Tokyo Game Show 2016 – Round-up and Impressions – Part 2: Mobile, PC, Console

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This is Part 2 of Bemanistyle’s Tokyo Game Show 2016 music game round-up. If you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1 here (focused on VR). This time around, we’re taking a look at the mobile, console and PC presence music games had at the show. I’ll start with a couple of indie titles as they were probably the most interesting amongst the non-VR games on display.

 

Roto Color Runners (PS4, XBONE, Steam) – Blue Volcano Studio

This game will be one to watch I think. One of the standouts of the Indie Games section. It is billed as a ‘sensory experience that takes you on a trip through colourful galaxies in a meticulous orchestration of light and sound’. It’s a grand description, but the visuals are definitely something to behold. The game basically a horizontal scrolling ‘note highway’ with a rotoscope-animated avatar running along it. Notes appear in the upper, middle and lower lanes and the basic gameplay is fun, but pretty much what you’d expect from a music game. It’s the game’s visuals and the ambition of the developers that I think can set this game apart.

The visuals need to be seen in motion, so please check out this recording from the show floor.

Sound quality is not great, so here’s an older video from the development studio too (same song).

The after-images left by the runner depend on your performance (basically the more colourful they get, the better you’re doing). On a slightly different, but very positive note, at the end of each song, the score/judgement screen includes a quick bio and photograph of the song’s artist. So if you like what you hear you can immediately learn something about the person who made it.

The demonstration version was fun to play but in speaking to the dev team, it sounds like they still have a lot in store for this game. Their aim is to implement more free-form, reactive game modes where the song changes and develops depending on how you play it. If implemented as described, players will be able to choose what parts (e.g. drums, synths, guitar, etc.) of the track to play and then alter the actual song depending on choices made during gameplay. The end result would be a unique set of sounds, a different aural experience every time (fitting the game’s ever-changing visuals). Players can get involved in creation as a natural extension of the game. The ‘remixes’ may then be made available for downloading and sharing. The release date doesn’t appear to be fixed, but the game’s development can be followed on Blue Volcano’s twitter page (@bluevolcano_).

Left: The developer explaining the game to a visitor. Right: They are also working on using midi controllers to play the game.
Left: The developer explaining the game to a visitor. Right: They are also working on using midi controllers to play the game.

 

Lanota (iOS/Android) – Noxy Games

Lanota was also one of the stars of the Indie section for me (overall, not just music titles). It bills itself as a rhythm game/RPG/picture book hybrid and it does do a great job of providing an excellent music game at its core, with a reasonably interesting story and delightful art direction adding color to the experience. It is broadly similar to titles such as Deemo, Cytus and VOEZ, but as with those games, Lanota’s control system has its own interesting take on the genre.

Lanota turns the typical note highway into a ‘note tunnel’ (i.e. a big circle) with standard tap, hold, slide and flick notes emanating out from the centre. It’s simple enough and most easy songs to get into, and most but during a song, especially at higher difficulties, the play area may start to move, rotate, or both, adding to the game’s challenge. It’s a gimmick that some may find irritating, but for me, the way it moves tends to fit the track fairly well, so it’s a welcome addition.

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The game is already out on iOS/Android (released in July) and saw good success in Japan and Taiwan. It has an initial cost of 2 USD for around 10 tracks with an optional ‘Side Story’ in-app purchase adding an additional chapter with six extra songs. Each track has three difficulties. More chapters/song packs are apparently on the way.

Lanota postcards and badge
Lanota postcards and badge

 

Aria ~Aqua Ritmo ~ (iOS/Android) – HarvesT

Billing itself as ‘Healing-type Rhythm Game’, Aria -Aqua Ritmo- is basically a smartphone rhythm game in the mold of School Idol Festival, both in terms of needing to build a team (all females of course) and the vertically scrolling, face-tapping gameplay. Songs from the anime appear in great numbers and tracks generally have 4 difficulty levels. As a music game, I found it easy enough to get into and from the cool, relaxed visuals plus the hold/slide-heavy gameplay, I could start to understand why it calls itself a ‘healing-type’ designation.

Aria's play screen
Aria’s play screen

With that said, it is unfortunately a F2P title and has one of the most unfriendly implementations of a F2P system that I have ever seen. Like many F2P games, it uses a ‘stamina’ system to limit how frequently you can play a song. Just two will deplete the bar fully. Additionally, during each song, you have a HP bar that depletes with each miss. The instant it hits zero, the song will pause mid-stream and you will be prompted to spend some of the in-game currency (which is extremely expensive) to continue.

It’s a shame the F2P elements are so restrictive in this title. As a music game, it’s as fun and intuitive as anything, and for fans of the Aria series, there’s a lot of side content and stories to enjoy. However, the pricing system is clearly set to ‘gouge’.

The game is already available in the Japanese App Store/Google Play.

Display of some of the cards/characters available in the game
Display of some of the cards/characters available in the game

 

Idol Incidents (iOS/Android) – HarvesT

HarvesT’s newest music game, this is another ‘train an idol’ game combining rhythm game sections with character-building (and dressing up) elements. Though this style of game is well established, the relatively new ‘Idol Incidents’ license adds a political spin. All the characters are politicians in rival parties who are trying to save Japan from its social, economic and environmental problems and return smiles to the faces of the populace through song and dance. The political parties have names such as ‘The Heroine Party’, ’The Sub-Culture New Party’ and ‘The Pretty Girl Party’.

The music game system appears to have two styles which change during a song. The main style places tap zones at the left and right-hand sides of the screen. Notes then flow across the screen, to the left and right and you tap/hold as necessary. The bonus style places the tap zone in the centre of the screen, with notes coming in to the centre from both the left and the right. I didn’t get much time with this game, so my only real impression was that the gameplay was straightforward enough.

The release date is unclear at this point, but interested parties can register for more information on the official website: http://harvest-hp.com/ijpre.

An anime series is also in production and is scheduled to start airing January 2017.

 

Hatsune Miku – Project Diva – X HD (Xperia – through Remote Play) – Sega

Project Diva X HD (PS4) was released towards the end of August, but what Sony was displaying here was showcasing again this year was the Xperia smartphone series’ remote play functionality. The game certainly looked fantastic even when being streamed to the device, but as some of you may expect, there did seem to be some lag, making the game quite difficult to enjoy.

Getting the game started
Getting the game started

 

And finally, I’ll make a special mention of Idol Death Game TV (PSVita – D3 Publisher). From the publishers of the Earth Defence Force series comes an ‘idol’ adventure game with a twist. As your chosen character, you need to compete with the other members of the unit for popularity with fans and the judges through a TV show-themed adventure/exploration game. The lowest ranking members are then forced into some judgement rounds (e.g. dancing, performing, etc.), and then finally the loser gets killed. The aim is to be the last one standing. This is only a ‘special mention’ because the game is predominantly an adventure/exploration title with the music game a relatively small part, but may still be of interest to fans of the kinds of titles this game is spoofing. Idol Death Game TV will be released in Japan on October 20th, 2016.

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That’s it for this TGS 2016 round-up! Between these games and the VR titles, there should be something for everyone. Personally I’m already playing Lanota and am looking forward to seeing how Roto Color Runners ends up.