Overall score 90

The Vita handheld is once again showing why it’s the go-to platform for rhythm-centric gamers. Thanks to the release of SUPERBEAT: XONiC, a successor of sorts to the DJMAX games. While not in name, the people who developed the title have worked on previous DJMAX games. So fans of the series are sure to find similarities in this release.

The gameplay style of SUPERBEAT: XONIC is similar to Persona 4: Dancing All Night. The timing window is located on the outer edges of the screen, and you’ll make use of either the touch screen or d-pad and buttons, in order to hit notes. In true DJMAX fashion, the game features multiple tiers of difficulty. The difference in these difficulties are with how many buttons will be used in gameplay. The easiest difficulty features 4 buttons, along with the joysticks. Next difficulty adds 2 more buttons. With the hardest difficulty adding in the LR triggers on top of that, for a total of 8 buttons with two joysticks. If buttons aren’t your thing, you can touch the Vita screen as well. The LR triggers will still need to be pushed, but everything else actually works quite well using the Vita touch input.

There are two modes to Superbeat: XONiC, Stage Mode and World Tour Mode. DJMAX fans will be really familiar with Stage Mode, as it is set-up similarly to the Arcade Mode featured in DJMAX titles. Choose your difficulty, and you’ll play through three songs of your choosing and earn a total score and grade in the end. In World Tour Mode, you’ll be playing through various playlists of songs, while trying to achieve an objective. Various difficulties are offered, but things do ramp up the futher you progress.

The Good: One of the main things I enjoyed about SB:X is the challenge it offers. Even on the lowest difficulty with 4 buttons being used, it still isn’t quite a cakewalk. High challenge can certainly be a bit intimidating and frustrating, but I really enjoy the gameplay, so I have that desire to get better. And with that high challenge comes high satisfaction. It always feels good to complete a song you’ve had trouble with previously.

SB:X features a music library of multiple genres. So you’re bound to find music you’ll come to enjoy. There is the chance to find that few you don’t enjoy so much, which does come with having so much variety. However, I do like that the music in the game is really varied, and all songs feel well-suited for a rhythm game.

One of the other neat features of SB:X that I enjoyed that doesn’t normally get seen in rhythm games is a leveling system. Simply playing songs, no matter in which mode, will earn you experience and you’ll eventually level up. When you level up, you’ll earn some unlocks, like DJ icons. While the leveling system is minor and simple, it offers a nice feeling of progression as you play the game.

As I mentioned a bit earlier, there are unlocks called DJ Icons that you’ll earn. These DJ Icons offer various bonuses like helping you earn more experience, but also perks to help you during gameplay. For example, some DJ Icons feature things like more HP or a Shield for helping out with completing difficult songs without failing and allowing you to maintain your combo on missed notes. It’s a neat mechanic and is helpful for those who are not quite good enough for the harder songs, but still want to play through them.

One last thing I enjoyed is the inclusion of leaderboards. Not exactly high score leaderboards for each song though, which would’ve been nice. The SB:X leaderboards are divided into specific categories, like the total score earned in each difficulty. That’s overall total too, so all your high scores for each song on a given difficulty are what makes up your score on the leaderboard. Also leaderboards for combo count and your score in World Tour Mode. It’s always nice to see leaderboards since I’m always curious to see how I stack up with others.

superbeat-xonic_1 superbeat-xonic_002

The Bad: For as much as I enjoy the gameplay of SB:X, there are a couple minor issues I did have. The game can be played on PSTV, but there are certain aspects of the game that aren’t controllable with button inputs. Primarily menu navigation. Things like the options and equipping DJ Icons can only be done via touch. So those on PSTV will have to enable touch input commands in order to do these things. Reason this can be an issue on PSTV is because you click in the sticks in order to input a touch command. I prefer to have this function turned off, mainly cause Vita rhythm games make use of flicking the sticks. SB:X is the same, and attempting to flick the sticks can possibly trigger the touch input, which causes the sticks and button inputs to operate differently. Needless to say, if this happens during gameplay, you’ll most likely break combo and fail the song because your inputs aren’t working properly. So it’s tedious to have to deal with since full controller support wasn’t implemented.

The other minor issue I have is with the game’s lack of description for certain things. There is a tutorial video that appears as you begin that does a good job in explaining how the game works. Unfortunately, there are some aspects of the game that aren’t even mentioned and the player is kind of tasked to just find out those things themselves. things like equipping DJ Icons is something you have to take notice of, since the game doesn’t exactly tell you it’s possible. I also found out about song modifiers being in the game by accident, because I was just touching panels on the screen that I didn’t recognize. The song modifiers themselves are also just represented with icons and no wording, so you won’t exactly know what it does until you give it a try. It’s minor though, and will most likely be a problem for those who are unfamiliar with the set-up of DJMAX games.

Overall Thoughts: SUPERBEAT: XONiC is a great rhythm game for the Vita and PSTV. It’s got a wide assortment of songs that feature catchy beats for fun rhythm gameplay. Fans of DJMAX will feel right at home, and those who haven’t played DJMAX before will also find enjoyment. It is one of the more challenging rhythm games you’ll find on the Vita, but it does have low difficulties available that make the game welcoming to those who aren’t as skilled. If you’re in the market for a rhythm game on Vita, then SUPERBEAT: XONiC is definitely one of the games you should check out.

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