Fingering has never been so fun
I’ve been playing rhythm games since they exploded onto the scene with PaRappa the Rapper in 1997, and having nearly played at least one title of every rhythm game series released I can easily say Superbeat: Xonic is top tier.
But be forewarned, this is the Dark Souls…nay…the 127 Hours of music games, only you get to keep your arms attached.
Superbeat: Xonic (PS Vita [reviewed], PS TV)
Publisher: PM Studios, Atlus & Acttil
Released: November 10, 2015
This spiritual successor to the DJMax series has you tapping on the edges of the screen as visualized music from various genres fly at you, or optionally using the D-pad and buttons if that is you’d prefer. Personally I found that Superbeat was far more suited to touchscreen gameplay than traditional controls.
By using touch you never have to think about what buttons to press, instead just matching the notes as they connect with the screen, which in turn makes things a tiny bit easier. The only downside to touch is getting used to the scratch notes, which are yellow notes that require tapping then quickly swiping either up or down based on the arrow inside of them. Scratch notes really gave me trouble till I’d spent days with the game and finally found the perfect technique to trigger them.
Aside from that, the gameplay is spot on. Hitting notes just feel great on the smooth OLED of my launch edition Vita, even if I didn’t recognize any of the music upon first playing it. By the time I was finished with the game I found myself humming along to songs and going back to play my favorites to level up.
Superbeat has an XP leveling system that is used to unlock songs and World Tour stages. XP is gained by completing songs, and bonus XP are awarded for difficulty and perks related to unlockable DJ Icons. DJ Icons can grant perks or protections such as double health, more recovery, more XP and even break shields. Shields are used to prevent damage being taken and combos being broken and are necessary for many of the World Tour stages unless you’re a natural born finger dancer.
World Tour is really where you’ll spend most of your time with the game, completing various challenges that require various goals such as massive combos that last across songs, perfectly played songs, and achieving high scores. My biggest gripe with the game is that the difficulty of World Tour stages doesn’t really match up with their listed difficulty; I often found myself failing the easy stages while breezing through medium and hard difficulties.
The Tour stages that are brutally difficult require you to get 90%+ JUD, with JUD being related to score. While DJ Icons can help you pass many stages, they do little to help pass JUD stages, as the shields only grant you “good” rated presses instead of “superbeats” that give you a higher score. Some of the challenges are so hard that I found it damned near impossible to complete them in my time with the game, meaning I missed out on one last set of challenges and another “fart” sound effect that can be used in place of the default rimshot sound effect played when hitting notes.
After close to 40 hours with the game, I’m nowhere near acquiring all the unlockables, though I’ve managed to unlock every track — all of which I really enjoy aside from one metal song that gives Crazytown’s “Butterfly” a run for its title of ‘shittiest song ever.’ I rarely play my Vita, but now I’m going to have to pack it and Xonic along with me for any flights as my new go to “don’t panic because you could die at any moment” game.
Superbeat: Xonic is an original enough take on the rhythm genre to make it feel fresh again and is easily the best touch screen based music game I’ve played with Cytus coming a close second. Filled to the brim with catchy tunes, I’ll be revisiting Superbeat in the coming months anytime I travel. Apart from some brutally difficult challenges, the only other thing holding me back from giving this game a perfect score is that it is on the Vita, a system that I’d still regret buying even if this was the second best rhythm game I’ve ever played — long live the king, PaRappa the Rapper.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]