The wait is over! When I got word a new Bemani game would be arriving at my local Round 1, my interest was piqued. To be completely honest, I hadn’t even heard of Museca until fairly recently. I went in almost completely blind, not knowing what to expect. I hopped in the car with our own Senior writer, Paul, and we made the one hour journey to Taunton, Massachusetts. When I arrived at the machines–located conveniently in what you could call the rhythm game section–I was impressed. Two of the machines stood back to back, both occupied by players who already knew how the game worked.
The machine is an absolute treat to look at. It’s compact in width, but it makes itself known with pulsating lights and changing colors. Everything from the crisp clear picture, all the way down to the straight outta Star Trek, touch sensitive keypad, embodied the definition of “next-gen.” When it comes to gaming however, gameplay is king. I stood and watched as two players mashed away at the glowing buttons, notes flying down the track. It was a brand new game, but it came with a strong sense of familiarity.
Initially, the game seemed like a mashup of two classic Bemani games: Pop ‘n Music and Beatmania IIDX. There are five buttons that require you to press to the rhythm in various combinations. I got the feeling from watching that this would be far too easy to the veteran Bemani fan. With Pop ‘n Music’s nine buttons, and IIDX’s seven buttons and turntable, five buttons seemed like mere child’s play. Though the more I watched, the more the game revealed to me. Something seemed strange. Were the buttons loose, perhaps poorly assembled? Nope. In fact, each button was essentially its own turntable.
So there it was, the twist on the game that set it apart. Still, could it be all that difficult? As the notes continued to race by, so did Museca’s next surprise: a sixth note. I studied the gamepad again to find out where this mysterious sixth button could be. And then I saw it. A foot pedal. The game was adding pieces in an attempt to set itself apart. Whether or not it would succeed in doing so was still up in the air. Both Paul and I felt we were ready to conquer this game. As soon as the final note finished from the player before us, Paul tapped his eAmusement card and went to work.
When learning the rules of an imported game, one of the first challenges is navigating through the various menus. Neither Paul nor myself can read Japanese, so there’s a lot of trial and error to figure it out. On top of this, Museca contains layers upon layers of menus—a trend that I’m not a fan of. Ever since the initial basic story modes have been added to Bemani games, things have only become more complex. It had page after page of various stories, aesthetic choices, and, I’m assuming, modifiers. After trudging through the needless story, we were finally able to play the game. For the first song, the difficulty options were limited. With each passing song, however, more difficulties and choices opened up. Though we had more than enough PASELI (essentially in-game currency) available on the card, the game was disabled the use of PASELI for standard mode play.
The highway was simple enough to read. You had all of the classic prompts such as simple taps and hold notes. But on top of that was a cyclone, prompting you to spin the button, and a long track to let you know when to hold or press the pedal. We both immediately grasped the concept and found ourselves excelling in no time. By the end of Paul’s first playthrough, he was passing 12s—the highest difficulty available to him at the time. We unlocked a few Grafica characters which are essentially modifiers that release randomly during gameplay. Some Grafica characters increase your life bar, while others would multiply your score. The Japanese text on each Grafica was, quite literally, foreign to us. But the more we played, the more we learned. Eventually, we started to understand what each one did. When the Grafica activated, you were shown on the right-hand side of the note highway which mod was added to your song.
All in all, I enjoyed my time with Museca quite a bit. Despite its simple-looking concept, the game provided much more depth beyond the surface. There were the button combinations we’ve all grown so familiar with, but the added spins (directional spins as well), floor pedal, and button layout, created a seemingly limitless skill ceiling. I’m not sure it will ever grab me the way Pop ‘n Music or IIDX has, but it’s a game I could find myself playing on a regular basis. Museca has a great foundation, but there is certainly room for improvement. Hopefully we’ll see more iterations down the road, and maybe it’ll even find itself in next year’s Konami Arcade Championship. At the moment, this is a Round 1 exclusive machine, but you should start seeing them appear at other locations very soon.