2015 might be recognised as the moment in gaming’s current generation when rhythm-action made a big comeback thanks to the release of Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4. However, you don’t have to fill your home with more plastic instruments to find new and interesting music games from this year, as proven by this new PlayStation Vita title…
Superbeat Xonic is a rhythm game from Nurijoy, and whilst that name might not be immediately familiar, the nature of the team becomes more significant when you realise that Nurijoy was formed from former employees of Pentavision – the studio behind the DJ Max series of PSP rhythm-action games.
Few of the DJ Max games made it over to the West, but their gameplay is as far removed from the likes of Rock Band as you can imagine. With a pared-down presentation and relentless streams of notes, they actually feel closer in style to the golden era of Beatmania. Happily, Superbeat Xonic has made its way here courtesy of Rising Star Games. This new game follows in the spirit of DJ Max and Beatmania, despite a radically-different interface and new input methods.
Flicking and Holding
Superbeat Xonic presents players with a tube-like view that is split into four or six segments depending on the game mode selected. With two or three segments on either side of the screen, the game suits touchscreen play surprisingly well. If you’ve ever played Elite Beat Agents, you’ve probably found yourself in situations where you’re enjoying the goofy story and pop classics but also cursing the fact that your fat fingers reach for notes in one corner whilst covering incoming notes in another. Here, the only areas you need to touch are on the edges of the screen, and all of the notes come from the centre of the screen. It’s a smart interface for a touchscreen rhythm-game and it makes playing songs much more enjoyable.
The notes also take advantage of touch input effectively – as well as tapping and holding notes, you can find yourself flicking yellow notes in a certain direction or holding a red note and following the ‘tail’ with your finger as it snakes up and down the side of the screen. With all of these different note styles it makes for a busy and varied game, but the responsive touch controls mean that it never becomes frustrating. One of the gameplay modes also has you pressing L and R at times in addition to handling all of the touch commands – as you’d imagine, this isn’t a mode for beginners.
Cheesy but likeable
The songs themselves are as far removed from Singstar and Rock Band as possible. There’s hardly anything here you will have heard of, but the selection of J-pop, fusion, rock, dance and more has plenty of cheesy yet likeable tunes.
The regular play mode sees you gaining experience and levelling up as you continue to complete songs, which in turn leads to more songs and customisation options to unlock. Additionally, there are challenge modes (beat a certain score, complete a song without missing a certain number of notes, etc.), leaderboards and even gameplay modifiers that, for example, give you a better multiplier or let you miss some notes without dropping a combo. Some of the challenges are quite demanding even with modifiers, but there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had from the regular play mode.
Depending on your preferences, one possible word of warning is that this game lacks the character and personality of something like Rock Band or Persona 4 Dancing All Night and some people might not appreciate such stark presentation. Then again, anyone used to DJ Max or Beatmania will know to expect things like that. If you’re looking for pure rhythm-action fun with lots to do and a touchscreen interface that actually works, you could do a lot worse.
Superbeat Xonic is now available from the Playstation Store for £34.99 – a boxed edition is planned to be released in the future.