The Yellow Monkey (abbreviated “Yemon” or “Iemon”) are often described as the band you’d get if you mixed 70’s British glam rock and enka (traditional Japanese ballads) together. They started their career as an indie band who primarily played out of a Shibuya rock club called La.mama in the late 80s, which was something of a home-base for the “Japa-Metal” movement that sort of forked off into glam rock. The first several years of their career were spent struggling to find an audience, constantly being misclassified by Japanese media as visual kei. Their third major label album “Jaguar Hard Pain” finally started gaining them that audience in 1994, and their popularity slowly took off from there.
After 1997’s “SICKS” was released, they were one of the most popular rock bands in Japan. This is viewed by many as Yemon’s best album, and is a very influential rock album in general. 1998’s “Punch Drunkard” continued that upward momentum, resulting in a tour made up of 113 dates that lasted almost an entire year. Yemon was at the height of their popularity, so it was the best time to release a game that would take advantage of this. The singles for My Winding Road and So Young had been released not too long before this game, and both are featured in some way.
Since I’ve been chronicling their career on this very site, I’d encourage anyone with an interest in The Yellow Monkey to read those articles for a greater level of detail than what you’ll find here.
This is hardly the first game of the PlayStation/Saturn era to feature a rock band. By this point we’d already seen X Japan: Virtual Shock 001 (an FMV adventure game that features you taking photos of the band members) on the Saturn and Stolen Song (an FMV/rhythm game about guitarist/vocalist Tomoyasu Hotei getting kidnapped) on the PlayStation. While one of these was a rhythm game and one wasn’t, Perfect Performer is nothing but a rhythm game. And it’s not even a particularly interesting one at that.
The music video for My Winding Road is a real classic!
The only setup the manual provides is your job: To create an exciting concert the likes of which no one has ever seen. To do this, you take on the roll of one of the four band members: Lovin (Kazuya Yoshii, Vocals), Emma (Hideaki Kikuchi, Guitar), Heesey (Bass, Youichi Hirose), and Annie (Drums, Eiji Kikuchi). The one thing this game has over Stolen Song is that you have your choice of instrument. This applies to all of the game modes: Live Mode (here you go through the concert according to a prescribed set-list), Perfect Mode (unlocked only after completing Live Mode, since it’s just a harder version), and Free Mode (You can choose any of the 7 available songs, as well as the difficulty level). All modes also support simultaneous multi-player, up to four if you have a multi-tap.
The Live Mode set-list is as follows:
- My Winding Road (17th single that didn’t appear on an album)
- TV no Singer (6th album, SICKS)
- Rakuen (6th album, SICKS)
- Murasaki no Sora (6th album, SICKS)
- New York City Loser (B-side for 18th single So Young)
- (First Encore) Burn (7th album, Punch Drunkard)
- (Second Encore) Love Love Show (this game features the single version, but it was also on their 7th album Punch Drunkard)
The set-list ignores anything in their catalog prior to Sicks, which is a real bummer. The assumption was probably since their massive popularity really started with Sicks, mostly anyone buying the game would only care about the more recent songs. Once you choose your band member/instrument, a voice sample from each member plays, and off you go.
A performance of TV no Singer from the Punch Drunkard tour.
As a fan, the band is very fun to see in sprite form, and they even get closeups (based on the member you chose) when you’re doing well. They didn’t really get too much of a variety in the way of animations though, so it seems like they’re always just doing the same things whenever you look at them. The member you chose will also occasionally shout encouragement or disappointment at you during the song, as well as when your score is shown at the end.
The actual rhythm game is a bit more complicated than it was in Stolen Song: Depending on difficulty level you could end up having to use all four of the controller face buttons right away. Though since you can’t choose a difficulty in Live Mode, the vocal part at least starts with only one button and gradually ramps up to more. The scoring and strictness of timing are probably a bit easier than your typical PS1-era rhythm game (recovering from a bad streak happens fairly quickly), but it’s just hard for me to tell since I know these songs so well. Those looking for a real challenge…are probably not playing this game! But if you are, you can at least make things more difficult in Free Mode.
The music video for Rakuen
After you complete the first encore (Burn), you get a band introduction by Yoshii (though everyone is just “Super (instrument name)” when they’re introduced). And when the game ends after Love Love Show, you get some black and white performance footage with an instrumental version of So Young playing as the credits roll.
The music video for Love Love Show
It’s not that there isn’t any fun to be had here, but I think you need to be a fan of the band to find it. There just isn’t much game here, with only 7 songs and no crazy FMV footage or story to laugh about, like with Stolen Song or X Japan: Virtual Shock 001. I could see the 4-player multi-player being fun, but again with only 7 songs you just don’t have much to go through. Some amount of love was put into the game, but in some cases you just have to be able to recognize it. A clear homage to the Love Love Show music video was included during that song, with the same type of cartoon-y rain, lightning, etc. appearing during the appropriate song lyrics. The band is also occasionally put in front of other backgrounds, instead of just a generic stage. The oddest one being the subway platform during New York City Loser: When the subway doors open, an endless stream of dogs just comes pouring out.
The music video for Burn
Finally, there’s one interesting (and almost unbelievable) anecdote included in the Japanese Wikipedia article on this game. A female hardcore metal drummer from Singapore named Puteri Nurainn apparently played this game back in the day. She was eventually able to get a 99% score on the drum parts, and it actually ended up being the reason that she got interested in drumming. So who knows, maybe it’s better than I think!
The band themselves played this game during a special video made available only to fan club members on July 18th 2020 (YouTube link below, for as long as I’m not forced to take it down for copyright strikes or something), which proved that Annie is the only member of the group who really knows how to play a video game. I also discussed this game as a part of a panel with friend Heidi Kemps about games related to Japanese bands and artists at MagFest 2020 (YouTube link also below)!