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SUPERBEAT: XONiC (Vita) artwork

SUPERBEAT: XONiC (Vita) review

"SUPERBEAT: XONiC provides another taste of Korean rhythm, exclusively on the PS Vita."

Once Pentavision released DJ Max Technika Tune, it was unclear whether another game would ever happen, since the team was quickly dissolved. Three years later, though, that group of developers has reformed as Nurijoy. The first title to result from that reunion is Superbeat XONiC, a rhythm game that proves the Vita is still a genre powerhouse.

Forsaking the touch screen-exclusive gameplay featured in DJ Max Technika Tune, Superbeat offers a hybrid style of gameplay that should appeal to a wider audience. Notes rise from the center of the screen and radiate outwards toward two rings positioned along either side of the screen. Those of you who played the recent Atlus release, Persona 4: Dancing All Night, will be familiar with this design.

Depending on the mode of play, notes fall into two or three channels. On a lower difficulty setting, you'll rely mostly on the Up and Down arrows, but additional directions come into play on the more difficult stages. As you work your way through the song roster, you'll encounter increasingly complex note patterns, much like you might in a DJ Max game. The unique field of play differentiates Superbeat XONiC from much of the competition within the genre, but also works against it because gauging the proper spacing and timing can prove difficult. All too often, I found myself failing to read their positioning (for instance, I thought notes were moving simultaneously when they weren't) and thus failed to time my taps appropriately. It's certainly easier to identify the beat and to know when to strike the notes as you gain practice, but there were still a number of tracks with complex patterns that eluded me even after I had played for hours.

Notes fall into a few basic categories in Superbeat XONiC. Single bar notes simply need to be tapped along with the music, sustain notes with a long trailing tail must be held, and yellow and pink circular notes follow a similar notation but require you to instead use the dual analog sticks. A yellow note on the left side of the screen that points downwards is activated by swiping the left analog stick downwards once the note reaches the end of the note highway, for example. An additional variety of oversized notes is featured in the game's third mode, 6TRAX FX, and follows a similar formula while also requiring use of the Vita's shoulder buttons. If two notes are supposed to be struck simultaneously, both of them glow faintly and provide a visual cue that is a godsend when you're trying to complete the faster and more demanding songs.

The ability to use the touch screen in tandom with regular button inputs is unique, and works in Superbeat XONiC's favor. Thankfully, Nurijoy has done away with rear touch panel operations, which were one of the less welcome mechanics in the previous Technika Tune release.

XONiC features five modes of play, and every song can be selected in each of them. The first three modes (4TRAX, 6TRAX, and 6TRAX FX) feature the same track listing but differ in terms of the number of buttons to press. Thosee differences are evident in their names, much like the 5-Key and 7-Key modes in Beatmania's original setup. A fourth mode, Freestyle, incentivizes lengthier play sessions, since a combo built up in one song will carry over to the next track. To really challenge yourself, you can even try for a PlayStation Trophy that unlocks once you reach a 99,999-note combo, a feat that can prove quite difficult depending on your rhythm acuity and your ability to maintain the proper beat.

The final available mode of play in Superbeat XONiC, World Tour, offers a mission-based approach that proves to be the most challenging in the game. There are more than fifty missions, and each grows increasingly difficult as you progress. Missions contain a set selection of songs, as well as modifiers and progression requirements. In one case, you may be required to play with the note halfway obscured, so that your sense of rhythm is really put to the test. In another scenario, you must hit each note within a certain threshhold of accuracy. Elsewhere, a judgment rating of 100% is required, meaning that not so much as a single note can be hit off-beat.

As you play, you'll unlock new DJ Icons that serve as the game's informal equipment system. Icons confer different abilities, ranging from a defense against dropped combos, to experience boosts that allow the player to raise his or her DJ level more efficiently. You can unlock the icons in a number of ways, most frequently by increasing your level or by finishing the more difficult challenges in World Tour mode.

Superbeat XONiC features one of the year's most eclectic and distinctive mixtures of songs to tap along to, and each song has been trimmed down to a bite-sized two-minute presentation. The track list jumps from genre to genre, offering everything from bossa nova to Korean pop to heavy metal. The notable star power (KARA) and famous tracks ("End of the Moonlight") that were present in Technika Tune are disappointingly absent, but there are a few surprise hits in the track list (including one of the image songs from Guilty Gear Xrd).

Though it doesn't boast the strongest selection of songs that you'll find in a project from the team once known as Pentavision, Superbeat XONiC does offer varied challenges that should welcome every type of rhythm game enthusiast. The musical catalog remains diverse, and the developer's signature pick-up-and-play style ensures that Superbeat XONiC will be one of the titles I keep saved to my Vita, so I can access it whenever I have a few minutes to kill. I suggest that you try it for yourself. You'll likely wind up doing the same thing.


Gregarious's avatar
Freelance review by Kai Powell (November 11, 2015)

As an aspiring FGC contributor, Kai has earned enough tournament accolades to earn the title 'Eternally Second'. When not pouring his heart out over covering the games industry and running a corporate games store, he also spends his mornings at a ramen-ya

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