IA/VT Colourful is another notable rhythm game to add to the growing number of similar titles available on the Vita system. Based around the vocaloid IA and produced by Marvelous! it utilises the usual rhythm game mechanics of requiring the player to hit, hold or double press the Vita's face buttons at very precise moments in time with the background music.
The game does, however, implement its own unique elements to add a new spin to the genre. This mostly focuses on the central ring. Branching off from this central area are a number or tramlines along which the button prompts you need to press progress. As they approach the central ring a target zone appears and the matching Vita face buttons must be pressed as the prompt is exactly in the centre of this target. The more accurate your press, the more points you obtain. There are four levels of accuracy: COOL, FINE, SAFE and MISS. These tramlines are constantly evolving and changing shape constantly, adding a level of challenge to the game by attempting to vex the player.
Every now and again the game throws special symbols our way which can be activated by pressing any button on the Vita. These symbols, when timed correctly, are used to fill up a Colorful-meter which again is wrapped around the all important central ring. Depending on accuracy, this meter can be filled to a max percentage of 100. At certain intervals of the song the player is then zoomed into the central ring and the tramlines for the notes are removed making it slightly more difficult to comprehend how and when the prompts arrive at their predestined location. In this mode, depending on how much you filled the Colorful-meter, you can gain multiplier bonuses of up to x2 which is essential if you are aiming for the higher end-of-song rankings. Another factor that affects your ranking is how many notes you managed to chain consecutively - missing a note every 50 prompts, for example, will affect you more than making a number of mistakes in a row and then going on a 400 chain combo. At the end of the song the game takes into account how many COOL, FINE, SAFE and MISS prompts you received and how large your max chain combo was and awards you with a ranking that ranges from SSS to B. Depending on your rank, you will receive a number of performance point which are used to level up your profile - obviously, the higher your ranking the more points you get. Levelling up doesn't affect the game at all from my experience, however, getting past certain levels (10, 30 and 50) is required to earn certain trophies.
The game has all of the usual modes expected in a rhythm game such as Free Play (play any single song of your choosing) and My List Play (which allows you to pick three songs of your choosing and play them consecutively) but also introduces other modes called Step Up and Daily Play. In Step Up mode you must play either a single track or a group of up to three tracks while also meeting a number of success criteria. These criteria range from attaining a set ranking at the end of the song selection; ensuring you obtain at least a set number of COOL hits or a certain combo length; forcing you to use a specific button to hit the special colorful symbols; adding a random element to the hold notes in a song; among others. The Step Up challenges come in three variations: Easy, Normal and Hard. The Easy and Normal challenges are a breeze but some of the Hard ones are extremely difficult, even throwing in cursed hidden notes! Daily Play mode is very similar to Step Up in which the player must meet certain requirements to succeed. This option is, as the name suggests, only available once per day, however.
Doing well in Free Play or the Daily/Step Up challenges rewards you with additional performance points which are used to level you up further, new UI and rhythm skins and costumes for the IA character. It is worth noting that, although there are a sizeable number of costumes to unlock, there are only a handful of songs in which they can be utilised - not many of the songs use the 3D IA sprite, instead relying on static images perhaps to keep the game's productions costs down.
The game has a comprehensive trophy list which will keep players picking up the game for quite a long while. There are 50 overall which will take some time to fully unlock even if you are a skilled rhythm game player. Requirements range from completing 100 songs without missing a note, completing all songs in Easy, Normal and Hard difficulties, unlocking all costumes and using them all once, completing a My Play list without missing a single note, and so on.
Despite the game being really rather fun you can tell, however, that it was conceived on a much smaller budget than similar games such as the Hatsune Miku series. As already mentioned, many of the videos that play in the background are very basic and composed mostly of static images which is a bit of a comedown when compared to the imaginative and fantastically choreographed videos in the Project Diva titles. Some of the images used in the videos are shockingly pixelated and the tramlines that the button prompts run along are a little rough around the edges, too, with blocky curves when the lines gradually bend instead of turning at an angle.
There are a few other problems which can affect your enjoyment of the game. Far too often there are long waits of up to 20/30 seconds between button patterns which can cause major problems by breaking your rhythm and affecting your concentration. Double note presses can also cause issues. The indicator that rotates around the button prompts to inform you that simultaneous presses are needed is very large and can make it difficult to identify what buttons need to be pressed next by covering them almost entirely. Another issue that coincides with double button presses is the placement of the rotating prompt target. Sometimes it can act extremely sporadically, spinning wildly and confusingly around the centre ring making it difficult, when button patterns get complex, to spot which set of prompts is next to arrive at the centre ring. This problem is at its worst when you miss a double button press, as the target will always spin with high speed in a very unpredictable manner making timings even harder to discern. It is very difficult in a few of the songs to identify what the button presses are linked to in the backing song making it hard to time your presses correctly - this is most noticeable in songs such as ITYNITED IDENTITY where the placement of the prompts seems, to me, to be almost random. In these songs it feels like the music is absolutely no help whatsoever to the player (which kind of defeats the object of a rhythm/music game) and this is evidenced by the fact that I have done much better on these certain tracks with the sound turned off completely than with it turned on. Lastly, the first group of songs unlocked in the game are quite uninspiring and it takes a large amount of time to begin unlocking some of the more challenging and musically interesting tracks.
Potential buyers should also know that the game is Japanese language only. Although there is a lot of English text used throughout the game, especially in the menus and the like, players should be advised that some knowledge of katakana and kanji will be needed in order to effectively translate options and understand what is required for trophy requirements. Players without these language skills can, of course, still navigate the game with the help of a translation guide but, to the best of my knowledge, one isn't readily available as of yet.
Overall, IA/VT Colorful should be a certain purchase for any rhythm game aficionado. It is not without its problems and it certainly lacks the presentational sheen of games such as DJ Max Technika Tune and the Hatsune Miku games but it is still a fun game in its own right. Once you get beyond the slightly boring first set of unlockable songs you will discover some very catchy tunes to play and there is a lot of challenge in the Step Up mode for more ardent rhythm game players. If you have enjoyed the previously mentioned Hatsune Miku games then IA/VT Colorful is definitely worth looking into.