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Review: Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd

Nov 13 // Brittany Vincent
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], PS Vita)Developer: Sega, Crypton Future MediaPublisher: SegaReleased: November 18, 2014MSRP: $49.99 The Rhythm Game mode is the main attraction, offering over 40 different songs featuring Hatsune Miku, Len and Rin Kagamine, Luka Megurine, and other Vocaloids. They're a chorus of different voices brought to life via the popular singing voice synthesis software, and each has its own unique timbre and quirks. There's a healthy mix of songs presented in this collection, with many returning from previous entries in the Project DIVA series, some with brand new accompanying music videos, and brand new tracks exclusive to Project DIVA F 2nd. For instance, songs like "Melt" and "The World is Mine" were originally seen in the original Project DIVA title released for the PlayStation Portable back in 2009. Songs like "Pinky Promise" and "Doubleganger" are new to the series, giving even veterans plenty of reasons to return. [embed]283791:56320:0[/embed] Players will find several genres and song types to explore as well, from sugary sweet pop to sweeping techno tracks that should please any Vocaloid fan. But, as many Vocaloid faithful can attest to, Miku's voice is a bit of an acquired taste. She'll either grate on your nerves or open up an entirely new world of aural delights to you, and that will make or break your enjoyment of Project DIVA F 2nd. Of course, the music is only half the fun, so even if you aren't as enamored with the tracks as you could be, there's still the excellent framework of the rhythm game left to win you over, which is a unique tonal shift from other similar games on the market. Sure, you're still tasked with pressing buttons on your controller that correspond to the symbols on-screen, but they don't simply appear in a neat and orderly fashion. They pop up in random places about the screen as notes fly in from off-screen as well. Not only do you need to concern yourself with keeping up with the rhythm, but as the accompanying video behind the notes and Miku's dancing plays on, you've got to stay focused to succeed. Some icons require you to simply press face buttons, while others necessitate both a face button and the directional arrow that corresponds to the face button. For instance, with the triangle button you'd also need to press up on the D-pad to hit the note. Others still require flicks of the analog stick, with special notes prompting flicks of both analog sticks on the PS3 controller at once. It can be a lot to take in at once if you're unfamiliar with rhythm games, and even if you're a hardcore devotee to the genre like myself, you might find that the game can be quite punishing at times, even on "Normal" difficulty, which I would caution new players against starting at. Once you work your way up to "Extreme," there's a true feeling of accomplishment in being able to look back on how far you've come, because this game can and will push you. You've got to hit a whopping 80% of the notes in order to clear a track successfully, so you've got to play as though every note matters, because if you want to see everything the game has to offer, it does. That's what makes Project DIVA F 2nd such a robust and inspiring rhythm game. Beyond the glitter and the sugary sweet characters, there's a depth to it that's sorely missing in most music-oriented titles these days. It's exciting to open up new tracks and earn new accessories for a job well done. There's a constant deluge of unlockables to hoard, like new outfits and accessories to dress Miku and company just as you see fit.  If the Rhythm Game mode doesn't keep your attention long enough, you can always head over to Edit Mode to create and edit your own custom music videos using the Vocaloid tunes and an expansive set of tools to create your very own productions. If you're not feeling particularly creative, you can keep up with your Diva Room, which allows you to customize your stable of digital pop stars, whether you change their outfits, the room furnishings, or accessories. You can purchase additional items for the room, but you can also interact with the Vocaloid team there as well. But as previously stated, it's all about the music. You'll quickly find yourself losing hours at a time running through the tracklist, bettering yourself and obtaining new collectible items. It's even worth the slightly longer load times to take in a menagerie of colorful (and sometimes bizarre) fan art of Miku and the gang. There's also more content to come, with Sega making the very same DLC tracks released for the Japanese version available to Western buyers as well. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd is a full-featured, intuitive, and challenging pop star simulator dressed up as a rhythm game. Whether you love Miku and the rest of the virtual virtuosos there's something to enjoy here, even if it's just to prove that you know your way around a rhythm game. It's a worthy follow-up to last year's release and with translated English subtitles for each song, planned DLC, and a delightful mix of music, it's a surefire hit. Just don't get too disappointed when you remember Miku isn't actually a real person.
Review: Hatsune Miku photo
I'll Miku-Miku You♪ (For Reals)
Hatsune Miku is an international sensation. Despite the fact that she's a simple digital creation, she's managed to rack up a massive amount of record sales and sold-out concerts, including a tour with Lady Gaga and even an a...

Review: Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit!

Nov 12 // Brittany Vincent
Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! (PS Vita)Developer: MeteorisePublisher: XSEED GamesReleased: November 11, 2014MSRP: $14.99 Bon Appétit! gathers the entire Senran Kagura cast for a cooking competition set up to offer the winner a scroll that can grant a solitary wish. With such an astonishing prize on the line, word travels quickly to all the sprightly young ninja as they enter the cook-off to nab the scroll for themselves. Of course, it's all a front, a scheme from a geezer who wants to see the girls traipsing around in sexy aprons, but you can't fault an old man for trying. The girls give it their all and set out to humiliate one another in the name of making their dreams come true, and that's where you come in. Once you've started the game proper, Story Mode is where you'll want to head first to unlock special outfits, accessories, and extra content. You can choose from a healthy amount of the Senran Kagura girls, like Asuka, Ikaruga, Hibari, Hikage, and the rest of the gang. Each girl is saddled with her own brief snippet of visual novel-styled narrative as to why she's pursuing the special scroll. Most are hilariously awful, littered with double and triple entendres that revolve around the male anatomy or breasts. Asuka is one of the worst perpetrators, but I was consistently astounded by the localization team's unmatched efforts to go the extra mile and ensure line after line was simultaneously corny and sexually charged. [embed]283649:56308:0[/embed] It's fairly impressive, to be honest, and despite how absolutely inane it can be, refreshing to see a game nearly devoid of male characters take casual racy speech and toss it out so carelessly. It may be considered fanservice "for men," but it certainly isn't the men the girls are not-so-subtly flirting with in-game, and that's something I can get behind. If I were a lesser person, that could have been a dirty remark, but I'll refrain for the purposes of this review. After you've chosen a girl you'll partake in a multi-stage cooking competition, which locks your girl in fierce combat with varying opponents. Like a racier Iron Chef, dishes are established at the beginning of the match for both parties to create, with both girls assigned a station and their own cooking tools and materials. Except you don't ever actually do any cooking. Instead, you whip up the tasty meals assigned to you by way of pressing buttons in time to the beat -- this is a rhythm game, after all. Near the bottom of the screen are two tiers where symbols corresponding to the Vita's face buttons appear. It's your job to hit them as the music plays, a la Bust A Groove or PaRappa the Rapper. Sometimes you'll need to tap the note until the number above it reaches zero. You'll have to hold notes occasionally as well, while tending to button presses above or below it. The directional buttons come into play as well, so you'll have to think fast when two are on-screen at the same time. It's quite challenging on the highest difficulty setting, especially when it comes to songs with a higher BPM, though you're never given the option to select a song for each stage. There are three breaks in each song where the judge (the lecherous Grandpa himself) takes a moment to sample the dishes you've crafted thus far, and if you've managed to keep your ninja's meter full (as opposed to your opponent's color filling the bar) you'll come out on top. If by the end of the match you've created the superior dish each time, you'll emerge victorious. At the end of each judging round, the player on the losing end of the battle will have her clothes ripped in strategic places a bit more each time until she's left totally naked but for chibi anime faces to cover up the naughty bits -- because we're not adults here or anything and a little bit of nipple is far more scandalous than making penis joke after penis joke -- but I digress. At the end of each song the victor is subjected to a "humiliating" pose in which they're drizzled with chocolate syrup or various dessert toppings as they pose sensually. And then it's gone, done, onto the next one, because if you want to see the rest of the characters, you've got to get to work unlocking them through Story Mode. Otherwise, you could choose Arcade or Free Play for the thrill of the rhythm game without the unlockables. Unfortunately, the game's biggest pitfall comes in the form of the songs themselves. They're not exactly what I'd call memorable, with tunes channeling wedding marches, bizarre Christmas-like holiday doppelgangers, and a cavalcade of instrumental (and occasionally vocal) songs that are instantly forgettable. While you're locked in a heated cooking battle, it's easy to forgive this fact, but the most basic building block of a rhythm game is its songs. These songs simply aren't strong enough to act as the backbone of a title that revolves solely around them. There are a couple with vocals that will at the very least stand out, but for the most part they feel like accompanying background tracks in any run-of-the-mill JRPG. Luckily, they're just rollicking enough to provide a challenge and I suppose that's all that's really warranted here, though some cutesy pop songs could have spiced things up considerably. Still, this is a surprisingly meaty title that'll have you coming back again and again to best one difficulty level after another, even if it's just to collect special accessories with which you can outfit your girls. They're hilariously pandering (I chose a military outfit paired with a pacifier and cat ears) but they do alter the way your girl appears in each scene, even when she's hard at work cooking. It also seems that band-aids are the lingerie of choice for most of the girls. Who knew? I was hoping for some hardcore BDSM gear to really round things out, but the best I could find was a collar. The outfits paired with dialogue snippets make for some side-splitting screenshots, but if you take them be forewarned that the Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! logo will be superimposed at the bottom right of each one for some unknown reason. Everything in this strange little rhythm game comes together in some weird way, from the girls posing as desserts to the fact that this is a musical cooking competition. It's a fluffy bit of cotton candy that works well with the core cast of characters, and Senran Kagura devotees as well as rhythm game fans alike should find something to enjoy here, even if it's just the fact that nearly every character route has inappropriate banter.
Bon Appétit! Review photo
Light and delicious
Some may call Senran Kagura inherently tasteless, but the series of action-packed brawlers has depth and satisfying combat. The games have swept the handheld community mainly because of their increasingly risqué conten...

Review: The Voice: I Want You

Nov 08 // Brittany Vincent
The Voice: I Want You (Xbox 360, Wii U, PS3 [reviewed])Developer: bitComposer GamesPublisher: Activision Release:  October 21, 2014MSRP: $39.99 Perhaps a bit of background information is in order. I've played nearly every single karaoke title available to me. That spans the older generation of consoles up to the current round of systems -- everything from Microsoft's short-lived Lips series to Disney: Sing It. I also like to write and record song parodies. I don't think I'm an excellent vocalist, but I have a smattering of gold ratings in Rock Band, namely "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" and "Space Oddity." I've plunged the depths of musical despair with the karaoke app on Xbox 360, and I spent four hours at Duet 35 on my last trip to New York wishing I could live and die in that tiny room with phonebooks full of instrumentals music. And yet, while playing through this game, I found myself longing to return to titles that should, by all intents and purposes, be lesser games, like the Karaoke Revolution PlayStation 2 series or even Smule's mobile Sing! Karaoke app.  [embed]283579:56259:0[/embed] It's immediately apparent as soon as you begin the game proper that if you purchased the game looking to channel the vibe from the popular television show, you've been duped. There's no sign of Christina Aguilera or Blake Shelton anywhere. There's not even a Gwen Stefani or glimpse of Pharrell. It's only you, faceless silhouettes that act as "judges," and the cold of your living room.  It's not as if the game is broken, however. It's simply generic to the core, from its default WordPress template menus to its everyman and everywoman singers that accompany you during songs. You can head into quick play to choose from a meager listing of songs, check out Voice Coach mode for a slim selection of quick and dirty vocal lessons, or play a "season" that mimics the actual television show. If you've got friends over clamoring for a turn (and enough mics) you can play Party Mode with seven different players. The modes are surprisingly robust, and would be welcomed in any other game.  However, several different modes of play mean nothing if the track listing and songs themselves fall flat, which they do. Big time. Once you get started, you might notice there's something a little off about the track list, which includes upward of 20-something songs -- Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" and the venerable "What Does The Fox Say?" rounding out tracks that both please fans of new music and obfuscate others. It's the most random assortment of songs since Elite Beat Agents and its inclusion of Deep Purple's "Highway Star."  I couldn't be sure whether the goal was to appeal to those who enjoy music straight off their local pop station or if these were simply the cheapest songs that could be obtained easily. For every "September," you've got "Stay." For "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" there's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," sung by a male artist and completely altering the landscape of the song. It's bizarre.  This was no doubt a move to keep things cheap on the studio's part, but if asked directly, Activision might respond with the fact that cover songs help channel the spirit of The Voice on NBC, where several different singers take on tunes that aren't their own. Either way, they're embarrassingly low-quality. They would be serviceable covers if this were some sort of high school musical that couldn't afford the real songs. When it comes to a game that judges you on pitch, phrasing, and how close you can get to the singer's range, timbre, and vocals, altering the original song is absolutely unacceptable. The cover artist can never match the nuances of the recording artist's performance exactly, and if you're meant to match the vocal tubes of each song to one you've heard hundreds of times over, you're already being set up to fail. It becomes less about finding your own voice and more about mimicking a lesser version of your favorite tune. It's painful.  With regard to vocal coaching, the "lessons" are simply laughable. You'll receive such sage advice as breathing between phrases, what the notes in a song are like (long and short!) and "advanced" topics like implementing vibrato. It's understandable if you've  never sung before, but the coaching mode is so rudimentary that it's unfair to even call it coaching. It's a series of text and accompanying examples to "practice" with. You'd be better off looking up videos on YouTube of proper breathing techniques and scale practice. Besides, the only feedback you'd be getting within the game is what the game can match to your vocals with the included microphone.  Playing a season is just as underwhelming, where coaches "competing" to have you on their team amounts to a few simple exclamations of "That was a solid performance!" and similar airy quotes coming from a set of "professionals" assigned to a specific music genre. They may as well all be the same person, and your only real input when it comes to having them choose you over AI-controlled opponents is, well, singing the song. Match the correct pitch at least some of the time and you'll be golden. There's no real reward for participating in a season, and the different qualifiers mean little more than the fact that you sang a song and managed to not fail. Congratulations? What's frustrating is the fact that The Voice: I Want You could very well have been a decent game. It had every opportunity to take what it was given and work with it. Even simple tweaks, such as improving the quality of the vocal covers or offering better and more nuanced coaching would have improved it tenfold. As it stands, The Voice: I Want You is a title that you may be able to spend about an hour with before reaching for something meatier in the realm of singing games. And, when you're seriously considering going back to the American Idol karaoke titles on the Xbox 360 because at least Simon, Paula, and Randy were included in the game, there's something very, very wrong happening. Pass up the The Voice on consoles and just catch it on television. Or, sing in the shower. You'll get more out of it. 
The Voice review photo
♫ I knew you were treble when you walked in ♫
Do you live for the thrill of belting out your favorite songs whenever you've got five minutes to yourself? Are you an amateur singer looking for guidance, or a professional looking for something fun to brush up your vocal te...

Senran Kagura Cooking photo
Senran Kagura Cooking

Senran Kagura Bon Appétit hits Vita on November 11

Feeling peckish? Pick up a Penguin!
Oct 21
// Kyle MacGregor
Senran Kagura Bon Appétit launches in North America on November 11, Marvelous announced today. The PlayStation Vita exclusive will then arrive in Europe the following day. The rhythm game is a spin-off of "the popular...

Review: Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

Oct 21 // Chris Carter
Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: Disney Interactive StudiosReleased: October 21, 2014MSRP: $59.99 (Xbox One) / $49.99 (Xbox 360) At first glance Fantasia looks rather confusing, but it's basically Elite Beat Agents mixed with the Kinect. During each song, specific notes will appear on the screen. The most basic note is the directional swipe, which allows you to use either hand to gesture in the direction required. Next are dots, which require a punch forward to initiate. Then you have holds that involve holding one or two arms for a specific amount of time. On paper it sounds simplistic, but sitting down (or standing up) and playing is something else entirely. The way Fantasia gives you said notes feels fluid. The aim is to make you feel like you're conducting what's on screen, and based on my experiences, it accomplishes that goal. Like any rhythm game you'll eventually start figuring out how to get the highest score, and come up with your own advanced tactics. What I quickly learned is that any "flick" motion with either of your hands will cue a swipe. So I got into the habit of using both hands at the same time, "queuing" up directions in my head as they appeared on-screen. You can also use two hands for fun even if it's a single note -- it's a flexible, intuitive system without being too forgiving. [embed]281980:56008:0[/embed] It reminds me of the first time I played Guitar Hero, and had to relearn almost everything I knew about the genre with the new guitar controller. It's like that, with your body replacing a plastic instrument. Harmonix has done right by the device. Since it's the Kinect 2.0 with vastly superior sensors, it actually works. I hardly ever had a moment where the game didn't recognize what I was doing, and it only took me a few songs to get into the rhythm of how to play. The Sorcerer Yen Sid and his apprentice Scout will guide you through the game's campaign mode, which is a journey through various themed worlds like "The Hollow," and "The Nation." These venues range from space-age structures to modern cities, and serve as a delivery system for the game's beautiful art (and the soundtrack, of course). While I wouldn't say that Music Evolved is one of the best-looking current-gen games on a technical level, the art style itself ranks among Harmonix's finest work. The story itself might not be groundbreaking, but it's worth the ride. Sadly, you'll have to play through the game's story mode to unlock a lot of the track list for free play. I'm generally not a fan of this locking method for rhythm games, as it can often lead to playing a great deal of songs you have zero interest in just to get to the "good stuff." The campaign is decent enough on its own to warrant a playthrough without locking content, and hopefully an update can change this ideology in the future. Free play also supports multiplayer, which is fun enough with two people in the mix even if it doesn't fundamentally change the mechanics. As for the track list itself, the actual Fantasia songs are easily the best part -- the "conductor" gameplay simply feels better and more rewarding with older tunes than newer ones. Tracks from Vivaldi and Franz Liszt felt like unique experiences I can't get from any other game on the market. Then the game pulls a 180 and throws "Super Bass" from Nicki Minaj on the screen, followed by "Take Care" from Drake, and I'm thrown out of the moment a bit and put into a zone that feels more like Dance Central. The good news is out of the 33 songs in the base game, there is a decent mix of artists that are older but not quite ancient and still offer up something special, like Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, and David Bowie. Fantasia's in-game soundtrack by Inon Zur is also fantastic, and a great tribute to the films. Another cool thing about the track list is that each song has multiple remixes, including metal and orchestral mixes. You can change up the theme dynamically through an in-game mechanic, which is tied to extra multipliers and thus a higher score. Still, I wish there were more classical songs on offer, and nearly all of the announced DLC so far is contemporary. I definitely understand what Harmonix seeks to gain from mixing in Justin Bieber with timeless tunes like "Night on Bald Mountain" in Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, but at times, it feels like a waste of the license. I'm just glad that the gameplay is so solid and feels so new that the sound of a less-than-desirable song is still something worth playing.
Disney Fantasia review photo
Magical, but I want a bit more old pixie dust
[Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Fantasia holds a special place in...

This is why I love Vib-Ribbon

Oct 18 // Jonathan Holmes
[embed]282753:56016:0[/embed] Vib-Ribbon (PS1, PS Vita, PS3, PSP [tested])Developer: NanaOn-ShaPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: December 12, 1999 [PS1], October 17, 2014 [PS3, PS Vita, PSP]MRSP: $5.99 Vib-Ribbon teaches you a new visual language that you must learn in order to progress. The language is made of combinations of loops, spikes, holes, and walls. These are obstacles in the path of Vibri, our hero. First you must learn what button to press when faced with what obstacle, then you must learn to combine button presses when faced with combined obstacles (spiky walls, loop holes, etc). You must press the button on the beat. It's exciting and challenging.  The soundtrack is the real star of the game. It contains six songs. They are performed in the late 90's avant-garde pop-club DJ style (see: Jet Grind Radio). Samples of cute people, pitch-shifted children and tough sounding rappers permeate. Lyrical content includes life, death, shopping, and more. The tempo slows down and speeds up in ways independent of logic. The goal is fun. That's why it happens.  When you get hurt, your world shakes. Eventually, you may devolve from a rabbit man into a frog, then a worm. Do better, and your world gets better, then you get better. Eventually you may become a king.  It's a perfect videogame.  What's not perfect is its presentation on HDTVs. As many of you know, there is lag when playing PS1 games on a PS3 connected to an HDTV. This lag does not make the game unplayable. If you adjust your timing so that instead of pressing the button on the beat, you let go of the button on the beat, you may do better. It also helps that the game is already quite forgiving. It doesn't want to hurt you, so if you play a little off time, it tries not to be too mean about it.  [embed]282753:56017:0[/embed] That changes when you put in a CD. Things are much less forgiving, and unless you adjust your HDTV settings or play on an SDTV, you will lose due to lag. You will be sad. Also, do people still have CDs? I do, but I am old.  I love Vib-Ribbon, but playing it on an HDTV via the PS3 is slightly busted.
Vib-Ribbon photo
Laugh and Beats
Vib-Ribbon is a game by NanaOn-Sha (Parappa the Rapper, UmJammer Lammy) that was originally released on the PS1. It came to the United States for the first time just recently, by way of PSN. The original game allowed you to t...

A City Sleeps photo
A City Sleeps

A City Sleeps still looks enchanting, available now on Steam

A challenging bullet-hell shooter for the rhythmically inclined
Oct 17
// Rob Morrow
Harmonix's chaotic-looking but nonetheless stylish music-driven shoot-'em-up A City Sleeps is now available on Steam and there's currently a 10% discount bringing the price to $13.49. While I typically shy away from bullet-h...

Review: Dance Central Spotlight

Oct 09 // Chris Carter
Dance Central Spotlight (Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: HarmonixReleased: September 2, 2014MSRP: $9.99 (with 10 songs) First things first -- what is Spotlight? It's basically a delivery system for all the game's DLC, and a bite-sized offering of the original games. It is $9.99 at its base price, which nets you 10 songs. Every other song can be purchased for roughly $2 as DLC, and all of your past DLC will import into Spotlight (but you can't import the games proper). Here are the 10 tunes you get with the core game: "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic, "Diamonds" by Rihanna, "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, "I Wish" by Cher Lloyd, "Royals" by Lorde, "Show Me" by Kid Ink, "Talk Dirty" by Jason Derulo, "#thatpower" by, "Titanium" by David Guetta, and "Wake Me Up" by Avicii. The problem right off the bat for me is that a number of these tracks aren't particularly exciting, with the exception of "Happy" -- provided that you haven't gotten sick of it yet -- and "Titanium." With a very strong core pack of songs, including a mixture of both new and old tunes, Spotlight could have been a must-buy for fans. Instead, you'll have to dig into the DLC library to get some variety, such as A-Ha's "Take on Me" and The B-52's "Love Shack." My favorite thing about Dance Central 3 was that it constantly switched between classic and modern tracks without players needing to fumble around with DLC, which isn't really represented here. [embed]282072:55913:0[/embed] Having said that, $10 isn't a bad price for a starter pack, and considering the price of past games, you can build your own library as more songs are released. Each track also sports eight routines (Beginner, Standard, Deluxe, Pro, Alternate, Cardio, Strength, Alternate Pro) in Spotlight. If you look at the core game though, Spotlight looks, feels, and controls like a full release. The Kinect movements are still accurate, you can still dance with a friend, and the routines have enough variety in them to keep you interested for at least a few sessions each. In fact, the Kinect 2.0 hardware feels even more accurate than its predecessor, which goes a long way if you're a perfectionist. I definitely can't state that strongly enough -- fans who have played past games in the series will pick up on the enhanced accuracy. One of the best parts of Spotlight is the instant practice mode concept. All you have to do is basically ask Kinect to practice in the middle of a song, and it will take you to another screen that lets you learn a part you're having trouble with. In the past you either had to practice the entire tune or skip to a certain part with multiple clicks, so having this instant mechanic is great for mastering that one part you always screw up. Gone is a lot of the charm that came with Dance Central 3's campy "crews" -- instead, you're going to see a lot less flair and just straight gameplay. That may be a good thing for a lot of people who disliked the goofiness of the series, but for me it's all part of what makes Dance Central unique. As a side note, a few features have also been cut, like H-O-R-S-E, eight-person multiplayer (it only supports two now), and Kinect photo sessions, though fitness mode is still in, with some improvements like more workout tweaks. Although most people won't really notice the enhancements, if you still play fitness mode to this day Spotlight is probably worth the upgrade. If you have an Xbox 360 and a Kinect handy, you'd be better off just picking up prior Dance Central games on the cheap and reaping the benefits of an extended library, better multiplayer, and more game modes. But for everyone else who bought an Xbox One and has a Kinect collecting dust, it's a great way to bring some life to your next party.
Dance Central review photo
A bite-sized performance
[Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Although it's been a lot tougher to ge...

Vib Ribbon photo
Vib Ribbon

Enough teasing: Vib-Ribbon is headed to PlayStation Network

Releasing in North America, at last
Oct 06
// Jordan Devore
There was an out-of-nowhere nod to Vib-Ribbon at Sony's E3 press conference this year, and then nothing. No follow-up announcement. That wasn't very nice at all. But everything will be better, soon enough: the cult PlayStatio...
Amplitude photo

Amplitude isn't pretty yet, but at least it works

It's coming along, Kickstarter backers
Sep 30
// Brett Makedonski
Judging by the first gameplay video of Harmonix's reboot of Amplitude, development's coming along rather nicely but is still far from done. This prototype update for Kickstarter backers is heavy on placeholder visuals and ha...
Persona 4 Dancing photo
Persona 4 Dancing

Persona 4: Dancing All Night delayed in Japan

Atlus pushes rhythm game back to 2015
Sep 21
// Kyle MacGregor
Persona 4: Dancing All Night has been delayed in Japan, Atlus has announced. The rhythm game was scheduled to debut this autumn, but is now postponed until next year. No word on how this impacts the western release of the Pl...

Review: Size DOES Matter

Sep 15 // Darren Nakamura
Size DOES Matter (Android [reviewed], iPad, iPhone)Developer: DOS StudiosPublisher: Channel 4Release: August 13, 2014 (iOS), August 22, 2014 (Android)MSRP: $1.64 (Android), $0.99 (iOS) At first, Size DOES Matter looks like another in the long line of Flappy Bird clones and spinoffs, but it quickly reveals that it has more to it than just that. The player controls a floating string of blocks in an attempt to make it pass through gates without colliding into surrounding pillars. The twist alluded to in the game's title is that the string of blocks and the passageways can both exist in one of three sizes: one block tall, three blocks tall, and five blocks tall. Passing through a gate successfully involves not only making it through without hitting the sides, but also cutting it as close as possible by matching the block size with the gate size perfectly. While that is simple enough in concept, the additional layer injects a sort of "rubbing one's belly while patting one's head" feeling to it, where the brain has trouble processing position and size separately. Beginning players will often grow the chain when they wanted to move it or vice versa. [embed]281083:55609:0[/embed] Once the basics are mastered, Size DOES Matter really opens up to show its strengths. The scoring and progression mechanisms hold within them an interesting risk/reward strategy decision. Each successful navigation through a gate awards points and increases the multiplier by one. Unsuccessful passes come in two varieties: going through in a size smaller than that of the gate awards no points and adds nothing to the multiplier, but crashing into a wall resets the multiplier back down to one. The result is that on tough sections, it is often wiser to shrink down to one block even on three- or five-block high gates, in order to regain composure and get through without losing a big multiplier. Most of the high scores required to advance can be achieved by skipping entire sections of gates, as long as the multiplier is preserved. However, every song has three difficulties, each played one after the other, but players may only advance to the next difficulty if they have made fewer than three mistakes total. Mistakes include collisions and passing through while smaller than required, so near perfection is required to move on to the higher difficulties. Of course, the higher difficulties feature more gates that advance more quickly, offering much more opportunity for achieving super high scores. One of the problems that turns up is that it is very rare for one mistake to be just one mistake. Generally, if the player moves up when he should have moved down or changed size, or grows when he should have moved or shrunk, he is now in a position two removed from where he needs to be in order to successfully hit the following gate. Considering several can hit per second, and some even simultaneously, it is a rare occasion that one mistake is limited to just that. This is compounded by the controls, which work very well most of the time, but fail spectacularly on occasion. The default control has player swiping the left side of the screen to move and the right side of the screen to change size. The act of swiping ends up taking too much time when things get fast, so an alternate mode allows players to tap in one of four quadrants for the same results. Without tactile feedback, thumbs will sometimes stray too far from where they should be and players will grow when they meant to shrink, or worse if playing on Android, hit the soft buttons for home or back. Those should be hidden in a game like this, but what would really perfect the controls would be a traditional D-pad and buttons. As players progress through the track list, another aspect of Size DOES Matter's gameplay reveals itself. Where early on it plays like a twitch arcade game set to music, later levels show that it is actually a rhythm game. The blocks pass through the gates to the beat of the music, but a beginner will always make adjustments between gates and between beats. As it turns out, commands to move, grow, and shrink can be (and in later levels, must be) input as soon as the blocks are inside a gate. In other words, high-level play requires swiping and tapping to the beat. At some point, it all clicks into place. In the beginning, a player will be consciously thinking about executing the next move, but soon enough the pace picks up to the point where that is not possible. And then, after feeling like a wall has been hit and no more progress can be made, the player's fingers and eyes will circumvent his pesky brain that has been slowing them down, and he will get through a tricky section unscathed without really knowing how. This gaming nirvana can get a player through to the last stage, but at that point (or on the highest difficulty runs on easier stages), the magic wears off. At some point, it just becomes too fast and its telegraphs too muddled to work. At that point, high scores can only be achieved by rote learning. Since each level has been crafted to match the song and there is no bit of procedural generation in play, it all becomes much less interesting at this point. Still, there is a lot to be said about how well the presentation works in Size DOES Matter's favor. The crisp graphics help to enhance a player's ability to succeed, where differently sized gates have distinct colors and designs, making them easily recognizable even when on the periphery. Special attention was paid to the soundtrack, which features some great tunes by Eirik Suhrke (Spelunky), Savant (Savant: Ascent), Chipzel (Super Hexagon), and others. The soundtrack alone is worth the price for the full game. Size DOES Matter takes willing players on a journey. It begins as a lesson in coordination both between hand and eye and between two separate thought processes. As it progresses, it becomes a rhythm game requiring utmost attention. Then, players hit a sort of enlightened state where everything seems to move slowly and fingers do what they should without being told. After that, it is mostly an exercise in memorization and frustration. Some may never get that far, but most would benefit from trying.
Size DOES Matter review photo
Fits like a glove
Simple graphics, twitch gameplay, and fresh music constitute a good formula for mobile gaming. Titles like this allow for a quick bit of play during minutes of downtime, and can paradoxically keep players going for long perio...

Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

Sep 11 // Chris Carter
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: Square Enix 1st Production DepartmentPublisher: Square Enix Released: September 16, 2014MSRP: $39.99 For reference, the original Theatrhythm only came with roughly 76 songs -- more were available as DLC, and the iOS version actually had more tunes than the 3DS iteration. Since Curtain Call has 221 base songs before DLC, it's already a major upgrade in terms of the setlist. In case you're worried about being lost in the sequel -- don't be. Curtain Call not only includes nearly all of the original songs from the first game, but it also recaps the "story" and introduces the new one in just a few minutes. Once again the evil force known as Chaos is back (described in part due to the "cyclical nature" of the universe), and you'll need to amass Rythmia currency again to stop it. That's literally it -- even Mario has a more elaborate setup. What you're doing to be doing the vast majority of the time is playing songs, and they're all played with the same three styles, just different delivery systems -- versus mode, free play, and Quest Medley. If you haven't played Theatrhythm before, the concept is very simple to pick up -- there will be notes coming in from the side of the screen, and when they hit the target near your character, you tap or press a certain button (both stylus and traditional controls are supported). [embed]280245:55552:0[/embed] Sometimes that action may just be a timely tap, in other instances it's a "hold," or a "swipe" in a certain direction. The three song types (combat, field, and event) change up the delivery system, but in essence it's all the same idea. There are a few small additions like critical strike icons adding more impact to notes, but Curtain Call plays nearly identical to its predecessor -- which can lead to some fatigue after extended play sessions. As previously stated, Curtain Call doesn't really fool around with giving you the keys to the kingdom almost immediately. After a quick tutorial you're off to the races, picking a party of four from a number of core Final Fantasy games. This will serve as your character pool for the near future, as the others are removed to be unlocked at a later time -- so make it count! Your initial choice will also serve as your intro setlist, and each "franchise" you choose to represent with your party will have their songs unlocked from the start. Don't fret though, because within an hour's time, you'll have nearly every song in the game unlocked. As such, free play feels like the core mode of the game, and less of a chore to slog through. No more grinding to get to the good stuff. Having said that, the game's RPG mode, Quest Medley, is not as quick to hand over the goods. Initially Quest Medley starts off looking great. With a world map to lightly explore (complete with classic world map overtures) by choosing paths, items to collect, and bosses to fight, it looks like a very cool way to implement more RPG elements into the fray. The problem is almost every song for at least five hours is remedial, and it takes forever to get to the final difficulty level where the challenge truly begins.There are hundreds of quests available it seems, and after completing roughly 20 of them I promptly went back to free play, as well as versus mode -- which you can also play by yourself thankfully. In addition to local play, you can also challenge AI in versus mode, working your way through bronze, silver, and gold classes (as well as an extra tier). The way versus works is nearly identical to every other mode, with one exception -- power-ups. By earning a certain score you'll unload an "EX Burst" on your opponent, which can result in anything from flipping their arrows around, to making it harder to earn a score, to hiding notes until the very last second. Because of this, playing songs on the highest difficulty is even harder, and this is likely where veterans will end up after exhausting every song in free play. Still, with enough resolve, you can work your way through the entire AI gauntlet in a few hours. It's good then that versus has both local and online functionality. In terms of the setlist itself, it's extremely impressive. My personal favorite classic addition is Final Fantasy Tactics, but I really enjoy the fact that Lightning Returns and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn have gotten a lot of love, as the soundtracks to both are two of their strongest suits. It's also nice to see Mystic Quest remembered (even with just a few songs), and the upcoming DLC schedule takes more chances, with Chocobo Dungeons and Romancing SaGa appearances.It's still as addicting as ever to unlock just one more song, character, or quest map. There's also more choice as to what you unlock, as earning enough shards will grant you the ability to choose from a list of characters to add to your band of heroes -- instead of just giving you one. It's going to take quite a while to go through every song on all three difficulty levels, and that's not including browsing the museum mode or playing with friends. Considering that it has almost the entire first game housed within it with expanded modes, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is a no-brainer for people who never bit the first time around, as well as returning players who are looking to play some extra songs. It still has some of the same series trappings due to its similar nature, but even if you just tackle every song once in free play it's worth the price of entry.
Theatrhythm 2 review photo
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy was a very nice surprise. After many people had become disenfranchised with the series due to a number of mishaps and weak core entries, Theatrhythm reminded us that Square still had rever...

IA/VT Colorful delay photo
IA/VT Colorful delay

PS Vita rhythm game IA/VT Colorful delayed to 2015

Marvelous concerned about quality, wants to make improvements
Sep 04
// Kyle MacGregor
IA/VT Colorful has been pushed back to 2015, Marvelous announced today. The PlayStation Vita rhythm game was first slated to launch in Japan this summer, before being postponed until autumn. The reason behind the latest delay...
Vib-Ribbon photo

Sony just filed a Vib-Ribbon trademark in Europe

Perchance to dream...
Sep 03
// Steven Hansen
Sony filed a new trademark for Vib Ribbon in Europe today, as spotted on NeoGAF. Vib-Ribbon is a cult classic PS1 game from the developer of PaRappa the Rapper and UmJammer Lammy. It never got a North...
Curtain Call 3DS photo
Curtain Call 3DS

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call gets a UK demo this week

September 4th
Sep 02
// Chris Carter
Square Enix has just sent over word that Europe is getting a demo for Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. It'll drop on September 4th, and will feature two songs -- "Edgar and Sabin's Theme," and "Those Who Fight." ...
Taiko no Tatsujin photo
Taiko no Tatsujin

New pics surface of the Taiko no Tatsujin drum controller

And it was never ever localized, the end!
Aug 21
// Brittany Vincent
More pics have surfaced of the sweet Taiko no Tatsujin controller compatible with the Wii and Wii U. Unfortunately there hasn't been a Taiko no Tatsujin game available in the West since the PlayStation 2's heyday, but rhythm ...
Hatsune Miku PS3 Vita photo
Hatsune Miku PS3 Vita

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd takes the stage in November

Synthetic singer returns on PS3 and Vita this holiday season
Aug 13
// Kyle MacGregor
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd launches on November 18 in North and Latin America, and elsewhere starting November 21, Sega has announced. Available in both physical and digital formats, the rhythm game features cross-save comparability, as well as twenty classic songs from the the previously Japan-only PSP games and twenty brand new songs.
Next great roguelike photo
Next great roguelike

Man, I wish I were playing Crypt of the NecroDancer right now

It's out on Steam Early Access
Jul 31
// Jordan Devore
Are you playing Crypt of the NecroDancer? You should be playing Crypt of the NecroDancer. It's a rhythm-based roguelike in which you hop around dungeons to the beat of music, a novel mechanic that ends up being enjoyable -- n...
Dale may be very talented, but I'm... also here
As we reported earlier today, Square-Enix is holding a contest to win some fabulous Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call prizes. All you have to do is create a short video of your own musical rendition of the Final Fantasy "Main Theme". I took the opportunity to try to turn this news report into an entry for the contest. I probably won't win.

Steam Early Access photo
Steam Early Access

Crypt of the NecroDancer hops to Steam Early Access on July 30

The groove is in the heart of this roguelike
Jul 17
// Jordan Devore
Rhythmic dungeon crawler Crypt of the NecroDancer has been fun to watch at expos, but soon enough we'll be able to play (and fail, likely repeatedly) on our own terms -- the game hits Steam Early Access for Windows, Mac, and...
Taiko Drum Master photo
Taiko Drum Master

Bang the drums and roll the dice in this Taiko Drum Master RPG

More Taiko than you can handle!
Jul 04
// Brittany Vincent
A new Taiko Drum Master game is now available on a mobile device nowhere near you (if you live in Japan, anyway) with Taiko Drum Master: RPG Daton, an adorable quest featuring the cute little Taiko characters, pachinko balls...
Alphabeats photo

Alphabeats puts some wub wub in a word game

Made by Teddy Diefenbach of Hyper Light Drifter fame
Jul 03
// Darren Nakamura
You know Teddy Diefenbach, right? He is one of the people working on the Kickstarter uber-success Hyper Light Drifter, and he just cannot seem to stop making new games. At E3 we got to play a bit of his newer title Kyoto Wil...
Curtain Call news photo
Enhanced focus on retro tunes
Square Enix has a new trailer out for Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, and it's decidedly focused on legacy tunes. Billed as the "Legacy of Music Campaign," the developer is kicking off a new series that is aime...

Hatsune Miku 3DS photo
Hatsune Miku 3DS

Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai Remix announced for 3DS

First western appearance on a Nintendo system
Jul 02
// Kyle MacGregor
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai Remix is shimmying westward next year, Sega of America announced today. The 3DS rhythm game is an enhanced version of Project Mirai 2, which debuted in Japan last November. The localization is a testament to the vocaloid singer's burgeoning popularity, and will mark her first appearance on a Nintendo platform outside the confines of Japan.

Review: The Rhythm of Fighters

Jun 27 // Chris Carter
The Rhythm of Fighters (Android, iOS [reviewed])Developer: SNK PlaymorePublisher: SNK PlaymoreReleased: June 25, 2014MSRP: $0.99 (with IAP) Although some of you may not be immediately on board with the idea of a touch-based rhythm game, it works better than you'd think. Similar to Elite Beat Agents, icons will appear on the screen, ranging from the simple "tap" variety, to the "directional flick," up to the "tap, hold, then release" beat. Unlike Elite Beat Agents where you had to touch a specific location on the screen to initiate the beat, however, you can tap anywhere with The Rhythm of Fighters to make up for the lack of a stylus. Because of the smooth animations and the giant circular pattern on the screen, it's easy to identify which of the three notes is coming up, and even with the smaller screen real estate of a phone, you can just tap somewhere in the corner without blocking the action. While I did encounter some songs where the beats didn't quite match up with the song, for the most part it's pretty spot-on. While you're tapping to the beat, the gimmick of Rhythm of Fighters is that you'll be doing battle with fellow King of Fighters characters just like a typical 2D fighting game. More successful taps will result in combos, as well as the ability to block attacks from your enemy. If you miss too many notes, your life-bar will deplete, and you'll have to start the song over again. If you happen to do enough damage to kill your rival, a new one will pop in immediately to take a beating. [embed]277252:54637:0[/embed] While it's not really an essential part of the game since it's just showing you a visual representation of your rhythm work, it's a nice enough way to show your progress without resorting to just a dull life meter. That said, there is an awkward scene transition after a big combo is performed which essentially teleports both combatants back into the action to accommodate for the next notes. It doesn't feel nearly as smooth as it could be, and it's a missed opportunity to display advanced off-the-ground and aerial combos if long strings of notes are hit. There are only two methods of play -- arcade mode, which tasks you with completing five levels in a string, or free mode, which basically lets you pick whatever song and difficulty you want. Arcade mode is the bulk of the game, since you'll have to go through all 50 courses (most of which are repeats on different difficulty levels) to fully unlock all of the extras and songs. The vast majority of unlocks are ancillary options like additional sounds that play when striking enemies, and "support" characters -- essentially power-ups that make some levels easier, that can also be purchased for $0.99 a pop. In some ways, arcade mode feels like a slog in that you'll hit a wall, and have to "go back and level up" in past levels with your character to make for an easier clear. This wouldn't normally be a problem if skill was the only limitation, but a few objectives for arcade mode are crafted in such a way where you need a stronger character to complete them. It doesn't help that it takes almost 20 stages to get to the point where you are consistently playing songs on the "normal' difficulty setting -- selecting a skill level right off the bat would result in a far less remedial experience for rhythm game fans. Rhythm comes with 14 tracks in its base $0.99 price, with the option of buying 16 more (including four Metal Slug 2 songs) via in-app-purchase packs. Character-wise, the game comes with Kyo, Athena, and Ryo, with the option to buy Iori, Terry and Nakoruru for $2.99 each. So not including the "support" power-ups, the full price of the game for 30 tracks with characters comes to $22. It's not outrageously high, but ideally the game should be priced at $10 for everything. Then again, looking at how stupidly expensive Theatrhythm is for iOS, this is more favorably priced. The Rhythm of Fighters falls into some of the unfortunate trappings of the mobile platform, but ultimately the base price of $0.99 is a great-feeling option for those of you who are big fans of SNK's music. It's a very by-the-book rhythm game that's been done many times before, but the unique pairing of SNK properties and the included tracks mesh together better than it would seem at first glance.
Rhythm of Fighters review photo
Bustaaaa boogie!
Over the past few decades, SNK has created a vast stable of memorable characters and franchises. I remember going into an arcade as a child for the first time and spending $10 on Fatal Fury, finding the fighters there more ap...

King of Fighters Rhythm photo
King of Fighters Rhythm

That King of Fighters rhythm game is out now on iOS and Android

It also has Samurai Shodown and Metal Slug in it
Jun 27
// Chris Carter
A rhyhthm game based on various franchises from the SNK world (most notably King of Fighters) is a thing, and it's dropping on iOS and Android this week. The base app is $0.99, with extra songs available via in-app-purchasing...
The Rhythm of Fighters photo
The Rhythm of Fighters

The Rhythm of Fighters combines music with brawling for your gaming pleasure

Putting the "beat" back in music
Jun 20
// Brittany Vincent
Do you love fighting games? Do you love music games? What about a combination of the two? No, I'm not talking about Kickbeat. I'm actually talking about The Rhythm of Fighters - SNK Original Sound Collection. Strangely enough...
Rhythm Destruction photo
Rhythm Destruction

Shmup shmup revolution: Rhythm Destruction is on Steam now

Alternate title: Spacedock Band?
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
We never covered the Rhythm Destruction Kickstarter, but it did fine without us, making more than 120% (wow!) of its $2000 (oh) goal. Mashing up a shmup with a rhythm game seems a little weird to think about, but after watch...
Senran Kagura photo
Senran Kagura

E3's Senran Kagura showcase is both titillating and ridiculous

Ninja gals show off their assets at E3 2014
Jun 13
// Natalie Kipper
The Senran Kagura series takes fan-service to new heights in the upcoming brawler Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus and Senran Kagura Bon Appetít!, a rhythm cooking game. Both titles were available to demo at XSEED's booth at E3 2014.

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