Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Scratch: The Ultimate DJ Brings Back The Turntables

The music/rhythm genre will soon be expanding to hip hop this spring when Genius Products, Genco Interactive and 7 Studios launches their new title, Scratch: The Ultimate DJ for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Much like how Rock Band and Guitar Hero gained influences from the original Japan-only Konami titles, GuitarFreaks and DrumMania, Scratch looks similar to Konami's turntable-based Beatmania. Harmonix, Activision, and even the lagging Konami have been sticking to the rock genre, but Scratch will hopefully further improve the formula that Beatmania created.

While Konami's new IP, Rock Revolution is looking very poor against Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Genius, Genco, and 7 Studios looks to really stand out against its predecessors and create a legitimate contender. Beatmania had a steep learning curve and limited library of electronic music, but Scratch will blaze its own path with a large hip hop influence. The developers are collaborating with famous hip hop producer Quincy Jones III and his QD3 Entertainment studio, who produced tracks for Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J, and even the score for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Based on released comments, QD3 sounds dedicated to utilize their experience in the music industry and hip hop to make the experience as authentic as possible. Although no specific names were revealed, the developer promises "original recordings from the catalogs of many top urban artists". The game looks to have a unique cel-shaded look with nightclubs, dancers, and b-boys creating a vibrant atmosphere along with other urban environments. Current titles have done a great job of representing rock music and its style, but Scratch sounds like a great chance to truly bring hip hop culture to life.

The 'Scratch Deck' turntable controller will be created by Numark, manufacturer of a variety of real-life DJ equipment. Based on screenshots, the controller should at least contain the familiar five colored buttons along with the turntable. What sets the gameplay apart from previous music/rhythm games is the ability to alter music tracks in real-time. The game will include the trademark rhythm patterns, but also allows you to "re-imagine songs on the fly and add [your] own creativity". Specifics have not been named, but hopefully it will be more than a simple freestyle section seen in older music/rhythm games. There appears to be some sort of career or story mode, as you choose a DJ personality and rise up from working garages to the biggest nightclubs.

There have been attempts to integrate hip hop culture into video games, but never quite like this. Get On Da Mic poorly attempted to do karaoke while the Def Jam series presented a very solid wrestling/fighter. The continued rise of hip hop music is a great opportunity to show gamers what the genre really has to offer in terms of interactive entertainment. With Activision trademarking 'DJ Hero' earlier this year for a possible new title, let's see if Harmonix or Konami provide any response.

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