Sunday, November 5, 2017

Review: Superbeat: XONiC


The second you load up Superbeat: XONiC you’re hit with your first taste of the game’s absolutely pumping soundtrack and I’m glad to say that at no point does it really let up. Sporting a line-up of tunes that are, granted, J-Pop heavy but include some more classically-inspired tracks, techno, and solid metal as well, XONiC is an aural treat. If you love great music, challenging rhythm games, and some curve balls being thrown your way on a periodic basis the package is pretty easy to recommend.


The game’s format is very similar to a number of games the Switch has gotten that are conversions from the mobile space but I’d consider the presentation a real step up as a whole. Everything is vibrantly colorful, the main theme is constantly pumping you up in the background as you move through the various menus, and the visuals indicating what you need to do while engaged in the actual gameplay are very crisp and clear. There’s no mistaking that this is a game that was designed to be a console-quality experience.

When it gets into actual gameplay you’ll have some options at the beginning but I think that ultimately you’ll end up opting to go the touchscreen route as complexity and speed begin to be more of an issue. Depending on the skill level of the mode you’ll have to use multiple buttons on either side of the screen as well as the joysticks for certain slide moves if you’re using the controllers. This can be managed when things are simpler but for the more intense songs they’re problematic. The weakest option for play is actually the Pro Controller, which I used initially. This is because the buttons, and the D-Pad in particular, just aren’t as crisp for timing as I’d prefer and the analog controllers really do you no favors when performing moves that require you to use them. Even with the JoyCons as things heat up the issue simply becomes the slightly greater amount of time it takes to move your thumbs from one set of controls to another. It can be done, but the touchscreen simply makes it all so much easier and less frustrating.


A variety of modes are offered with varying levels of complexity but don’t let yourself be fooled, even in the “beginner” 4-Trax mode if you pick the tougher songs it won’t much matter. You may have to fight with less potential positions, but there are some absolutely brutal patterns and pacing to face on the high end of the spectrum for the generally more rapid-fire music in the collection. As you unlock more difficult modes you’ll add on additional layers of complexity, whether in terms of positions you need to manage or other factors. As you progress you’ll also get access to new World Tour challenges where you’ll take on a rival DJ and additional objectives like achieving a specific combo level or not exceeding a specific number of missed notes per song across a sequence of tunes. There was one particular variant of this that I really disliked which made the view distance for your moves much shorter but thankfully once I’d gotten past it that didn’t persist. With timing being so important crippling your ability to mentally prepare even by a second makes the game far more difficult.

While this is very much a genre game there’s very little, overall, I can say that’s negative about it. The gameplay is challenging and though from song to song the level of complexity can change significantly at times you can’t accuse it of not setting the bar high. With some repetition and practice, just like with classic games like Guitar Hero in the past, even the most insane-looking songs can be conquered. It’s possible people could balk at the asking price, which is pretty high, but I’d argue that the load of 68 generally diverse tracks you’re getting in the game are what that brings to the table and it’s just a practical reality when you want to have great music as part of the experience. If you’re a big music and rhythm game fan, and don’t completely abhor J-Pop tunes, I have few hesitations to recommending it.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Quite an awesome variety of music, all of which sounds great and makes for compelling gameplay
  • A variety of modes and variations that help spice up challenge
  • Unlockable avatars have bonuses that can really help you knock up your score or help keep you alive depending on what you need

Cons:
  • While there is variety make no mistake that J-Pop still, overall, dominates the musical feel to the game
  • The challenge level pretty quickly plays for keeps, making it an unlikely fit for casual gamers or rhythm game novices
  • The shift in complexity for what you’ll need to do per song to keep up can be jarring at times, even in the beginner 4-Trax mode, though with practice you can conquer tougher tracks
  • A premium price, though that's giving you 68 tracks of music

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