Some great music and tons of choices (in all things) help make SUPERBEAT: XONiC a deafening force of rhythm game nature. But what makes it so good? Some could argue its roots.
SUPERBEAT: XONiC was developed by Nurijoy – of DJ MAX fame – and while XONiC certainly isn’t named for DJ MAX, it certainly contains some of its DNA. What Nurijoy are offering with this new title however, is the best of all worlds when it comes to rhythm; tons of difficulty options, tight controls, great note patterns, and some varied (but amazing) music. If you buy one rhythm game this year, and are in it for the rhythm (not the story; cough – Dancing All Night – cough), then this should probably be it.
XONiC has two (well, maybe three) different types of controls – touchscreen and analog (with the latter splitting slightly into Vita and controller). With the touchscreen controls, you’re matching the notes and your fingers to the activation ring around the outside of the screen, as well as performing swipes and scratches to the more advanced notes. As for the analog controls, they’re mapped to the triggers, outside face buttons (not square or right on the d-pad), and analog sticks. On the Vita you can mix and match these controls as you like even, so that’s a bonus you’ll have from choosing it over the PlayStation TV. Oh, and in case you’re wondering – there’s a video tutorial on how to play when you start, and it’s accessible at any time via the question mark in the top right corner of Stage Mode’s sub-mode choice menu.
As for the types of note patterns in the game, there are three basic variants which are given certain rules depending on what mode you’re using. 4-TRAX patterns only use the bottom (X and d-pad down), left/right outside buttons (circle and d-pad left), and analog sticks – making them the easiest of the bunch. 6-TRAX patterns add a second analog motion (flicks instead of holds) and the top face buttons (triangle and d-pad up) for a medium complexity pattern that ups the difficulty slightly, making the it the middle hardness. Lastly, there’s 6-TRAX FX which unlocks at level 20 – adding the trigger buttons to the mix and upping the difficulty with even harder change-ups in the songs.
Does that not look/sound hard enough for you? No worries, as there are even more difficulty related options to be had here. The more simple of the two remaining options is the one in the options menu – which changes the percentage needed to pass a song. Easy means you can miss more notes and pass, hard means you can miss less, normal is in the middle. It’s certainly not rocket science to figure out, but knowing the option is there is the first step. 😉
Aside from the options menu adjustment, there’s also the slightly more complicated option for changing the difficulty; the speed setting. Both during, and before starting a song, you can select a pattern speed – which translates into how quickly the notes will fly at you on the screen, and how “far away” you can see them. Values from 0.5 to 5.0 (in increments of 0.5) are available; a value of 0.5 generating slowly moving notes viewable from a long “distance” away, and a value of 5.0 shooting quick moving notes at you from close up.
Using these three different methods of changing the difficulty is sort of brilliant on Nurijoy’s part, as it allows a much wider range of abilities to receive the proper challenge for their skill level. Whether you’re just starting out in rhythm games and need to play 4TRAX on easy with a speed of 0.5, or you’re the rhythm master and need 6TRAX FX songs on hard with a speed of 5.0 to get you sweating – there’s something here that can issue you a challenge.
Moving past the controls and difficulty, we look to the game modes available. The two categories for game type are Stage Mode and World Tour; one offering a challenge with regards to song/pattern complexity, and the other throwing in an extra rule or two to up the ante.
Stage Mode is the easier of the two main modes and the one with the most range, offering you four ways to play via 4TRAX, 6TRAX, 6TRAX FX, and Free Style sub-modes. In 4TRAX, 6TRAX, and 6TRAX FX sub-modes you’re given song choices (in the pattern complexity the chosen mode is named for) – and must then complete three songs without failing to “pass”. Beating an unbeaten song in its respective pattern complexity will unlock it for play in Free Style.
In the Free Style sub-mode you’re given free reign to play any of the songs and pattern complexities you’ve unlocked, and to play them in any way you like. The goal here is to finish each song with the best score you can manage, as well as to rack up the biggest string of unmissed notes you can muster across as many songs as you can go without missing a note. You might as well consider this “mess around mode” or “score-boost mode,” though it also has a purpose as a way to go for combo records.
As for World Tour, it’s structured very differently than Stage Mode and gets very hard, very fast. The idea in World Tour is to pass an Easy, Normal, and Hard ode version of each Club member’s task – which for example, starts off as “Achieve 50 Combo” via some chosen songs and moves right into “Clear stage with less than BREAK 10” and “Clear stage with fade in situation” (as a combination) in the very next set. This mode is very difficult if you have any sort of reflex delay, and though I can see its value for the more seasoned rhythm game player it ended up being more frustration than fun for me. Thankfully however, the mode isn’t really required to unlock most (if not all) of the game’s songs and you can do so via Stage Mode and the leveling system (which runs on points, related to your ranking).
Speaking of ranking, song ranks are handed out via a screen with a few stats and a lettered grade – your grade ranging from F (fail) to S++ (approaching perfection) with “D” to “A” grades making up the meat of the scale. You’ll also be shown things like how many breaks (note mess ups) you had, your biggest combo, any bonuses you’ve earned, a numbered score representing how well you did (including bonuses), and your current personal best (to compare to). Any experience you’ve earned through your numbered score is then added to your level – and if you level up you can earn DJ Icons (buffs), note sounds, and new songs to use while playing. Your ranking/score contributes to your level, and your level determines your progression – so make sure to get good scores if you want to make it to level 99!
Aside from the modes we’ve talked about (which comprise the entire playable game) there isn’t actually much extra in the way of features to be had – but that’s okay, because they gave us exactly what we needed and nothing more; Options, DJ Ranking, and Back Stage. The Options menu allows you to tweak a few game-specific settings, DJ Ranking shows you where you rank among other players that have played the game, and Back Stage offers a more comprehensive breakdown of your own personal stats and collectables.
Back Stage is also where you’ll go to equip any items you earn through leveling up, which can then buff your gameplay such that you may gain a slight advantage in play. An example of a buff item is the DJ Icon “Sandra”, which offers more HP (room to fail) and ups your experience points by 10%.
Alright, so we’ve talked about how to play, the different ways to play, difficulty options, the modes, your ranking/score, extra features, and items – but what about the music, right? Well, it’s fantastic to say the least… and much more varied than I expected from a non-Western developed title.
XONiC features synthetic beat-driven songs, boy bands, pop songs, orchestral-style pieces, metal/hardcore inclusions, R&B songs, cultural pieces, video game music, easy listening songs, and everything between to choose from – with multiple examples of each included in the mix. It’s easily one of the more varied rhythm games when it comes to soundtrack, and contains some tunes that I wouldn’t have heard on my own – but have come to love quite a bit in such a short time (Collaboration, Candy Cane, and Every Day – I’m looking at you).
While going completely Westernized with the soundtrack may be the holy grail for some rhythm fans, I think they’ve struck the perfect balance here for my taste; giving me something fresh, but also keeping it in the wheelhouse of the Western audience (and avoiding too much K-Pop). They’ve essentially created a perfect storm; the enjoyment of their soundtrack fueling the need to get better and play more, which then lets you unlock more songs and get in further.
I guess you could say I’m well down the rabbit hole then, as looking back on my time spent with SUPERBEAT: XONiC, I can’t help but to wonder how it will affect me in the future. This rhythm game sounds great, plays great, has tons of options for difficulty, and pits my scores against others – all the things that it needs to make me its puppet, and eat away at my life. Thankfully, it’s so well put together (and caters to the user so well) that I don’t mind one bit – and being that it’s on Vita, I can even take it with me wherever I go.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been writing this too long and need to BEAT my cravings into submission… see you on the leaderboards. 😉