The developers behind the DJ Max series return with a new rhythm game for the Vita.
What Is It?
Sony’s handhelds have been a popular destination for rhythm games over the years and Superbeat: Xonic continues that trend with its release on the Vita. Though the developer’s known for their DJ Max series, Superbeat takes a bit of a different approach to its mechanics by eschewing the common vertically-dropping note style in favor of a tunnel like the recently-released Persona 4: Dancing All Night. The soundtrack covers a nice variety of music. From the expected house and techno music, to Japanese easy listening and metal that is a pleasant surprise for this genre, but that doesn’t tend to stray from a main genre. It was also nice to see that the songs are generally short at around two or three minutes each, which makes it a great pick-up-and-play experience that is a good fit for the Vita.
The main methods of control mainly differs between four and six tracks of primary notes between the d-pad and face buttons. Beyond that, there are also hold notes, swipe notes, and scratch notes using the analog sticks or swipes on the touchscreen that adds a nice dexterity challenge for the harder levels. There is even an extreme mode called 6 Trax that adds an additional note that requires using the shoulder buttons that I haven’t even been worthy of unlocking yet, confirming that this is beyond my skills of competence.
The controls feel surprisingly different between the Vita and a DualShock 3 or 4 on PlayStation TV, as the touch has its own advantages for the swipe notes while the DualShock controls are less forgiving for that stuff, which is mapped onto the analog sticks. I found them to be tougher on faster-paced songs in terms of dealing with rapid notes in quick succession. Neither option really worked out great for me, but that may be more of a personal problem.
Why Should I Care?
Tying up all of what Superbeat: Xonic has to offer is an interesting ranking system where you earn experience for every song you complete with bonuses for doing as well as possible. Every time you rank up, you unlock new DJs that act as a form of perks with their own bonuses, like increased experience all the way to shields that help you keep combos going even if you mess up a few times, which is a neat way of adding some rewards for ranking up. If you want even more of a challenge, there are options for speed of the notes and effectors that act as handicaps to put your skills to the test.
Another surprising aspect of Superbeat: Xonic is that there are only two main modes for playing the music, called Stage mode and World Tour. Stage is the main mode of the whole package as it is the closest to the classic Guitar Hero style of list-based progression with all of the songs you’ve unlocked. Instead of a list, the mode divides the available songs into three groups to choose from for a three-song setlist. After you finish the setlist, you get an overall grade and the game thanks you for playing while booting you to the main menu to start all over again. It’s that weird pacing that throws off this mode when my initial desire is to focus on playing every song once before worrying about replaying songs on a higher difficulty or a for a higher score.
While it sounds fancy, the World Tour mode is a glorified challenge mode. It offers several tiers of three challenges each that task you to complete songs under a variety of variables. This mode is nice change of pace from Stage mode, but being limited by your rank from the Stage mode keeps it from being as appealing as it could be as a change of pace mode.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
If you’re particularly good at this style of challenging rhythm games like the previous DJ Max games, you probably didn’t need to be told that Superbeat: Xonic is going to be right up your alley. For the more casual fans of the genre that aren’t that dedicated, this game will be a neat curiosity, but you might be better off with Persona 4: Dancing All Night or one of the Hatsune Miku games for the fan service and approachable nature of their focus on performances from CG dancers and singers. There is definitely plenty of content and unlockables to make it worth the $40 for the hardcore rhythm gaming audience, but I don’t see it appealing to many outside of that demographic.