Thursday, July 20, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

SUPERBEAT: XONiC Box art I’ve always gravitated towards music and rhythm games, so when the genre exploded in the late 90’s and 2000’s I had more than enough different types to play depending on my mood. From DDR, Beatmania, Guitar Hero, Pop N Music, PaRappa and even more, if there’s a rhythm based game out there, chances are I’ve played it. This is why I was excited to get my hands on SUPERBEAT: XONiC, as it’s a spiritual successor to the DJMax series, though it looks or plays nothing like it. Even though I never really got into the DJMax series, developers PM Studios clearly knows what they’re doing when it comes to rhythm based games given their pedigree. While the gameplay is unique and incredibly challenging, the only thing holding me back from really loving it was the music catalog.

Very few music based games revolve around any type of narrative, and that’s no different here, as you’re just focused on the music and gameplay more than anything else. While gameplay is incredibly important in a rhythm game, I’d argue that the music itself is even more important, as if you’re just not into the beats that are offered, there’s little hope that you’ll return to keep playing after unlocking every song. This is somewhat my problem with XONiC, as I enjoy the incredibly challenging gameplay, but the music catalog isn’t really my cup of tea.

Actually, I didn’t recognize a single song in the whole playlist, as it seems a bulk of the music is very anime inspired and comes from overseas, so don’t expect any licensed music that you may be hearing on the radio at all. That’s not a knock against the game itself, and I’m sure fans of anime-like soundtracks will enjoy it, but I found it uninspiring to continue playing once I unlocked the bulk of the songs. That being said, some of the music was beautiful, as many songs are low tempo with lots of lyrics, though there are a few EDM-like tracks and much more ‘harder’ types of songs sprinkled within as well, I just wish there was more variety, or some more western based music.

Like all music based games, your score is dependent on how accurately you can press the corresponding buttons in rhythm at the correct time. Even though there is a small tutorial in the beginning, the UI will take some time to really grasp ahold of and understand, and the buttons you use are dependent on the mode/difficulty you play on. 4Trax mode is essentially the easy/normal mode you want to begin, as it doesn’t use all of the buttons and is an easy entry way into the melodic gameplay. Once you jump to 6Trax though, it’s a whole new game with many more button inputs to follow and succeed with. For those that truly have skill, there’s even an unlockable 6Trax FX mode that amps the difficulty even higher, though I’m still struggling with 6Trax myself.

The notes you need to play originate from the middle of the screen and flow towards the outer edges where you need to press the corresponding button at the right time. If the regular bar notes go to the left side of the screen you need to use the up and down on the D-pad to hit that note, if they go to the right then the buttons are used instead. There are yellow arrow notes that need to be flicked with the corresponding left or right stick at the appropriate time, and also notes that need to be moved up and down with the rhythm with the stick. Once you get a hang of the regular notes, the flick notes and stick holds will surely throw your rhythm out of balance until it starts to make sense and feel natural.

Combined with hold notes and you can quickly see how challenging this can become. Once your skilled enough to try the 6Trax mode, there’s essentially 3 lanes on each side which use the up, down, and left/right on the D-pad for the left side notes, and the top, middle and bottom face buttons for the right side. Once you make it up to the 6Trax FX mode, they also throw in FX notes that uses the bumpers to hit, so when you become quite skilled at XONiC, nearly every button and stick will be used at all times, resulting in frantic but satisfying gameplay.

Stage mode is where the bulk of your gameplay will happen, where you choose one song at a time to play and net an overall ranking once a certain amount of tunes are completed. You need to pass your current song to move onto the next, and at the end of all three songs you’ll be given an overall ranking and are able to play those songs in free play. World Tour mode is a set of predetermined song set lists and goals to achieve that you play back to back. What I enjoyed most from this mode is that your combos continue between songs, so it’s possible to rack up some massive combos when you’re playing 5 songs in a row.

XONiC has a leveling system in place that I didn’t expect, and is done in a unique way. As you level up you’ll unlock more songs, naturally, but you’ll also unlock new DJ’s that can be used. At first I thought they were just profile pictures, but it turns out each DJ has its own passive bonuses that can really improve your gameplay experience. Some of these DJ bonuses range from extra XP, more health, able to miss notes without your combo breaking and more. Once I saw the bonus perks for each DJ, the gameplay became a lot more interesting, as I would use a DJ with an XP bonus on songs I had no problem completing, but used others to help carry me through the more challenging tunes. I do wish this was explained more clearly early on, as I wasted a lot of gameplay time before realizing the bonus perks for using different DJ’s.

You’ll also unlock different sound effects that can be used during play. These sounds are your ‘hit’ markers that you’ll hear hundreds of times a song, and some sounds are better suited for specific types of songs. You’ll get the typical snare drums, high hats, and boops and beeps, but eventually you’ll start to unlock odd sounds like dog barks and such that add a unique flavor to the music, but are more silly than practical.

SUPERBEAT: XONiC has a lot of potential and offers some really unique and challenging gameplay. Its worth is essentially going to boil down to two factors though: It’s genre of music selection and its bulky $39.99 price tag. Granted, there’s a good amount of songs included, but as I mentioned above, if you’re not into the genre that it heavily relies upon, you might feel the asking price is a little too steep.

There’s a lot of gameplay mechanics I really like, as it’s been quite some time that I’ve been this challenged with a music game, as I normally can master them quite quickly, but XONiC still confuses me in a good way. I’ll surely dabble back into it now and then for its gameplay, it’s just a shame about its music selection and price, as I could see this one doing well otherwise for fellow rhythm based lovers like myself.

Overall: 7.7 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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