Superbeat: Xonic Vita Review
Games that focus exclusively on music always try to elicit a specific feeling from players. Guitar Hero and Rockband make people feel like rock stars, Dance Central and Just Dance make people feel like dancers, and somewhere Samba De Amigo is making someone feel like…a professional maraca player? I am sure someone calls themselves that somewhere. Lately rhythm games have become a vessel for fan service as well with titles like Persona 4: Dancing All Night and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. These games exist for players to reminisce and enjoy all of the moments from other games’ past.
Games like Superbeat: Xonic do not try to import feelings from other places, but instead it creates the rewarding feeling of completing something difficult. This is not a new handling of rhythm games, Dance Dance Revolution, DJMAX and Osu! have all been doing this for bit but that does not make Superbeat an unwelcome addition at all. There is a wide variety of songs, a ton of unlocks, the game looks great and feels really good too. There are a couple of problems that the game has but they never stick while the game keeps pumping.
Superbeat: Xonic is a new title from Nurijoy, a studio created from past Pentavision employees that worked on the popular series DJMAX. There are a lot of similarities to Superbeat’s older brother; songs are constantly being unlocked after songs through level ups, breaks and combos are back, and some dude is shouting at you through each menu. That is where the similarities end and Superbeat becomes its own, independent game.
It is weird to see Superbeat release so close to Persona 4: Dancing All Night because their core gameplay is very similar. A circle is placed in the middle of the screen which is divided into a number of parts depending on the difficulty that the player chooses. When a song starts up notes that must be tapped, held and dragged start flying towards the player. Depending on which part of the circle they fall, that section of the screen, or a certain button must be pressed. Originally I thought that this game was going to be exactly like P4: DAN but after my first couple of songs it was very obvious how different the two were. P4: DAN never challenged me in a way that felt really cool during an intense part or after a song was finished. Sometimes there would be a taste of that, but even at the hardest difficulty it never reached the height of excitement. In contrast, Superbeat really understands that feeling and tries to make sure that every player has a chance to reach that point no matter what their skill level is. Players can start from 4 note sliders and eventually raise the difficulty all the way up to six sliders with shoulder buttons depending on how comfortable they feel with the game. There are also separate difficulty modes that allow more notes missed and give more leeway if a player’s timing is off. No matter the difficulty, songs still feel really exciting to play through.
The difficulty in the game was one of the most exciting parts in the game to me. I loved seeing just how far I could push my abilities in each song and mode but playing on the handheld became problematic at some points. At the highest level of play in the game the player must be constantly tapping the screen while also pressing the shoulder buttons at the same time. Due to my fingers constantly mashing something on the Vita there were a lot of moments during difficult sections that the screen couldn’t stay stable because I was moving it around so much. It makes sections of the game extremely difficult because during the most chaotic parts of these games a player has to be calm and collected, but with the screen constantly shaking it made it much more difficult for me.
There is a large range of music genres within such as the traditional trance, step and house along with sprinkles of different sounds such as easy listening and hardcore. There are even some songs from the last Guilty Gear release. The really cool thing about all of these songs is that none of them are ever boring. Selections with slower tempo have a lot going on instrumentally and the difficult songs are some of the most challenging music portions of a game that I have ever played. I won’t spoil the titles that I found very difficult but I haven’t felt this type of challenge since I played the original DDR: Extreme.
One of my biggest problems with Superbeat is that there are a lot of pieces that slow down the fast paced mood that it puts you in. Every screen has to be loaded for 2-4 seconds no matter where you are coming from which is a slight annoyance. Switching game modes, checking leaderboards, and choosing songs all feel tedious because they are keeping the player from playing the game. I found this especially annoying when I was determining what difficulty that I wanted to play on, it isn’t as simple as changing it from the song selection menu or the menu in game, instead if a player wants to change the difficulty they must go all the way back to the home menu, then load up the options and change the difficulty. This may not bother other players, but I found it to be a slight annoyance.
During my time with the game I started to question why sets are still a part of rhythm games. Superbeat has players typically play three songs in a row and then splashes a “Thanks for playing” afterwards as if they are playing the game in an arcade. It is a little charming to imagine the game as something that I would be playing at an arcade, but at the same time I can’t help but think as I am booted back to the home screen, “I am not done, why are you making me leave?” These three song setlists have scores that you are raising throughout which are posted online to the DJ leaderboards once you have finished. There is not leaderboards for individual songs, instead you have to compare scores to other players who have played varied sets of songs. There is a freestyle mode that allows the player to play songs at an infinite amount, but these songs must be unlocked through the regular modes first before they can be played this way and the leaderboards only track the biggest combo across all songs. At the time of me writing this review the leaderboard for freestyle combos is maxed at 99999.
After playing Superbeat for a while it makes me think about an alternate universe where the Vita actually became popular. Almost every aspect of the games wants to be controlled via the touch screen, and later on players must use a combination of the shoulder buttons and the touch screen to complete songs. Not to forget that this is actually a really good game in its own right as well. Songs feel really fun to play through and there is so much content to unlock that playing songs never become boring. The loading screens are a tiny drag and I think that we should break free from the past setlist chains but the problems never bog the game down a lot. For Vita owners and Rhythm players this game is a match made in a bass bumping heaven.
PSN review code provided by Acttil.