Developer: Pentavision, Neowiz Mobile
Publisher: Pentavision Global
Platform: Playstation Vita
Release Date: December 4th
ESRB: T for Teen
A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review
Pentavision, the South Korean studio behind the DJMax series, pioneered the franchise with DJMax Online back in 2004. Since then, the series has branched out on different platforms, featuring various gameplay styles from arcade cabinets, mobiles, and, most prominently, on the PSP. However, the series has mostly been contained in Korea, China, and Japan. Based on the touch-screen arcade version of the series, DJMax Technika, Pentavision takes its first leap at translating the game onto Sony's Vita with DJMax Technika Tune. Does Technika Tune provide an entertaining rhythmic romp or is it just an annoying discordant, scratch on the Vita's touchscreen?
With an initial plunge, it may take a little bit of time to adjust to the overall flow of the game. During gameplay, notes scroll from the top-left and top-right and then to the bottom-right and bottom-left, which can be adjusted or even reversed based on preference, as well as following/tapping the screen when the scrolling vertical line overlaps with or as it gets close to the on-screen note prompts. I'll admit, I personally was slightly intimidated upon starting the game and found myself repeating the tutorial several times. I was almost hasty to think the controls were imprecise, and for a genre so ingrained in perfection and mastery, any faults with the controls can easily be game-breaking. Despite that, as I got better at the game, I learned it was simple matter of acclimating and the controls were perfectly reasonable, albeit a bit confusing at first.
While the entirety of the game is controlled by the touchscreen, the regular game sports two different control schemes to cater towards different playstyles. By default, the game utilizes front touch and rear-pad control layout, which has the player coordinating and tapping specific held- and pressed notes between both surfaces during gameplay. The touchscreen-only controls combine all notes and prompts onto the front screen, making it more akin to the original arcade game. Despite some early discomfort when learning (and holding) DJMax Technica Tune, I found the rear-pad to be surprisingly intuitive for tapping out the rhythm. Regardless, both control schematics seem perfectly viable based on preference, even if neither layout lends itself especially well to portability.
Right from the get get-go, the presentation of DJMax Technika Tune really stands out. Featuring slick menus, a clean interface, and background music videos that vary from very stylish animation to live-action, the overall game looks great on the Vita's OLED screen. I expected the flashy background videos to actually be a distraction during gameplay but the well-designed overlay made that a short-lived concern, and I had no problem focusing on the main game. If there was anything to particularly nitpick it is probably the lack of direct online competitive options, since it only presents general leaderboards ranks, and a take-it-or-leave-it Facebook connectivity option, with no friend's list integration.
Musical selection is eclectic with a staggering number of songs and features, including plenty of different respective genres (and subgenres I“ve never heard of). Even if a good chunk of the track list is K-pop, which will probably push away way more Westerners than it should, there is actually a solid amount of English songs in the game. There is Rock/Metal, Hip Hop, R&B, Trance, Techno, Waltz, Classical arrangements, and so forth; I even spotted one of Irish dance. A lot of the pieces do seem to be cherry-picked from previous entries of the DJMax series, but there is plenty of variety and plenty of catchy tunes that should catch to a bigger audience than one would expect. The game's song selection is likely to pleasantly surprise most who play it, even if you might find yourself embarrassed by the cutesy K-pop song or two you'll find yourself humming.
Overall, the game is structured upon, of course, building up your skills. The game's main modes are Star, Pop, and Club, which are essentially the game's three difficulty modes in sequence, introducing different gameplay nuances gradually. If the player does the modes and song difficulties in order, they should encounter a pretty natural feel of progression. I just powered-through and did the bare-minimum for most songs, not caring for the score beyond passing. Before I knew it, I was revisiting older songs to level up for more unlocks and found songs that I used to think were barely manageable to be a total cakewalk, snagging much higher grades. With plenty of unlockables, such as pictures, videos, gameplay-related perks, and new songs, makes playing the already addictive game even more enticing.
DJMax Technika Tune strikes an odd but welcome mix for the PlayStation Vita. It does an admirable job at integrating what was originally an arcade game for a much-smaller portable device. It“s a game I want to eagerly recommend to music-game fans, and even beyond, despite some slightly daunting initial learning. With a solid, slightly off-the-beaten-path musical selection, great presentation, and an overall satisfying and addictive flow, it should be on the radar of those with even a passing interest in the genre. If Sound Shapes represents a fresh take on creativity and innovation for music based videogames, then DJMax Technika Tune embodies a more seasoned refinement and expertise of the craft.
+ Nice and varied song selection with plenty of catchy tracks
+ Interface/presentation is very slick and stylish
+ Compelling overall flow and satisfying level of progression
+ Intuitive use of the vita's rear-pad
- Can be slightly intimidating to learn early in
- Gameplay does not entirely lend itself well to portability
- Doesn't feature many competitive options
Overall Score: 8.5 (Out of 10)
A great and welcome musical notation the vita's library. Despite some slightly confusing initial learning, it makes for a very addictive experience and certainly should not be overlooked by fans of genre.