Japanese Arcade Jungle: Grove Along with Groove Coaster

An odd example of life imitating art

Groove Coaster

(Photo Credit: Tim Taylor)

Our trek through the jungle this week takes us into a brightly lit future, full of light cycles, grids, and other copyrighted phrases from a certain Disney movie.  Groove Coaster is the topic du jour, a relatively new game by Taito of Space Invaders fame.  As an odd example of life imitating art (or something along those lines), the arcade version of Groove Coaster, “Groove Coaster EX” is a port—the original game debuted on iOS in 2011, and came to the arcade in 2014.

As one might expect from an originally-mobile game, Groove Coaster has simple controls.  Two large buttons rest at your left and right hands, and at its most basic, the gameplay involves simply hitting one of those buttons in time with notes that scroll in along the titular “Groove Coaster” track.  Such a game would be colossally boring, however, so Groove Coaster spices things up a bit by mounting the buttons on thick joysticks, in an arrangement quaintly called the BOOSTER in official literature.  Yes, the all-caps is completely necessary.  

Time to take note

Anyway, the BOOSTER opens the door to many different types of notes, which appear over the course of gameplay.  There are one-handed notes, both-handed notes, hold notes, “slide” notes (flick the joystick in the direction indicated on screen), slide-and-hold notes (same thing but hold it), “beat” notes (hit the buttons as many times as you can in the space provided), “scratch” notes (move the joystick back and forth rapidly), and invisible “ad-lib” notes, which reward you for just tapping along to the beat occasionally.  Have you been taking notes?

Yes, notes are the game’s bread and butter, but the visuals and overall experience of this arcade don’t disappoint either.  With a 55” screen as the standard viewer, this is one of the larger and more immersive games in any given arcade, and the designers have done a good job at making the very linear scroll of notes look appealing and inviting.  Living up to its name, the single line upon which all your notes scroll is a true musical roller coaster, with twists, dives, turns, shakes, and flashes; it’s a virtual journey reminiscent of Tron or the PS2 cult classic Rez.  The songs on offer are, as per usual, delivered via an internet subscription, and therefore always changing with the mood of the Japanese public.  Right now, one could expect to find selections from popular J-Pop artists, anime shows, games, Vocaloid, Project Tohou, and even recent content from popular Japanese video site NicoNico.

 A certain charm in its accessibility

Overall, Groove Coaster, while simple, is still good fun.  It’s not a game that will make you tear your hair out like Beatmania or Sound Voltex (more on that one in a future episode), but there’s a certain charm in its accessibility, and especially in its music library.  Unlike most games discussed in this column, interested readers can get a taste of the experience for themselves by downloading the Groove Coaster mobile app, from the iOS or Google Play app stores.

Groove Coaster runs on the Nesica save card.

Tim Taylor

Tim Taylor

Contributing Writer
Tim Taylor is an otaku and cosplayer with aspirations toward working in Japan as a game designer. He owns every commercially popular game system from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo Switch, and can often be found dancing to ParaPara music in his spare time.
Tim Taylor
Tim Taylor