Publisher: PM Games & Rising Star Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Music & Arcade
Release Date: 21st of November, 2017 (NA) & 30th of November, 2017 (EU)
I have to admit here – I’m not really a hardcore rhythm gamer. I mean, PaRappa the Rapper is my favorite series of all time, and I certainly know my way around classics like Space Channel 5 and Samba de Amigo, but when it comes to games like Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero, I’m totally lost. The notes are flying down the screen, I’m just barely keeping up, and rarely do I ever find myself getting past normal difficulty at best. The one exception to this is DJMax, which despite being about as pure of a rhythm game experience as you can get has somehow enthralled me with its simple yet challenging gameplay, wide variety of techno-infused tunes, and slick audiovisual experience. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since we got a traditional DJMax experience here in the west, but Superbeat: Xonic (created by former members of DJMax developer Pentavision) is now here to carry the torch, with mixed results.
Despite what you may expect having played previous DJMax games, Superbeat: Xonic is a game designed around touchscreens. I did make an attempt at playing it as the developers intended, but I just found it to be a mess. Not because it doesn’t work properly, I just sucked so bad that even the simplest of songs devolved into me tapping wildly at the screen struggling to catch up. Luckily there are button controls for those of us with the dexterity needed for a pulse-pounding rhythm game such as this, but they present their own problems and can best be described as a less fun version of those seen in DJMax. Instead of using the bottom three buttons and D-Pad inputs, you use the left portion of the D-Pad and every face button but Y, which feels strange right off the bat since your thumbs don’t naturally rest that way. Along with this, you’re expected to continually flick the analog sticks in various directions, as well as occasionally hold them for an extended note. Put simply, my thumbs are forced to fly all over the place during a song and it’s not particularly fun. Even on 4T (the simplest difficulty setting) I feel like I’m focusing more on trying to manage all the stuff the game wants me to do than I am on the rhythm and music.
Perhaps my least favorite change to the formula is the total lack of any feedback when hitting notes. In DJMax, your inputs were tied to each song – if you messed up, the tune would suddenly cut out for a few moments, so your performance felt integral to the experience. In Superbeat Xonic, every beat now just makes a dinky little noise like a hiccup or a record scratch, so you feel less like you’re part of the music and more like a passive listener who just happens to be making some noises nearby. And while it’s undoubtedly a result of the smaller budget, unique music videos that used to play in each DJMax song have been replaced with basic visualizers, leaving each song with just their loading screen image to lend them some personality.
Despite this, the game looks as flashy as ever in all other aspects, as what artwork there is always looks gorgeous (if a bit risque at times – I’m almost certain that this would be rated E for Everyone if not for the scantily clad women in a few of the loading screens) and the trademark crazy lighting effects are pushed into your face at every opportunity as always. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t a huge fan of the tracklist. I still go back to DJMax Portable 3 every now and then to play classics like Cosmic Fantastic Love Song, Say It From Your Heart, Everything, and Sunny Side, but there isn’t as much here that grabbed my attention aside from a few bangers like Fantasti-K. That being said, music is very much down to personal taste, so it’s entirely possible that you think the songs I mentioned above are mediocre and that Superbeat: Xonic’s tracks are vastly superior. At the very least, they’re as varied and eclectic as ever, with genres like K-Pop, electronica, house, and trance ensuring that there’s something for everyone.
If you like what you hear, there’s certainly plenty to keep your toes tapping for some time. Completing the 68 different songs earns you EXP that increases your level, which in turn unlocks new DJ icons that give you bonus abilities like extra EXP and protection against missed notes, new key sounds (the noises that play when you press a button during a song), and missions for World Tour mode that let you unlock even more extras by completing tasks like achieving a certain combo number. Some might consider it a grind, but it’s a rhythm game where you’re supposed to replay songs over and over, so what do you expect? There’s even a leaderboard feature, so you can prove just how good and/or terrible you are at each song on every difficulty. Lastly, there’s a hefty amount of DLC with even more music. The pricing’s a little extravagant, asking $5 each for 4 packs of just 3 songs each, but there is a free pack that includes 7 extra songs so I can’t complain too much.
While I wasn’t a fan of the touchscreen or button controls and the songs weren’t always my jam, Superbeat: Xonic is a very subjective rhythm game experience and I have no doubt that many will get much more out of it than I did.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*Review Key Provided by Rising Star Games
This post was written by Camjo-Z