During a gaming generation long passed, a resurgence of rhythm-based video games gained new popularity introducing peripherals designed as musical instruments which would garner an entirely new fanbase of casual gamers. Musicians and people who weren’t proficient in playing instruments joined together on the couch to rock out and be a hero while playing hit melodies from famous bands and artists. The idea of being able to mimic playing a real guitar without the know-how and succeeding brings a level of satisfaction and perhaps inspiration to one day pick up a new hobby. Times change increasingly and so does the mobile market. People often look for entertainment in moments throughout their day where they aren’t preoccupied and turn to their phone because sometimes you just can’t carry a bunch of hardware with you just to play a few minutes of a game. Though there has been great outings with rhythm-based games on mobile, full console experiences are few far in between. Originally released on the PlayStation Vita in 2015 and on modern consoles in 2017, the latest release of SUPERBEAT :XONiC for Nintendo Switch says you can have fun on the go just as much as you can at home without the need of extra big peripherals as well as being able to play the entire game via the Switch’s touchscreen feature; a definitive experience.
First things first: whether you are playing on the TV or in handheld, especially with headphones, be advised that this game is LOUD! Perfect for the genre this game is in, but perhaps you’re not like myself with the decibels high in the unsafe regions. Immediately, SUPERBEAT: XONiC shows that it means business. You are presented with upbeat techno music in the menus as well as very impressive vibrant colors coming from flashing lights, strobe effects, sparkles, shape shifting and equalizer effects. Every menu has a different style but are equally detailed. Cursors and menu selections are no exception to the different background’s level of detail and animate just as nice. The presentation alone is simply eye candy and is one that will be appreciated by fans of the neon theme in general. Browsing these menus will offer you the choice to change the difficulty of your jam sessions as well as changing how you prefer to hear the game’s audio, such as a softer approach for casuals who just enjoy the music or something harder that is beat-heavy to further encourage you obtaining that new high score. There’s also the game’s own metronome calibration where you can adjust where the how sooner or later the performed note plays in correlation to the sweet spot in which your input is accepted.
The game will start you off by teaching you everything you need to know. In the tutorial, an explanation is given for all of the actions with when & how you should perform them. It is a brief tutorial and one you can go back to whenever you feel like you’re doing something wrong, but it’s in the main modes of the game where you’ll truly learn your lessons.
Almost every input is accounted for. Incoming notes displayed on-screen move towards you and come from both the left side and right side. Where the beats line up with the gauges you see displayed is when you are required to make the call. Your left hand controls the left side; your right hand controls the right. Either side is made up of 1 column with 3 possible rows a beat will show up: Top, Center, Bottom. Button inputs are assigned each of the rows. Specific button inputs may require to be tapped. Some will require you to hold down the button. Analog sticks may need to be flicked in a specific direction and sometimes they need to be sliding along a combination of directions. At first, it may be jarring to non-veterans, but after a few practice sessions on easy songs you’ll get a firm grasp of what you need to do. It’s from there where practicing, perfect timing and muscle memory will only make you better. Choosing to play with the touchscreen may offer an easier form of playing as you simply just tap where you need to. In hectic moments, tapping all over your screen can still present the same craziness so find what works best for you.
The game consists of a few styles of play in each of the modes. 4Trax, 6Trax & 6Trax FX. In 4Trax, only 4 rows will have incoming notes: the top and bottom of both the left & right gauges. In 6Trax, all of the rows will see incoming notes. 6Trax FX is the same as the previous, but with added effects providing the ultimate challenge. There is also a Freestyle mode where you can freely play any song without the pressure of meeting a required goal. Song speeds may also be adjusted in limited incremental amounts.
The standard mode is Stage, and in it you’ll be able to choose any of the styles previously mentioned. You will be scored on how well you did for 3 separate songs, all with varied difficulty, from your choosing. Achieving certain grades after a song and leveling up are essential to unlocking more songs. The variety in genres is pretty exceptional, mostly involving techno and J-Pop. We also get to hear metal, classical, and creative quirky tunes whether it’s house, trance or a bit symphonic. There might be certain genres that people aren’t into, but I like to think of it sort of like karaoke. A song coming up may not be your style, but that different twist is what makes you determined to excel at being groovy in areas you thought you couldn’t. Really, none of the songs are actually bad. Another mode and major attraction is World Tour. Here, you are destined to travel to 14 different known clubs around the world which are unlocked are you level up. Within each of these locations, you are tasked with certain missions needing to be accomplished as you play songs. Some may require you to score a combo of 50 while others require you to not have a certain amount of breaks. Breaks are mistimed/missed notes that resets your ongoing combo of beast perfectly hit. Combos in general grant you more points, adding to your overall score. Get a high enough combo, 100 to be precise, and your Fever meter will go off. In Fever, every note you hit will be tallied with a multiplier at the end earning you extra points. Difficulty and specific item boosts all factor in its strength. Wait, item boosts?
On top of new songs as you advance levels, you will unlock more DJ Icons which have specific attributes to change the way you play. Certain effects such as EXP bonuses will level you up faster. Shields will alter how Breaks affect you and more. Player health is a thing. Miss too many notes and you’re out of the game. These additional bonuses certainly help you play the game in areas you are much more skilled at, but are best used when replaying songs you’ve practiced in order to get the highest score you can.
Key Sounds are plenty and add that extra touch. Extra hear, rather. These are sampled every time you hit a note. It’s a nice extra thing to mess around with as maybe some sounds make you happier, thus, better performance. Unlockables are found in Backstage.
DJ Ranking are leaderboards which shows your ranking among the rest of the world. Casual players may feel intimidated, but luckily the game offers modes for all types of skill levels.