Game idea! When you’re walking somewhere and listening to exciting music on headphones, you choreograph scenes from imaginary films in your head, right? Everyone I know with a Y chromosome and half a pulse does. There’s definitely a game in there. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Take a third person action game with fighting, running, climbing and jumping segments. Plot’s unimportant. Make it about some scrawny guy who’s just spent ten years in Neo-Tokyo studying the art of dance-fu, and returns home with a pair of fat headphones and a burning desire to clean up his town. Make the levels short, maybe three to four minutes long, and build them like time-trials. Your goal is not just to make it from A to B in the shortest time and with a minimum of pain, but to discover new routes and shortcuts for subsequent playthroughs.
A level might look like this: Guffawing, liquored-up boss gangster is taunting you from the roof of a bar. You have to make your way through all his goons in the car park, navigate the alleyways behind the bar to get to the fire escape, climb up that and finally beat his ass down.
The game would ship with, say, 20 real-world songs ranging from dance to hip-hop to rock, one for each level, and the action would be tied in with them. Whether a punch hits hard or soft, and whether a block simply deflects damage or automatically initiates a counter is dependent on whether the button was pressed in time with the beat. The goal for the player is for play to become metronomic. Instead of a dodge or evade button the player instead has a ‘dance’ button, which doesn’t increase the player’s combo but when tapped in time with the beat will stop the combo from fading. When pressed in tandem with the corresponding direction on the analog stick the dance button also causes the player to weave out of the way of incoming attacks.
This need for timing would extent to non-violent actions, too. Climbing, jumping, sprinting, all of it would require rhythm and pacing to keep the combo up and the avatar’s actions smooth and strong. Now, environments and enemies wouldn’t be designed around the concept of four button presses for each bar of four-beat timing. The trick in any given sequence would be in squeezing in button-presses where possible and learning what moves your character has (long jumps, slides or convoluted throws) which require you to stop pressing buttons for a beat or two.
Solos and breakdowns in the song would, naturally, require the player to be involved in some kind of exceptionally dramatic setpiece to keep the combo going.
The point of the combo would be in unlocking new ways through the level. The higher the combo gets, the more your character gets into the music and leaves his human limitations behind. After 60 seconds of flawless play perfectly timed kicks will cause enemies to crumple like paper, but they’ll also break the locks off wooden doors. By 90 seconds your jumps will have gained a good sixteen inches in height, more than enough to get your fingertips up on previously inaccessible ledges. Your goal with any level is to find the single path that’ll let you chain the whole thing from start to finish, turning it into an acrobatic, ass-kicking music video.
For some reason I can’t get the mental image of Rocketbilly Redcadillac from the PS2’s Gungrave: Total Overdose out of my head as the protagonist. He looks like this:
Kinda low-res, so have some cosplay instead.