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DJ Max Portable Emotional Sense - Clazziquai Edition  (PSP) artwork

DJ Max Portable Emotional Sense - Clazziquai Edition (PSP) review


"Face it, DJ Max is too tough for you. The twitch rhythm game's reputation is based on insane difficulty. For normal people, the highest eight-button setting exceeds impossibility. Six-button mode merely approaches that insurmountable level. Five-button mode, meant as a baby-step in training, brings its own hindrance: as the fifth button can be covered by either hand. Even four-buttons, the absolute floor, can produce anguish on the tougher songs. So consider DJ Max Portable Emoti..."



Face it, DJ Max is too tough for you. The twitch rhythm game's reputation is based on insane difficulty. For normal people, the highest eight-button setting exceeds impossibility. Six-button mode merely approaches that insurmountable level. Five-button mode, meant as a baby-step in training, brings its own hindrance: as the fifth button can be covered by either hand. Even four-buttons, the absolute floor, can produce anguish on the tougher songs. So consider DJ Max Portable Emotional Sense: Clazziquai Edition your last-ditch lifeline. This watered-down version is aimed squarely at novice players, offering gentle methods to build confidence and refine your skills.

And it doesn't get any more benign than the new two-button setting, which supplants the grueling eight-button layout. Handheld versions of DJ Max consistently present similar gameplay, a basic style that doesn't deviate from a typical rhythm game. The playing area is divided into columns, one for each active button. A stream of notes traverses the screen from top to bottom, and you hit the correct combinations at the right times to complete the harmony. For distraction, a bustling, colorful anime music video rolls in the background. With just two live columns on that lowest setting, each thumb has only a single responsibility. Moreover, the choreography has been scaled back. Patterns that would pass for 'Normal' in other versions of the game are labeled as 'Hard' here, with barren sets taking up the former classification. I haven't even seen multiple mixes in the five and six-button settings. The mild arrangements will shock (and possibly disappoint) anyone who's played DJ Max before.

The Clazziquai Edition does strive to nudge beginners out of a comfort zone by continually increasing its challenges along a generous curve. Previous handheld versions centered around an Arcade Mode, where you played through four songs on a particular setting and received a score. That's still present here, but the new Club Tour Mode has moved to the forefront. In this section, players improve their DJ rank by clearing obstacles at a linear progression of fictional venues. Most regular clubs host 4-6 events, and each one simply requires the completion of either a single piece or a collection of songs.

Mission clubs, though, tend to have more stepping-stones, with the last rising over 20 challenges. For these, you battle against resident DJ's with more specific victory requirements: like besting a certain percentage or remaining under a threshold for mistakes. In the Club Tour, two-button mode quickly exits in favor of a majority of four-button offerings; there's even a six-button challenge within an early grouping. Eventually, every hangout will have at least one listing you don't think you can handle. While the game does make you work, you only have to best half of a club's events in order to move on, so it is still possible to reach the end with a heavy reliance on simpler choreography.

The mild difficulty caters to casual, novice players, but it's the music that attracts them in the first place. Clazziquai is actually a successful Korean trio; they won 'Artist of the Year' at the 2005 Korean Popular Music Awards. The band's style is a fusion of pop, jazz, hip-hop, and electronic dance music. Their contribution to this game focuses on the latter, as their songs were pulled from their experimental 2008 EP Metrotronics. Most of the 48 total songs in the Clazziquai Edition conform to the same genres, though, with a little rap thrown into the mix. That includes a tribute a popular online shooter in Korea, S4 League, which is from the same developer. The game definitely works every angle it can, even including a few favorite tunes from past DJ Max titles. Many of the lyrics are in English, too, and there are once again multi-language options for the menu screens. This might as well be a North American release!

Unfortunately, a few songs can't be unlocked unless you link with other DJ Max Portable discs, including Clazziquai's companion release, subtitled Black Square. Black Square is targeted to DJ Max vets, and its existence opens the door for this beginner's edition. If you've ever been tempted to partake of this finger-flexing test of your rhythmic abilities, but been afraid of abject failure, then this is for you. DJ Max will never be easier.

Rating: 7/10

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Community review by woodhouse (February 22, 2009)

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