(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 3.5 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 2 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 4.5 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 2 Stars
- Bottom Line
- For Fans Only
- Street Date:
- November 10th, 2015
- Reviewed by:
- Elizabeth Henges
- Review Date:1
- November 3rd, 2015
- Game Release Year:
- PS Vita
- PM Studios / Nurijoy
- PM Studios / Nurijoy
Digital Vita version reviewed.
Rhythm games are coming into a bit of a renaissance. In addition to a goodly amount of Japanese games being localized that bring a variety of playstyles for gamers to enjoy, the much-awaited return of the likes of 'Rock Band' and 'Guitar Hero' are threatening to repeat the revival of the genre that happened when 'Guitar Hero' first released in 2006.
However, there has been a certain area of the modern rhythm genre has been ignoring. This is the area that is occupied by the like of 'Beatmania', 'Pop'n Music', and even 'Dance Dance Revolution', a mode arcade oriented rhythm experience. 'Superbeat: XONiC' is looking to fill this sizeable gap in the modern market, and looking to build on the success of 2009's 'DJ Max Fever.'
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
For better and for worse, this Vita title accurately captures the arcade rhythm feel. When players start up 'Superbeat: XONiC', they are treated to a short, nonsensical video, followed by a brief tutorial on how the game works. At first blush the mechanics seem similar to the recent Vita title 'Persona 4: Dancing All Night': Notes move from the center of screen to the edge, and the appropriate button (or area of the touch screen) must be pressed to the beat. There are also notes that require moving the analog stick, notes that require quick swipes, and notes that use the left and right shoulder buttons.
All of this may seem a little overwhelming at first, which is understandable given that the tutorial is so sparse that players may not gain their bearing on the various commands, and honestly 'Superbeat: XONiC' never really lets up for the new player. There is a definite learning curve in this title, and while the game will start out on the 4Trax mode (which only requires four buttons to be tapped on), 'Superbeat' is no slouch, and is not afraid to defeat new players again and again. Turning the game down to Easy mode only gets rid of some of the tougher strings of notes, but not all, and players must be competent at the title's mechanics in order to work through the main campaign.
'Superbeat: XONiCs's' main mode is called World Tour, and it's where players have to pass missions in order to unlock more missions and various items. These missions can vary anywhere from obtaining a certain combo count, to playing with certain handicaps to make passing the tracks harder overall. There's a good amount of variety here, and plenty for the aspiring 'Superbeat' master to work through. However, unlocking new areas in World Tour doesn't rely on past mission completion; instead, it relies solely on the player's DJ level.
Players receive experience after every track they complete or mission they pass, which helps to unlock new DJ portraits. These portraits are more than just a nice graphic, though—they each have passive bonuses that can help gamers shore up their weaknesses. I know my personal favorites are the ones that boost experience gain (so new missions are unlocked faster) and the break shields (which prevent a combo break, essentially doing away with a set amount of bad notes).
The thing is, without these copious bonuses, 'Superbeat: XONiC' would be nigh impossible for the average rhythm gamer. I don't find myself particularly great at the genre (but I also believe I do have a sense of rhythm), and this title threatened to halt my progress many times. It was only a combination of picking the right passive bonuses (read: more break shield), changing the difficulty settings, and sometimes taking on a few tracks in Free Play mode to gain a couple levels that helped me get past some of the more grueling missions. It's great that the DJ portraits are helpful and can get people past the harder parts, but by the same light the feeling that these bonuses are needed for progression feels like a cheap way to try to smooth out what is a tough difficulty curve.
But for the hardcore arcade rhythm fan, those raised on the likes of 'Beatmania' and 'Dance Dance Revolution', this is perfect. Those games are also known for its initially difficult learning curve, forcing players to get better as opposed to catering to their needs and providing super easy modes for them to work through. Those that are willing to put in the effort to get better are going to reap the rewards of higher-level play.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Some might find 'Superbeat: XONiC's' old-school, clearly arcade inspired art style nostalgic, but I personally find it a bit garish and not too pretty. The bright colors can help to identify the notes flying across the screen, but the overly bright and busy menus, and lackluster backgrounds that play during tracks bring down the whole experience. While the decidedly neon colored style reminds me a lot of older 'Dance Dance Revolution' titles, it also reminds me of the aspect I liked least about those titles. However, it's at least clear what audience 'Superbeat: XONiC' is going for, as the art style caters to those yearning for the glory days of such titles.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
A rhythm game's greatest asset is, of course, its tracklist, and on that aspect 'Superbeat: XONiC' offers a both robust and varied soundtrack. Unlike a lot of rhythm games, which may focus on one or two genres, this title has a whole slew of genres represented, from dance to hard rock to techno to even classical music. The quality is overall quite good too, with most of the music being good to both listen and tap along to.
Quite frankly, the 'main' campaign of 'Superbeat: XONiC' is so long and demanding that players that stick it through to the end may have a bit of a problem finding much else to do after the World Tour is complete. Since completing all of World Tour requires a high DJ Level and the ability to play competently on the highest mode (at least on Easy), all that really remains are a few more levels and unlockables to get. Only the hardcore fans will find much reason to continue after finishing such a grueling gauntlet.
'Superbeat: XONiC' is not a bad game, but it doesn't even try to appeal to everyone. The steep and brutal learning curve can scare many away, with only the DL portraits to help allivate some of the difficulty. Then again, this isn't for the average rhythm gamer, this is more for those that wish that the tough arcade titles of yesteryear would make a return… and in that aspect, 'Superbeat: XONiC wonderfully fills that niche.
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