Gitaroo Man was a rhythm game released for the PlayStation 2 in 2002 with a port coming to the PlayStation Portable in 2006. You played by tapping the buttons as prompts flew in from all four side of the screen, while also navigating swirling lines with the analog stick. The music was great, the mechanics felt fresh and the art was bonkers. While it didn’t sell in great numbers, it’s still remembered fondly by those who played it.
One level in particular seems to have inspired devotion in players, even today: the acoustic version of “The Legendary Theme” that is played in a quiet level where you’re trying to woo a young lady into resting her head on your shoulder. Trying to decipher the game’s actual story is an exercise in madness if you haven’t played it — I’m not sure it makes sense even if you have — but that level sticks in the brain, and it features one of the loveliest songs in video game history.
Let’s watch together, shall we?
If you played the game at a certain age and were musically inclined you likely learned how to play this song yourself. The tablature can be found all over the place, and it’s not a tricky song to learn. If you find an acoustic guitar at a party and play this theme you’ll ... well, likely impress no one and then you turn into that person who is playing an acoustic guitar at a party and you should probably stop. But it’s a very calming song to play by yourself or perhaps when trying to lull a young child to sleep.
There are plenty of covers of the song to be found online, and they’re lovely. There are plenty of great songs in plenty of great rhythm games, but there is something about this piece of music that seems to inspire people to actually pick up a musical instrument and play.
There are two types of people I’ve encountered in this job as I talk to people about games: you either haven’t played Gitaroo Man or you don’t remember it, or you immediately begin humming “The Legendary Theme.” It’s a tune that many people in gaming seem to keep in their back pocket, and are delighted when it’s brought up.
There is a certain thread running through the online covers of the song and, while the tune remains lovely all these years later, it’s hard to get past the fact that it’s almost always played by a painfully earnest looking young man.
Remember my advice from earlier: If you see an acoustic guitar at a party, maybe just leave it there. Everyone will thank you.
But “The Legendary Theme” is seems to be an overwhelmingly positive memory for people who have played the game, and it’s nice to give thanks to a small bit of music that has endured this long and still brings a smile to my face. Thanks, Gitaroo Man. You were the best.