picked up a cheap copy of K-On! Hougako Live!! for the PSP when I was in Japan last summer.

I finally got around to playing it this week, and it made a bad first impression.  It had the three songs I remembered from the show, but also had sixteen songs that I didn’t remember at all, and I had some trouble adapting to the way note markers work.

It also doesn’t pull many punches with difficulty levels.  Because it has a very limited number of tracks, it needs to ramp up from the introductory level to endgame levels pretty quickly, and it becomes very challenging even on “normal” once you get about halfway through the songs list.

It makes up for the short song list in a fairly unusual way for rhythm games, but one that will be familiar to anyone who remembers later entries in the Guitar Hero franchise.  You can play any of the songs as each of the different instruments used by the band, so each one has a separate note chart for lead and rhythm guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards.  The instruments also play very differently – guitars use all four face buttons and all four directional buttons and have lots of hold notes, while drums use all four face buttons but only one of the directional (down) and have no hold notes.

One rather clever bit is that, because the band’s bassist is left-handed, her parts are played largely with the directional buttons.

It does like to do some pretty evil combinations of the directional+face buttons.  The Project Diva games, as an example, will often ask you to press right and hit the circle button at the same time, which is pretty easy to remember.  This game likes to have you hit, oh, the circle button and the down arrow, and then the X button and the right arrow, and alternate those for a while.

Fortunately, it doesn’t deduct points for hitting the wrong notes, so I was able to mash through that bit by spamming down+right+X+circle all at once.

Anyway.  It wasn’t really sticking with me, and I was inches away from playing through each of the songs with one of the instruments and calling it done.

Then, purely by luck, I got an A rank on one of the songs and unlocked a family-restaurant-style waitress outfit.  I put this on the character I’d been playing, and the result was adorable, and that made me play through the same song with all of the characters until I got an A rank on each character so I could have a band full of characters in adorable waitress uniforms…

…and then I buckled down and got to the process of passing every song with every character at least once, so I could get the ending credits.

I also unlocked nekomimi and stuck them immediately on Azusa, for reasons.

I don’t know that I’d recommend it to anyone who was completely unfamiliar with the source material, but I thought it was a pretty decent game even though the show didn’t have a lot going for it – and, obviously, if you ARE a huge K-on! fan, well, um…

…well, you’ve probably played it, or the PS3 remake, at some time since it came out four years ago.  But, if you haven’t, it’s almost certainly something you’ll want to play.

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