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So what's the deal with osu!?

osu! is a rhythm game that brings the gameplay of osu! Tatake Ouendan, Taiko no Tatsujin, EZ2Catch and VSRGs to the PC platform.

It is a free game which receives content from its users rather than from a core staff team.

But if you hang out in any general rhythm games community, you will see osu! is often treated as a bad game, a game to avoid in general.

osu! website

The first rhythm games I played seriously was probably DJ Hero and Band Hero for the Nintendo Wii console. Being games made for an audience mainly composed of casual gamers by an american company, my main interest was in the playlist. For someone like me who had no special interest in music at that time, it had a lots of musics I knew even for someone like me who was a total neophyte.

Even though playing musics I know might have been an important part in my enjoyment of the game, I’m quite sure playing on a dedicated controller also influenced me a lot without noticing it.

Years later someone introduced me to osu!, being told it was “a rhythm game I will like because there’s a lots of music from every music genres and you can also add your own”. Which is true. And I played the game from mid-2014 to the end of 2015 and then lost interest.

Why did I lost interest in osu!?

The more I played osu!, the more I discovered songs I like. And the more I discovered songs I like, the more I wanted to know about from where they come from. That’s how I discovered some doujin circles like IOSYS and HARDCORE TANO*C, which I still listen to today. That’s also how I discovered BEMANI games and especially SOUND VOLTEX.

SOUND VOLTEX 1 cabinets

For a long time I was convinced there was no way to play those games without going to amusement centers in Japan. I made the conclusion that osu! was the best option for me, to play at home on a PC with a keyboard.

After expressing my interest in those games, a friend told me “why don’t you go to that arcade center in Paris, they have beatmania IIDX 22: PENDUAL”. So I went there. And played IIDX every week. Actually at least twice a week. (I spent a lot of my money there). And it felt nice. It felt so nice that I got myself a IIDX controller from gamo2 the following Christmas.

At this point I already lost most of my interest in osu!. I could play a rhythm game at home, in arcade-like conditions. But most importantly I could play musics from their original source. I played a game with musics that were made for this game. That may not sound like an important point to some of you but trust me it is. It creates an huge gap in quality and feeling when you compare it to an amateur game that just imports musics from other sources like osu! or stepmania.

Another important point for me was the way the game rewarded me. In osu! the main motivation factor comes from the pp ranking system, in which a player is ranked by earning points regarding their performances on songs they clear. A high accuracy + high combo clear is a good clear. In most BEMANI games, the player is rewarded simply by clearing songs. Of course an higher accuracy means a higher score. But if you want to get to the “highest rank” you have to clear specific songs, independently of your accuracy. And getting to the “highest rank” is the primary goal of most players (including myself). That boosted my motivation to play those games more than osu! did.

Clearing hard songs became my first goal and doing high scores became my secondary goal.

So what, it’s just about the scoring / ranking?

Of course not. I think for me the biggest turn down with osu! is the feeling. When I play osu! it feels like I play a non-legitimate game. It’s just a “fan-game” that copies the gameplay from a Nintendo DS game and copies the songs from a lot of games or other illegal sources (copyrighted songs).

As peppy told me in a discussion we had, one of his main purposes with osu! always had been to be able to play “any songs”. I can of course understand this. The fact is that the game doesn’t encourage original content. Only importing from other sources. I would have no problem with it if osu! only supported contents made for the game, and left to the users the option to play “illegal” songs (by sharing .osz files on websites not supported by the official one for example). This is the model found in BMS.

I also understand that most people don’t care about this. But it strongly matters to me. When playing I often tell myself “I’m not playing this song the way it was intended to be played. This song was made for another game, to be played in other conditions”.

I think that’s one of the main reasons osu! is disrespected by other rhythm games players. Players that play other games feel like they are the one playing the “true” games while osu! is a cluster of adaptations. And I am not only talking about the gameplay but also about the songs you play.

Another very big point would be the quality of gameplay. And by that I means the charting (called mapping in osu!) quality, the way you interact with the game (the inputs) and the way your are rewarded (the score). That’s something very hard to explain with only words. That’s something I immediately felt after I tried to play osu! again after trying beatmania IIDX at the arcade in Paris. Basically it’s the feeling that in osu! the only difficulty is the speed while in other games, the chart challenges you more by using more sophisticated combinations of notes which don’t need to be faster than more regular patterns to be more difficult. It’s actually very hard to describe this so you will have to believe me on this point if you never tried anything else than osu!. Other games just feel more well-made. I think the fact that other games benefits from musics made specially for them, while osu! mappers tries to “translate” the feeling of the song to the gameplay of osu!, songs that were made for other purposes than being played in osu! plays a big role in this quality.

So osu! is just inferior to other games and that’s it?

osu! as a trash

I still don’t think that osu! has to be treated as a trash game that is just worst than other rhythm games. It has a lot of potential and osu! is partly responsible for what I am today. It introduced me to a lot of artists and games I would have never know and that defines what I am today. It also gave me new friends and people I still talk to regularly today.

I probably would have never been addicted to arcade rhythm games if my friend never introduced me to osu!. I can’t tell people to not play osu!. But at the same time I can’t enjoy playing osu! anymore and I would love to introduce my friends to those other rhythm games I play like beatmania IIDX and SOUND VOLTEX. However they don’t see in them the same interest I have because they didn’t have the experience I had with osu!.

osu! isn’t a bad game. It is very unique considering there is no other games with this gameplay on the PC platform. It also introduces Taiko no Tatsujin, EZ2catch and VSRG gameplay to a lot of people. Gameplays they would have probably never know of without getting to an amusement center in Japan or Korea.

Is osu! worst as a rhythm games than other games? Probably. But: osu! is more accessible, it’s free, it’s for PC, it has a gigantic playlist. osu! has online multiplayer, ranking, forums, a very big player base all around the world. None of the other rhythm games have all of this at once.

I’m glad osu! exists and I hope it will progress in a good way, promoting original contents more and provide more ways to let people enjoy the game in any way they want.

To all osu! players out there: If by any chance you have the possibility to try other rhythm games, please do. That doesn’t mean you will have to quit osu!. You can actually do both. But if you like osu!, it’s very likely that you will like other rhythm games, especially Japanese ones.

Also to all of you that are like I was 3 years ago and are convinced you have to go to Japan to play other rhythm games. You are wrong. There are probably a community of arcade players in your region, most likely a very small one. Don’t expect to find as many SOUND VOLTEX players as osu! ones, there’s maybe only 30 of them in your country. Maybe one lives near you and participate to events where they bring their controllers and game. Go there. Try the game. Get in touch with the owner of the controller. Ask him if you can meet more often. Get better at the game. Makes your own opinion of the game. Decide if you want to buy or build your own controller too. Have fun trying new things.

To all non-osu! players out there: Stop insulting osu! players or the game itself just because it’s osu!. There are actually a lot of points you can criticize. The scoring system. The ranking system. The staff behavior. The top rankers behavior. But don’t forget that it’s only your own opinion and if there are that much players enjoying the game, there’s a reason.

Thanks for reading and please contact me on Twitter @Shookaite if you want to discuss this. Don’t hesitate to tell me if you came to me after reading this article, actually it would please me a lot!