The DJMax series was a huge favorite of rhythm game fans on both of Sony’s portable systems. Filled with quirky, experimental Korean DJ music and some off-the-wall colorful art, it quickly wormed its way into the hearts of beat junkies everywhere. Unfortunately, the crumbling of developer Pentavision left the future of the series in doubt last year, leaving many fans to believe the series had ended after only a decade. Of course, that’s where Superbeat: XONiC comes in. Crafted by Nurijoy, a development team made up of former Pentavision members, and billed as the “spiritual successor” to that franchise, it lives up to the offbeat reputation of its predecessors.
Bop the Buttons, Flick the Sticks
Right from the moment you boot up Superbeat, you’re hit with a stylish presentation filled with loud music, bright lights and colors galore. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, which is ironic given the simplicity of the gameplay on offer. Granted, there are a few more inputs than your average rhythm game (a good deal more than recent Vita companion Persona 4: Dancing All Night, anyway), but the basic action is about as intuitive as you’d expect: bop the face buttons, flick the analog sticks and twiddle the triggers in time with the beat. The game offers 4TRAX, 6TRAX, and 6TRAX FX modes to increase or decrease difficulty based on skill, and you can even opt for touch input if that’s your jam.
Eclectic Ain’t the Half Of It
Rhythm games are all about the music, of course, and Nurijoy’s new game is no slouch in that department. This isn’t Guitar Hero, of course, so don’t go expecting Top 40 hits or your favorite indie heroes — what you get with Superbeat is a nonstop onslaught of hyperactive, in-your-face pop music, a colorful assault on the senses that spans techno, K-pop and a number of creative remixes. Most of the tracks are brief excursions, making them absolutely ideal for portable play. They’re generally top-quality beats, too, but a select few — like Tsukasa’s bubblegum-sweet “Feeling Isolator” — sound low-rent and off-key.
What would a rhythm game be without unlockables, though? Superbeat provides EXP for each song you clear, and leveling up earns you access to a massive catalog of choice goods. DJ profile icons for use on PSN, new songs and extra missions on the game’s World Tour mode (which tasks you with completing a set of songs while also meeting some sort of “mission” requirement) can all become yours as you continue to enjoy the eclectic mix of DJ artistry. Sadly, there aren’t many modes to speak of, so you’re a bit limited in terms of variation, but the main attractions here are good enough to work on their own terms.
Oh, and speaking of artistry, each song is accompanied by its own brand of visual art — first in the form of a still “cover art” picture, then with an assortment of psychedelic imagery in the background. Despite the game being of a comparable level of energy and color as Persona 4’s take on the rhythm genre, there’s nothing as flashy and insane here as Dancing All Night’s offerings. Then again, those are so over-the-top that they can become potential distractions, so perhaps we should be thankful.
Super XONiC Speed
Superbeat: XONiC is a solid addition to any Vita fan’s library, even if you’re not a connoisseur of the rhythm genre. The tunes’ over-the-top excursions into sensory overload are a ton of fun, and their brief length makes them ideal for portable gaming. Some of the song selections are questionable at best, and there aren’t a whole lot of modes to choose from — but hey, who needs gimmicks, anyway? This is a pure, visceral rhythm game best played with a limber set of fingers and headphones cranked up to 11.
Review copy for Superbeat: XONiC provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.