Review: SUPERBEAT: XONIC (PS4)

Review: SUPERBEAT: XONIC (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox One

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
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Title: SUPERBEAT: XONIC
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (13.30 GB)
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: PM Studios/Acttil
Developer: Nurijoy
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Editor’s Note:
Portions of this review also appear in our PS Vita coverage of SUPERBEAT: XONIC.
Review: SUPERBEAT: XONIX (PSV/PSTV)

As a longtime fan of the DJMAX series, of which XONiC is a spiritual successor, I was excited since the day it was announced.

The game came and went on the Vita. I mostly enjoyed it there and was surprised when it was announced that it would be getting a port to PS4. As it was seemingly designed for the touchscreen, this seemed like an odd move.

Gameplay:
Like the DJMAX series, SUPERBEAT: XONiC is a straight rhythm game. It’s not trying to imitate real instruments for a party setting, celebrate virtual pop-idols, or tie into existing franchises. This means the game can be hyperfocused on the kinds of things fans of the rhythm game genre want – things like a good soundtrack and a solid gameplay system.

The gameplay features two sets of targets on either side of the screen. Depending on the mode, there are either two or three “lanes” per side on which notes will scroll towards the targets. In the Four Lane Mode you need to tap Up/Down/Triangle/Cross for normal notes, while the Six Lane Mode adds the Right and Circle buttons to the mix.

There are also other types of notes. Yellow circles with an arrow inside are “flick notes” (my term) that require a quick flick of either one of the PS4’s analog sticks. Red notes attached together by a line are “drag notes” that can hit by holding the appropriate analog stick up or down.

The final type of note is only in the game’s most complex mode. It looks a bit like the normal notes but fills up all of the lanes on one side. I call these ones “trigger notes” because the only way to score them is to tap the L1 or R1 button.

On the Vita, I primarily played XONiC using touchscreen controls. The game felt like it was designed for that with physical button controls added for players who poo-poo touchscreen games. On the PS4, button controls are all the game has and it took some getting used to. I still don’t think I can score as well as I can with touchscreen controls, but that may be a personal thing.

Put these all together and the game is capable of being quite tough with harder songs featuring a barrage of constant notes to hit. For 6 Trax FX Mode, the player has to use six total face buttons, plus both analog sticks and the L1 and R1 buttons to juggle.

Fortunately, the game does allow the player to ramp up as needed. The easiest mode only has four total lanes, meaning fewer buttons and targets to hit, and no L1/R1 buttons. A difficulty setting in the game’s menu also offers some control over how easy notes are to hit.

Player icons are also available to make things easier. These icons can have various effects such as forgiving a missed note or increasing the player’s health bar. There are well over one hundred to collect, though the icons tend to fall into just a few different types based on ability, and then only differ in the strength of those abilities.

… the graphic for the trigger notes is a bit too big …
In my opinion, these icons might even make the game too easy. For example it’s possible to get upwards of forty-five break shields, which forgive a missed note. On the other hand though, it just accentuates how difficult some of the hardest songs in the game are if even a forty-five break shield doesn’t help much in passing the song.

On the other side of things, players who want things to be harder can use a variety of effectors. These do things like removing the HUD, randomizing which lane notes appear on, or making notes fade in later than normal.

Unfortunately, there are a few small areas where I took issue with the gameplay. I think the graphic for the trigger notes is a bit too big compared to normal notes. If the game has a trigger note and a normal note on the same side at the same time, it’s a little too hard to see the normal note.

Also some of the menus feel designed for touchscreens, for example there’s no button highlighted by default in the pause menu so it takes an extra button press to get to the desired option.

The different gameplay modes are fairly basic. The main is Stage Mode, which is split up into 4 Trax, 6 Trax, 6 Trax FX, and Freestyle. The first three are a series of three rounds, each with a different set of songs like an arcade rhythm game might be set up.

Freestyle Mode has all songs with all three button styles and carries over the combo count between songs. Unlocked songs have to be played in a “trax” mode once before becoming available in Freestyle though.

The other mode is World Tour, which has a long list of missions to complete. Missions have a set song list and give the player an objective such as achieving a certain combo or passing a song with fewer than a set number of breaks. Missions may even apply some of the effectors to make songs harder than usual.

There are a few other options on the main menu for the online leaderboards plus a Collection Mode where the player can browse their unlocked icons and sound effects. The Collection Mode also hosts the player’s play stats but as of this writing that feature crashes the game.

… all of the songs just have generic background animations …
There isn’t a lot of fluff in here compared to some other recent rhythm games, so those looking for more from this might want to look elsewhere. However if you’re looking for a good rhythm game and you’re okay with the basics, the systems in XONiC make up for it.

The gameplay is all great and the songs are well charted. There are the few minor nitpicks I mentioned earlier, plus I don’t like that the judgement system isn’t as granulated as previous DJMAX games. However these minor issues don’t manage to sour the overall experience.

Though not available initially, SUPERBEAT: XONiC did get built-in lag compensation in a pre-release patch. While not as robust as the golden standard of Rock Band, having some options is nice. I can’t tell for sure, but I think the lag compensation effects both display and sound together, so it may not work for every situation.

Visuals:
One of the best aspects of the DJMAX games is the background animations for the songs. Unfortunately, XONiC doesn’t have those. Instead, all of the songs just have generic background animations, many of which share aspects between songs. They’re still timed and set up to align to the music in some manner, they’re just not as interesting or unique.

Still, with how many more HUD elements there are in the game, it’s hardly a loss. So while I may lament the lack of videos to watch, the change doesn’t bother me all that much.

Other than that, the game has good visuals. The user interface is slick and interesting both in menus and in game. My one issue with the visuals is that the trigger notes can overshadow normal notes if they’re both at the same time, but I’ve learned to mostly be able to overcome that with practice and knowing what to look for.

… Most of the songs are made for the game though, so don’t expect to know much of them …
Audio:
The development team for XONiC is based in Korea but that might be nearly impossible to guess based solely on the soundtrack. The music in the game covers not only a pretty wide swath of genres but also a variety of languages.

The two major genres covered are pop-ish music and various electronica styles but the overall list covers a pretty wide net. The music ranges from Korean pop to upbeat Spanish inspired music to English dance music to Japanese “trance pop.”

Most of the songs are made for the game though, so don’t expect to know much of them. DJMAX series veterans should at least recognize some of the artists though. Artists like 3rd Coast, NieN, Planetboom, Makou, and Tsukasa to name a few. All of their songs are new but each composer’s style shines through.

This version also includes ten DLC tracks that were released for the Vita, plus a few songs new to the game. Unfortunately the music from Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and Magical Beat seem to have been cut but there are still sixty-five songs available in the game.

As opposed to the Guitar Heroes of the game world, where players tend to rate the soundtrack based on the songs they already know and love, XONiC is more about new and original music. While musical taste is probably even more subjective than game taste, I love the eccentric soundtrack since it has a wide variety of music to offer. Just don’t go in expecting to know most of the songs already.

The other main audio is the key sound, the sound that the game makes when the player hits a note. There are a pretty good number of unlockable key sounds to use. However, the option for their volume is limited by being just a simple selection of low, medium, or high.

They can be turned off too, but only by selecting the “no sound” key sound rather than from the volume selection. I thought it was a little odd that they don’t offer a slider for key sound volume, but it is a rather minor issue, if it even is an issue since I found the default volume to be fine.

… a rhythm game for rhythm game fans …
Online/Multiplayer:
The only online feature is the leaderboard. The leaderboard is split up between the different modes: 4 Trax, 6 Trax, 6 Trax FX, Freestyle, and World Tour. All of them, save Freestyle, are the combined score of every song/mission in that mode. Freestyle is the maximum combo achieved in that mode, though it maxes out at 99,999 combo.

While it’s nice that these are here, some individual song leaderboards would have been better. Improving the score for a specific mode means hunting down songs to incrementally improve the overall score for that mode on, so the leaderboards probably won’t see much movement after the first month or so. Likewise, the Freestyle one will soon be filled with people tied for first place with the maximum combo.

The leaderboards also seem slow to update. Perhaps they only update at a specific time each day but a lot of the times I checked on them, my data was not up to date.

Conclusion:
The idea behind SUPERBEAT: XONiC is to make a rhythm game for rhythm game fans. There are some small nitpicks that could probably improve it, however, the fantastic soundtrack and otherwise sturdy gameplay mechanics lead to a great music game overall. The difficulty, which can ramp up significantly for the hardest songs and missions, also helps and is well tuned for those who want a challenge.

With plenty of good music games coming out recently, this one tries to stay away from the pack by focusing on the group who just wants a solid rhythm game without frills. I’d say that it succeeds at that, making it a game worth checking out.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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