|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
Vib-Ribbon (ビブリボン, Bibu Ribon) is a rhythm video game developed by NanaOn-Sha and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released for the PlayStation in Japan on December 12, 1999, and in Europe on September 1, 2000. Although the original PlayStation port was never released in North America, the game was re-released on PlayStation Network in North America in 2014.
The game was unique in that the software loaded into RAM, letting the player use any music CD to play against; the game could generate a unique level from any track. The graphics for Vib-Ribbon are simple, consisting of straight, white vector lines forming crude, angular drawings of the level and the player character, named Vibri.
Vib Ribbon is a rhythm game in which players guide the main character, Vibri, across a line filled with obstacles tied in correspondence to the beat of the song. There are four basic obstacles; block, loop, wave, and pit, which require players to press the L, R, X, or Down buttons respectively at the right time to navigate. Sometimes two obstacles will be merged, requiring the player to press two buttons at the same time (for example, a block and pit combination will require players to press L and Down together). Not pushing a button at the right time turns Vibri into a scribbled version of herself temporarily. Getting hit by obstacles too many times will degenerate Vibri from a rabbit into a frog, followed by a worm. Getting hit too many times while in worm form will end the game. Successful actions will help Vibri recover back to her higher forms, and clearing enough obstacles in succession while in the rabbit form will evolve Vibri into Queen Vibri, increasing the player's score until Vibri is hit.
The player's score is tallied via symbols during gameplay, which is then converted into points at the end of the run, during which bonus points may also be rewarded. Earning a high score will cause Vibri to sing a congratulatory song based on their position. The base game features six songs performed by an unaccredited Japanese singer which are divided up into bronze, silver, and gold courses containing two songs each. Additionally, players can generate levels using songs from music CDs, with difficulty varying depending on the intensity of the music. The soundtrack, according to Masaya Matsuura, was provided by a band called Laugh and Peace, with vocals by Yoko Fujita. Working with the band, Matsuura wanted a soundtrack that would encourage players to use their own music CDs. Reluctance to associate the game with any one music genre was a big part of why the game's visuals are so color-neutral and simple.
The game was initially commissioned as an advertisement for the Mercedes-Benz A-Class car. After design issues surfaced with the car and the ad plan was dropped, development continued as a stand-alone game.
NanaOn-Sha followed their PaRappa the Rapper success with Vib-Ribbon. As rhythm games relied increasingly on custom controllers, Vib-Ribbon stuck to NanaOn-Sha’s roots with a console game using a standard controller.
Unlike PaRappa, Vib-Ribbon included several licensed tracks from the popular group Laugh and Peace. The music selection was limited by the game’s budget. The solution was to let the player insert any audio CD and Vib-Ribbon would build the gameplay around any track of music. This meant that the entire game, including art, must fit within the PlayStation’s extremely limited memory. Vib-Ribbon therefore relied on simple near-monochrome vector graphics. Its primitive graphics made it difficult to sell, and the producers decided against bringing it to the Western game market.
The main character, a wireframe rabbit named Vibri, traveled along a simple level from the left to the right. There were four basic obstacles, each of which could be overcome by pressing one of the four usable action buttons on the controller. Difficult levels included advanced obstacles formed by combining two basic obstacles and defeated with two simultaneous buttons.
TechnologyTell's Jenni Lada was impressed with the minimalist graphics of the game. She also called it "refreshingly difficult" and praised the entire concept for the game. However, she also said that "When I’d press the shoulder buttons, up, or X on the Vita in time with the music, it fell perfectly in time with the beat. When I headed over to the PS3, I was sure I was one with the rhythm, but Vibri invariably turned into the slug. There’s some kind of discrepancy, and one has to adjust their timing to compensate."
Hardcore Gamer's Marcus Estrada called the game "cruel" when playing on the highest difficulty. He called the stages generated using CDs "ridiculous" and said that "a fair bit of tracks from a variety of genres (I tested rock, pop, and rap) also make levels do weird things with tempo." But he still mostly liked the game and said that it deserved a second chance.
Sequels and re-release
The game spawned two sequels: Mojib-Ribbon, which focused around rap music and calligraphy, and Vib-Ripple, which was similar to Vib-Ribbon but instead used digital images loaded into the game to generate the levels. Both were released in Japan for the PlayStation 2.
Game creator Masaya Matsuura has stated interest in working on Vib-Ribbon again, either through a sequel or a remake, and showed interest in downloadable services. When quizzed about the possibility of bringing Vib-Ribbon to other consoles Matsuura said he could buy it from Sony. When asked about the possibility of a port for PlayStation 3, Matsuura stated "We are discussing the possibility of making a downloadable version of Vib-Ribbon for Sony, but, I don't know yet - Sony only recently launched their downloadable service in Japan, so maybe we need to wait a while before releasing a title with that kind of appeal."
At E3 2014, Vib-Ribbon was singled out by Shawn Layden, then the new CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America. Layden did not realize that the game had, at that point, never been released in America, and many on the internet saw the mention of the game hinting at a North American release despite the company having no plans to do so. As such, many people on Twitter became displeased when there was no further mention of the game during the press conference. When Layden realized his mistake, he asked his team to work on perfecting a North American port for PlayStation Network. The port was released in 2014 with Layden writing an apology for the confusion on the PlayStation Blog.
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