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E3 2012: Hands On with Orgarhythm, Sound Shapes, and Hatsune Miku

Although the world of peripheral-based music games seems to be drying up, the same can't be said for the rhythm and music genre itself. They were around before people needed plastic guitars and seem to have weathered the Guitar Hero/Rock Band storm just fine. At this E3 there were a handful of new rhythm-based gaming experiences and I was able to try them.

Unfortunately, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy was a negative experience due to the headphones barely working so that game won't be featured in this hands on preview. How can you judge a rhythm game when you can't even hear the music? Either way, enough of that, let's get onto the Vita previews.

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Orgarhythm is one strange game. Although the woman at the game's kiosk showed me how to play and mentioned the basics, I still found myself flustered with how to control it. In fact, due to my massive bumbling, I failed on the first level. Although later I managed to travel through a level, it still isn't exactly clear in my mind how the game operates. Regardless, here's the impressions I got about the game.

This title is both a rhythm game and also a real-time strategy title. You're given a top down perspective and groups of different-colored ogres who follow your every command. In this game you don't control your character but they simply walk along at a set pace. Instead, you only give orders to the ogres to keep yourself protected. Each ogre has a color: red, yellow, blue. The enemies have a color too. The point of the colors is that each color has a strength and weakness via other colors. It's basically rock, paper, scissors except with primary colors.

In regards to the music, it's fantastic. I only heard a couple of tracks but was told that there would be a great deal of genres represented in the soundtrack. Genres like electronic music but also rock will have a place in the Orgarhythm soundtrack. From what I've heard so far, it all sounds really good and I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of it.

So where's the whole rhythm part of Orgarhythm? It comes in when you are actually commanding ogres around the field. As music plays, you are meant to call up your specific ogre group, attack style, and placement all to the beat. At first, it's a bit hard to get a hang of this because you're not used to having to deliberate when exactly to move through the menu. I wanted to simply focus on what ogre color to use and what attack, but not on hitting the items on each beat.

After a lot of mistakes, I finally managed to get a hold of it and last through a more difficult stage. Still, it's a pretty unusual gameplay mechanic which may turn off some players. Hopefully the creative controls will interest more people than they repel.

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Sound Shapes

Sound Shapes is another music-based game that doesn't simply rely on past games to give it ideas. Instead of being a game with scrolling indicators, it is a side-scrolling platformer. How does that correlate to music? As my gameplay demo started, the world was nearly silent. It was only once I touched a beacon that a small sound began to play. Progressing onward, more sound effects came into the picture and before long there was a cool tune playing. It feels like you're creating the music as you go and it's very neat.

The platforming itself is solid and contains some features to separate it from the most basic ones. You're not a cute creature or plumber, but a simple ball. As a ball, you can gain speed while going down an incline, and all the expected stuff. However, you are also able to cling the ball to specific surfaces. As far as gameplay goes, it's pretty simple to start out with but later levels look like they'll be much more of a challenge.

Returning to the music, it's a strong point of the game. Although the game isn't specifically focused on playing to the rhythm, it does definitely feature music as an integral part of the experience. Jim Guthrie's soundtrack is addictive and part of my playing was fueled only to hear more of it. Apparently, when the game ships you'll be able to remix the tracks in the campaign editor. If you don't have a Vita, then you might want to pick this up with the PS3 version instead.

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f was an interesting title to find on the show floor. Although the titular Vocaloid character has received multiple games on the PSP, none have shown up in North America. Initially, people expected that this game being at E3 meant it was coming here finally. Unfortunately, the booth attendant was making it known that this was only a test to see how people reacted to the game. For the time being, the game has no publisher and no intention of leaving Japan.[/center]


Initially, this game confused me a lot (not nearly as much as Orgarhythm, at least). I chose one song and the screen was suddenly showing me little circles that spun. I attempted to spin the analog sticks with them, press on the touch screen, and a few other things to no avail. Once I figured out that you just needed to press a button then it was much simpler. In fact, it became too simple.

To play Hatsune Miku (at whatever difficulty I was on) you only needed to hit any button when a moving circle landed in the on-screen circles. It's about as easy as it sounds. The music was poppy and Hatsune Miku-tastic but that couldn't help the gameplay become better. Although the demo probably only showcased a beginner difficulty it seems like there's not enough variety. In my session I only encountered two types of on-screen markers -- buttons and stars. I'm hoping and assuming that there are other markers which will require different buttons or other kinds of input.

Another rough thing about the game is that the tracks are long. They're probably full Hatsune Miku songs, which fans will love, but it's always a little rough to have a music game force you to play 4 minute or longer songs at a time. At least many people have gotten used to that after Guitar Hero-style games, but I'm always going to be partial to shorter bursts like in Dance Dance Revolution. Regardless, it looks like a polished title that fans will eat up if it ever comes here.

Overall, it looks like there's a good amount of upcoming rhythm and music-based games on the horizon. If Hatsune Miku fails to come west then it'll be a bit of a shame after teasing us at E3, but not entirely unexpected. As for the rest, they are most definitely arriving in North America and will grab an audience. The Vita could use more games in its current library and the likes of Orgarhythm, Sound Shapes, and maybe even Hatsune Miku Project Diva f would only help.


Actually by purchasing Sound Shapes for $14.99, you get both the PS3 and PS Vita copy of the game!




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