Vib-Ribbon[a] (stylized as vib-ribbon) 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 9, 1999, and in Europe on September 1, 2000. Although the original PlayStation version was never released in North America, the game was re-released on PlayStation Network in North America in 2014.
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
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. Masaya Matsuura, the producer of PaRappa the Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy, returned to lead Vib-Ribbon. The game's software loads into RAM, letting the player use any music CD to play against; the game can 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 received positive reviews from critics, praising its minimalist visuals and innovative concept, and has garnered a cult following. It spawned two Japan-only follow-ups: Mojib-Ribbon (2003) and Vib-Ripple (2004).
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, in a dimension called Music World. There are four basic obstacles; block, loop, wave, and pit, which require players to press the L1, R1, 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 L1 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 clear enough obstacles in succession while in the rabbit form will evolve Vibri into Super Vibri, increasing the player's score until Vibri is hit.
The player's score is tallied via symbols during the 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 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 was provided by a band called Laugh and Peace, with vocals by Yoko Fujita. Working with the band, Masaya Matsuura wanted a soundtrack that would encourage players to use their music CDs. Reluctance to associate the game with anyone's music genre was a big part of why the game's visuals are so color-neutral and simple.
The game that became Vib-Ribbon started production after the completion of PaRappa the Rapper (1996). Mercedes-Benz contacted Sony about using a game to promote their then-upcoming A-Class car, leading NanaOn-Sha to be assigned the project. They made a prototype that used polygon graphics, and the protagonist was a living car. however, the team's dissatisfaction with the demo led to the promotion being dropped and the game continuing as an original project. Vib-Ribbon's wireframe visuals are inspired by early computer graphics, and its gameplay is based on producer Masaya Matsuura's love of drumming. The automatic music-generation concept was implemented when a programmer found a way to make the PlayStation analyze music CDs; the system looks eight seconds ahead of what the player is listening to and generates obstacles based on "interesting" frequency changes. Vibri's voice is produced using NTT Communications' Speech Synthesizer.
Masaya Matsuura and J-pop band Laugh and Peace (consisting of Toshiyuki Kageyama, Koichi Hirota, and vocalist Yoko Fujita) (also credited as Laugh and Beats) composed the game's original soundtrack, with Matsuura instructing them to create music that fit the game's world without giving players the impression that a particular style of music is associated with the game. It was released on vinyl in 2020, featuring the unreleased song "Rainbow".
TechnologyTell's Jenni Lada was impressed with the minimalist graphics of the game. She also called it "refreshingly difficult" and praised the entire concept of 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". Despite his criticism, he liked the game and said that it deserved a second chance.
Sequels and re-releaseEdit
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 said: "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".
Vib-Ribbon initially skipped a North American release, as Sony Computer Entertainment America were reportedly unimpressed with the game's simplistic graphics, causing fans to campaign for an American release, which Matsuura supported. 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.
- Vib-Ribbon Japan Release Info Playstation Japan Website, archived March 16th, 2021, retrieved June 21st, 2022.
- Vib-Ribbon on PS3, PS Vita, PSP Archived 2016-05-12 at the Wayback Machine. PlayStation Store US.
- Estrada, Marcus (May 13, 2020). "Vib-Ribbon Soundtrack Coming to Vinyl". Hardcore Gamer. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
- Vib-Ribbon instruction manual. Sony Computer Entertainment. 2000.
- Lada, Jenni. "Vib Ribbon Review: Getting the one that got away". TechnologyTell. Archived from the original on 2015-08-23. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- "Laugh and Peace on Myspace". Archived from the original on 2009-08-19. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Kotzer, ZacK (November 3, 2014). "You Can Finally Play the Legendary 90s Game That Turns Songs Into Levels". Vice. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
- "The Making of Vib-Ribbon". Retro Gamer. No. 76. Image Publishing. pp. 64–67.
- "VIB RIBBON – Q&A". PlayStation Europe. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
- "Who is Vibri?". Vib-Ribbon official website. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
- "PlayStation Review: Vib-Ribbon". GameFan. Vol. 8, no. 3. March 2000. p. 80.
- Gerstmann, Jeff (January 20, 2000). "Vib-Ribbon (Import) review". GameSpot. Archived from the original on March 23, 2005. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
- Estrada, Marcus (2014-10-09). "Review: Vib-Ribbon". Hardcore Gamer. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- "R.I.P. PlayStation: The best of 1995-2001". Hyper. No. 90 (April 2001). 28 February 2001. pp. 44–51.
- Meyers, Dan (September 2000). "Review:Vib Ribbon". Official UK PlayStation Magazine. No. 62. Future plc. p. 22. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
- "Matsuura Got Rhythm: The State Of NanaOn-Sha's Founder". Archived from the original on 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- "Late Night Consoling - Vib Ribbon may roll along to PS3". Archived from the original on 2007-05-07. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
- Gilbert, Ben. "NYC Museum of Modern Art opens game collection with 14 classics, exhibiting in March 2013". Engadget. Archived from the original on 2015-11-10. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Kennedy, Sam (April 26, 2000). "Campaign For Vib Ribbon". GameSpot. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
- "Vib Ribbon to be released by Sony Europe; SCEA passes on U.S. release". The Gaming Intelligence Agency. March 13, 2000. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
- Kohler, Chris (2014-11-18). "How Sony's Blunder Revived Vib-Ribbon, a Long-Lost Classic". Wired. Archived from the original on 2015-06-17. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- "Every cameraman reference in Astro's Playroom". Gamepur. Retrieved 2020-11-12.