When I was younger, I would drive people nuts as I tapped out beats on any surface I could get my hands on. I didn’t mean to do it; I would just zone out and start tapping away. The rhythm genre was still new to me, as I was being introduced to all new games and styles of music. I was entranced by the patterns and the music, learning to stay on time and read on the fly. What I didn’t know was that I was in the golden era of rhythm gaming. The industry has become so volatile; it’s tough to take risks on a niche genre. Indie games have picked up the slack and are loaded with heart, but not many of them can really scratch that itch the bigger releases of days past could. It’s not that it doesn’t happen–I still get a handful here and there–but they’re mostly established franchises I can come back to. Nothing has grabbed me the way those games of old could. Enter Superbeat.
I was tapped to review SUPERBEAT: XONiC for the PS4. Though it always intrigued me, I had only limited experience with the game on Vita. I booted it up and was greeted with an opening cinematic that can’t be skipped. The art was nice, the music was top notch, but what I really enjoyed were the production values. It was slick. It was bursting with energy. It pulled me in immediately. From that point, it never really lets up. The menus are loaded with character and flare, with vibrant images, and non-stop music. I went into the song selection and was yet again blown away by the presentation. Scrolling through songs, listening to samples, enjoying the art: it harkened back to my early days with rhythm games. All of this was excellent, but presentation is only a small portion of the game. I dove in.
Like so many other rhythm games, you are tapping notes to the music. Xonic’s highway is a bit different from the status quo though, as the threshold is in a circular pattern. When the notes cross the threshold on the circle, you have to tap them in time with the music. There are several difficulty modes to help a newcomer ease into the game: 4Trax for the beginner, 6Trax for the intermediate, and 6Trax FX for the pro. The game uses a combination of the d-pad, face buttons, and analog sticks to hit the notes. Being familiar with the genre and feeling bold, I jumped right into 6Trax. For the most part, it clicked right away. I still did (and do) misread the highway occasionally as 6 notes plus the 2 analogs is quite a bit to take in. But with each song you feel more and more comfortable. Every song you play increases you experience points, which increase your DJ level. There are other fun, little features like equipment, which you use to gain bonus XP, or add more health to your life bar, or key sounds you can unlock to change up the noise it makes when you strike a note. The game features multiple modes that will keep you coming back for more. There’s the standard “stage” gameplay, wherein you try to earn your best score across three songs. There’s also “hard” mode, which dramatically increase the experience you receive, at the cost of your life bar. Two misses in a row on hard and it’s game over. One miss and you have an uphill battle just to get your health bar back. I still have some work to do to master hard. Another mode, which is my personal favorite: World Tour. In World Tour, you’re presented a variety of challenges. Sometimes it’s an easy song, but you’ll need to full combo. Sometimes you’re only allotted a certain amount of misses or “breaks” across a playlist of three songs. Racking in wins and experience makes it oh so addicting.
I would say gameplay is king in any genre and Superbeat aces that. The rhythm genre has another crucial element however, and that’s the music. Scrolling through the track list of unlocked songs, waves of nostalgia flooded over me. It was like I was back in the peak days of the rhythm genre. On top of the fantastic presentation, the song selection was excellent. The songs felt like actual licensed music from real artists. The game sports an extremely wide range of genres, from infectiously cheery J-pop, all the way to hard “metal” (at least that’s what they call it here). The curation is really strong, which adds more to not only the production value, but also the fun factor. I kept finding myself listening to the clips and saying, “why not give this one a shot?” even if the difficulty was out of my range.
Suffice to say, I love this game. Superbeat: Xonic is a shining example of how to make a rhythm game. It has strong gameplay that’s different, yet familiar. Its wide range of music is sure to have something everybody will like. Despite a few missing features—like lengthening the amount of songs per stage play–the production values are outstanding, and really capture the feel of the full-budget rhythm game I’ve really wanted on PS4. If you were a fan of Superbeat on the Vita, I think it’s worth a look. With all the DLC included and a brand new community to stake your claim in as “top DJ,” there are definitely enough reasons to return. If you haven’t played, or you’re even a minor fan of the rhythm genre, I can’t recommend this enough. For now, I’m aiming for the top ranking. All I can hope is my co-workers don’t hate me as I drum away to the rhythms stuck in my head.
Superbeat: XONiC launches Tuesday, June 6 for the PS4 at $39.99 physical and digital.
* Review copy provided by the development team or publisher
* Review Proofread by Marky B. Thanks sir!