When you think of most music games in general, and how they differ from most other game genres, what do you think of first?

In many cases, one might answer “the special controller” or otherwise non-standard input method.

Think about it. What if DDR was not “a game you play with your FEET!!” and instead just used a standard PlayStation controller for input? What about pop’n music, with its 9, over-sized colorful buttons? And of course, beatmania IIDX. No turntable…? I can’t imagine this…

And yet, the recently released DJMAX RESPECT only uses a regular PS4 controller for its input. Of course, this essentially means you can only use one thumb to hit up to 3 buttons – a somewhat inelegant gameplay experience.

After the game was announced, many fans of the series started wondering about the possibility of an official RESPECT controller. Unfortunately, there was no mention of this ever being a possibility from the game’s developers.

Quite a number of fans have already made their own custom controllers for the game. Clearly, there’s a demand for a real controller here!

Just after the game’s release, a third-party manufacturer, VIRGOO, posted a few RESPECT gameplay videos to YouTube. These videos featured a brand-new “FEVER” prototype controller being used to play the game. The controller was created in order to improve the gameplay experience, by optimizing the way you play. Look familiar? It should. We previously reviewed the VIRGOO Team’s “Portable DX” controller for beatmania IIDX.

VIRGOO started a crowdfunding campaign for the controller on Modian, which ended at over 9,000 USD. Some of the stretch goals included support for many more games. A demo on those is below:

 

The controller, being based on a PS4 joypad, supports all PS4 games, with the exception of motion control games or ones that would require navigation with the Touch Pad (although the button function of the Touch Pad is available) The VIRGOO Team also uploaded a sample of “bloodbeat” – Bloodborne played with the FEVER controller.

Virgoo has since opened up global pre-orders for the controller on the official website.


We were lucky enough to get one of the first controllers in order to show you how it works. Let’s take a look!

NOTE:
Since this is a prototype unit, there are a few scratches – not indicative of the final product.

Of course, the controller comes safely packed in its box, with a lone USB cable and two turntable decals to be applied after confirming the controller/turntable works.

The VIRGO FEVER’s design fits in line with the rest of VIRGOO’s controllers, but it also manages to pass as an “official” controller to anyone who doesn’t know better. Everything is laid out symmetrically, and relatively close together with the exception of the smooth turntables, which are spaced similar to beatmania IIDX specifications, but much smaller.

The layout here is fairly straightforward, and the button placement, changed from the first and second designs, allows for fairly easy 8B mode playability. XB mode is also easy to manage, and having the L2 and R2 buttons smaller also reduces the chance of accidental speed changes mid-song. Virgoo has included a “Safety Lock” feature that allows players to toggle the L2/R2 signal on or off by simply holding the OPTION button for about 1.5 seconds. Very convenient for avoiding accidental speed changes mid-song.

Since RESPECT also allows you to configure button mappings, you can pretty much use any combination and layout you like. For example – turn the controller 180 degrees and use R2-Circle-Triangle and Up-Left-L2 in 6B mode, among other things. There are a lot of way to play with this controller.

In-game, navigating menus takes just a bit of getting used to, but it’s nothing unreasonable. I’m okay at beatmania and I honestly haven’t played a non-TECHNIKA DJMAX game since Portable’s release

The Option/Start and Share buttons are placed below the right turntable, with the Touchpad button being trigger with a double-press on the Option button.

Now here’s where some players might have divided opinions. RESPECT’s Analog Stick notes aren’t really “turntable-friendly” since they’re all long/hold/(BSS) notes. In fact, most “scratching” sound notes seem to be divided between [Right] and [Square] buttons.

What this means is the game gets a little bit more difficult since you have to continuously turn these turntables in order for the “hold” note to register.

So when you’re turning those turntable long notes, you’re going to have to keep in mind that, should your hand be on the outer side when the note ends, you’re going to have less time to move your hand more distance, back to the resting position on the keys.

To work around this, the best way to hit these notes seems to be to treat them like an old “1-turn note” from the 5-key beatmania series, trying to fully rotate them exactly 100% and returning back to the inner edge.

Speaking of edges, the FEVER’s corners are ultra-smooth and, similar to the PortableDX, one long panel is used to form the case. This time, however, the rounding is done on the outer frame rather than being top-to-bottom.

The one exception is this somewhat obtrusive USB jack, protruding from the back of the case, and the small square PS button on the front. This may or may not be changed in the final design.

What’s inside? Unfortunately, no magnets are present here, so get out your standard Phillips screwdriver and take off the four simply-placed screws to see.

For a controller with this many buttons, the inside was reasonably clutter-free, with a bit of space to store the USB cable if necessary. Of course, with screws required, it’s not as portable as the PortableDX.

As VIRGOO has done with past controllers, the turntable gear is extremely strong and unbendable. Most keys also have connector protectors which are not only safe, but also help you get a grip on them during maintenance.

As for the default included microswitches, we have these .49N Omron substitutes, the “V-J01-1C23” made by QiAOH. They’re honestly not bad and have a very similar feel to the old DJDAO originals from around 2012. The buttons themselves are VIRGOO originals, and work well for the most part, with a spring weight of 60g.

Unfortunately, my keys started sticking a bit due to being a test model and having worn-down key casings. With new units, this should not be an issue. Overall, the “click” is definitely good enough, and probably much less of a problem if you’re playing with headphones, or with a loud set of speakers.

All LEDs are White by default, which honestly is totally fine for this controller since it matches the color scheme so well.

Placed between the buttons and the Turntables, 2 LED light bars work in a similar way to the PortableDX turntable LED ring does. The color of the light can also be set manually by holding the top 3 black keys for 3 seconds, then turning the turntables on either side.

The X button (key 4) acts as the FEVER key, and when pressed, the LED light bars rapidly flash, because, well…why not? Take a quick look at the controller in our video here:

Overall, the FEVER is absolutely a solid controller. Let’s take a quick look at pricing.

The Standard Edition pricing starts at USD $289. Shipping, which is done globally via DHL, is around $120 to most countries, including USA. Other countries may be cheaper. The higher shipping cost includes taxes and import tariffs, which means the controller should head straight through customs and arrive in roughly 2-5 days.

The Virgoo Team asked on Twitter about this, and fans voted for the higher cost.

Selectable Options include .25N/.49N/.98N Omron switches for $45, and 60g spring Sanwa buttons for $159.99.

Pricing is almost identical to DJ DAO’s EZMAX controller. It is $10 less at the base level, and including all options, and shipping, the price is similar.

The pre-order deadline for either Edition is December 31st, as shipping will begin early January (mid-Jan for Sanwa/Omron configurations)

There is also a MAX Edition controller bundle priced at $349, which includes premium packaging and a super deluxe set of goods, as shown below. Some of the items feature art by community members and popular artists.

As with the PortableDX, this controller looks great, and works well in general, but the turntable size and material may be off-putting to some to some. At the base level, with VIRGOO’s configuration, the performance is no problem – especially considering this is a controller specifically built for DJMAX RESPECT. Some players might heavily prefer Sanwas and Omrons, but there is no harm in using the default setup. Additionally, it is a good thing that multiple companies are producing a RESPECT controller, and there is a choice.

Pros:

  • Simple, clean design looks and feels great
  • Strong construction & build quality
  • PCB has configurations for many games
  • MAX Edition is super awesome.

Cons:

  • Turntable material/size. (Especially not useful in IIDX or some other games)
  • Screwdriver required to open casing
  • Default buttons/switches might leave something to be desired for some