What is Beatmania?
Beatmania, Beatmania IIDX, and Beatmania III are the granddaddies of game company Konami's Bemani series. The basic premise behind all three titles is to be one or (if you have a friend) two virtual DJs and create music by pressing keys as short lines called note marks fall down the television screen in time with the song and hit a static bar. When the note mark lines up with the bar you press the corresponding key on the machine or console controller and create part of the music. Scoring is based on keeping your "groove gauge" filled to a certain level. The better you do, the more full it gets and the worse you do the less full it appears. This sounds terribly confusing to those who have not seen it but is rather simple once seen. Music for the series has traditionally been produced 50% by in-house DJs and 50% licensed music and is also partially shared with what is considered the series' cousin, Dance Dance Revolution. All games boast a full soundtrack release. The differences between the games are listed below.
The basics of Beatmania
Beatmania, created in the late 1990s, consists of a 5-key keyboard and a scratchtable, right for both players. Modifiers, or options that alter either the basic sound of the music or the appearance of the note marks, are limited in scope and must be selected at game play. Modifiers in this version include hi-speed play (place more space between note marks, useful in slower songs but nearly fatal in fast-paced songs), battle (rather than having each player play individual parts of the song to create a harmony each plays the complete song and attempts to sound better than the other), double (one player plays both sides of the machine for an extra-hard 10-key challenge), and several other, unused ones. Also available is a non-stop expert mode in which your groove gauge does not refill as you play through four songs.
This first series has been indepdendently maintained from its successors for eight "mixes" and only recenly has been discontinued in both the arcade and console versions by Konami. Special versions include Core Remix (a revisit of songs in the series) and UK Underground Mix (special for the UK). This is the only game in the series to see a US and UK release as HipHop Mania.
The upgrade to Beatmania, Beatmania IIDX
Beatmania IIDX, created at the dawn of 2000, adds two keys to the keyboard for a total of 7 and moves the scratchtables - placing each on the left for the first player and right for the second player. Graphically the game runs respectable graphics and the center of the screen plays full rate videos that occasionally tell a story or show a motif for a particular artist. Modifiers also are expanded to include hi-speed 1 to 4/slow, double, easy/hard (lose your percentage less/do not regain percentage level), battle, random (change note marks to different key patterns for an extra challenge). In all versions except the 11th modifiers apply to both players. For fans of the first series there is also a 5-key mode, an expert mode, and a custom expert course mode for the home versions. IIDX is very much alive and in active production with an upcoming 12th "Style" in the works for arcades and 10 home console ports as well as connectivity between both versions and a high-score competition on the internet. This version is the most popular in Japan and with import fans.
Arcades with IIDX should not be missed by those with even an inkling of an interest as this machine, upwards of U$10,000 in cost, is a marvel to see. Enhacning the DJ feel is a decent sound mixing board that allows control of parts of the song, a wide lcd or plasma television, very large surround sound speakers, a rhythm-sensitive floor that players stand on to be above the crowd as they spin, as well as large amounts of flashing lights. This machine is also loud.
The side version of Beatmania, Beatmania III
Beatmania III is also a current title which takes the old 5-key setup and consolidates the mixing board from IIDX into a foot pedal. Play proceeds the same on a much smaller machine.