Tran, the mascot character of Beatmania IIDX

It all starts with Beatmania.

That’s not me just spouting hyperbole. It really does start with Beatmania. What do I mean by “it”? Well, I’m talking about rhythm games as we know them.

Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of games such as Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution, and a myriad of other rhythm titles. But back in 1997, in the Japanese arcades, there was just Beatmania.

And you probably hadn’t heard of it. You know, since we’re talking about Japanese arcades.

Beatmania will probably sound very familiar to you, though. The premise of the game was to use an instrument-like controller to “play” a song by timing your inputs along with the beat, using falling notes on the screen as an indicator of what to press.

The controller for Beatmania was unique in that it did not really have a direct analogue to any one instrument. The layout consisted of five keys, three white and two black, that were alongside a turntable. The player would push the keys indicated on screen and, when prompted, would spin the turntable to amass points and complete the song.

Beatmania was a success for Konami, who both developed and published the game, and they soon followed it up with other rhythm games such as Pop’n Music, Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Freaks, and Drummania. They couched these games, which had the same gameplay style of Beatmania but used different controller inputs and often had different musical styles, under the Bemani banner.

Bemani, of course, being a shortening of Beatmania.

See? I told you it wasn’t hyperbole.

Beatmania IIDX

Haritsuya Rendevous from IIDX 16 Empress

Beatmania itself went on to become a successful series, with releases coming out through 2002, when Beatmania The Final was released. (That’s not a translation. That’s what they actually called it. Just... go with it.)

However, in 1999, while Beatmania was still going strong, Konami released a spin-off version of the game called Beatmania IIDX. The DX stands for “deluxe” and referred to an extended controller (with one additional white and black key added), more difficult songs, and an expanded arcade cabinet with extra features.

Beatmania IIDX has eclipsed its predecessor in terms of popularity, having a total of 19 arcade releases and 14 console releases on the Playstation 2. The latest arcade release, Beatmania IIDX 18: Resort Anthem came out Sept. 15, 2010. While the previous arcade release, Beatmania IIDX 17: Sirius has not seen a console release as of yet, Konami is currently asking fans of the series which system they would like to see it come out for.