Rhythm games tend to be rather lighthearted affairs. If they have a star or stars, they’re effervescent individuals. The Hatsune Miku series star a group of vibrant Vocaloids. The Dance Dance Revolution series offers a group of rather wholesome characters devoted to their craft. The Parappa the Rapper-line of games offer anthropomorphic and positive animals. The Bust a Groove series gives us a contract killer who moonlights as a fortune-teller and stripper, attempted murderer and daughter of an international diplomat.
You read that correctly. When it comes to colorful, Bust a Groove has always gone all out to offer unconventional characters. These are distinctive people who seem like caricatures. There’s a fat guy who’s a surprisingly good dancer. A street tough shows up, as does a cute kid. We have playboys and hot chicks. Each one has hidden depths, which helps make these games so great. Especially since the opportunity offered by defeating Robo-Z and getting the Groovetron in Bust a Groove is a life changing opportunity to seize power.
Let’s start with Pinky Diamond, easily one of Bust a Groove‘s most interesting characters. She’s the R&B character who pretty much does it all. During the day and night, she works as both a stripper and fortune teller. The psychic element is played up in her image song, “I Know,” mentioning her tarot cards, crystal ball and ouija board, and her jammer attack brings up the Death card. However, both of these are fronts for her actual identity. In reality, Pinky Diamond is a contract killer. So why would she be dancing in the game? To take power from the final boss, Robot-Z, to increase her psychic abilities. That makes sense, right?
Gas-O is easily the most lethal member of Bust a Groove‘s cast, despite Strike being in prison in the first game. This is a teenage mad scientist who, in the original game, is trying to acquire the Groovetron to develop an even more toxic gas. His pursuit of biological weapons drives him, so much so that it keeps him from being in the sequel. His father, Bio-O, replaces him after Gas-O is sent to jail for using acidic gas on his dad and burying an ax into the back of his head. Things get really dark, really fast with this guy.
This isn’t to say each of the characters is terrifying. Some are just unintentionally scary. Take Heat, a star of both Bust a Groove and Bust a Groove 2. A former race card driver who ended up almost dying after a crash, he ended up gaining pyrokinetic abilities and gaining a body temperature of 45 degrees Celsius. He’s so traumatized by the accident that he can’t go back to his normal life. At the same time, this is a man who could be more hazardous than someone like Gas-O or Pinky Diamond, due to his unique condition.
The same goes for Comet, the little sister of Bust a Groove‘s Frida that steps in for Bust a Groove 2. Prior to the events of the game, she was kidnapped. The people who took her were about to kill her, when she suddenly discovered she could turn people into food. One of the main young women in the cast went through a horrific experience and came away with a power that, while silly, is nightmarish. It’s surprisingly dark.
While many of the Bust a Groove characters we’ve gone over so far have been disconcerting, this doesn’t mean there aren’t members of the cast who’d fit in well within other games. Shorty is a young woman who’s always alone, due to her father being a diplomat and mother being a model. While her loneliness is unfortunate, she finds friends by dancing alongside her pet mouse, Columbo. Kitty-N is a famous performer who’s in love with a man she can’t have and wants to build her fanbase. Frida is a young woman who likes to sing and dance.
But, as interesting and colorful as these normal characters are, it’s the unconventional ones that really help Bust a Groove and Bust a Groove 2 stand out. You remember a game where you follow a gas-obsessed freak or a woman who tells fortunes and acts as an assassin. You want to see exactly how their stories fit within the world of a young woman who wants the kind of attention her important parents can’t give her. As weird and terrifying as Bust a Groove‘s characters can be, they make the games memorable.