November 21, 2019 at 11:53 PM #890
Rating: 3.0 – Fair
I was ecstatic when I heard about a new DJ MAX for CONSOLE was in the works. Thankfully it was way closer to that delayed release, but still a few months of anxious waiting. I won’t ramble about how much I needed a key-rhythm game in my life (key-rhythm meaning actual play of the music, not just tap-along.) and having some kind of curse when trying to play a ps2 beatmania, no pc to play emu’s and a psp with a dying LCD, that had my beloved Fever and Portable 3. When I was really itching, I could component my psp to my TV, but not being able to stand out on my back balcony at night with amped headphones jacked in just was not the same. I needed something. Even if this one was on console, being able to stand a good distance from my nice arcade-like screen, with headphones going through the controller? Yeeeah boy! Indeed, getting my hands on Respect would truly be a Glory Day.
I did what I had to do. I Imported the Asia ver. (yay for English commonspeak!) Sadly I felt pressure to preorder it physically because there was zero indication that a digital store release was planned, and that the game itself would see limited release. See, this is how desperate I was. Ofcourse, it silently went up on the Hong Kong store on release day, with no advertising what-so-ever. So through Import I payed about 17 more dollars… But meh, I HAD DJMAX!!!
Now with that sobby prologue to establish my passion for DJ MAX aside, let’s review this jive!
The first two things this game wants you to damn-well know is that its theme is Resurrection and that its motif is the "gleam" that shiny things cast. If you’re not a fan of anime intros with themes that immediately blast in on their first verse, then for the love of NB Ranger Red, spam the circle button to skip the intro! The song is "Glory Day", and as the game’s theme song, is playable. Watch it if you want, but trust me; you’ll enjoy it more just playing it. The title screen’s graveyard features tombstones reading the titles of several previous installments. The main game features songs from Portabe 1, Portable 2 (Fever) and its own new 40+ song lineup. Other graves read Portable 3 and Technika, implying them to be included as future DLC.
This would turn out to be partialy correct, as the only current announced song packs feature a portion of songs from 3 and Trilogy (A version for PC that came before the Portable trilogy.) A Technika song pack has yet to be announced.
Starting off the game, you will have your standard Arcade, Freestyle,Mission, and Collection modes, as well as the delightful addition of an online mode and leaderboard tracker. I’m personally not an online player and I can’t speak for online stability, but if you play with friends or within your nation, I’m sure its fine. (I do however recommend playing 10 online matches though; this will unlock one of the series best songs for freeplay!) Supplementing this, split screen in freestyle mode has been included, and is a blast to play with a friend. Each player is assigned to different parts of the song, and generally must keep up with each other to maintain harmony. Button mode and difficulty can be set independently, so getting your friends hooked is super easy.
Now, let’s dissect what we’re here for. To begin, I’m personally not a fan of the game’s style. It’s virtually devoid of any club essence, and strives for the hard rock theme of resurrection. It’s pleasing to see, however, that most; if not all legacy song videos have received a nice HD facelift. I don’t care for most videos, but some songs like Starfish I just gotta take it in while I jam. If you have any favorite videos, you’ll love seeing em crisp on a full screen. Others have had their generic overlays redone and generally don’t look as cheesy. AS for the songs themselves, hmmm….
The Respect Package consists of 140+ songs (110 at start I believe), 100 of them spanning the early series, while the 40+ are new. In short; I’m hanging around the legacy song lists way more than I am the new hotness list. As with the game’s theme, a major portion of these songs have no club or DJ-relative vibe. There’s an emphasis on hard rock K-pop, and lo-fi. The songs that do fit the bill are a treat though, such as Open Fire, a smooth trap beat composed and sung by series veteran MC/rapper, JC. There’s plenty of other gems if you’re playing for a "rule the club" feel, but they are significantly outnumbered by well-composed, but out-feeling tracks. Various songs are unlocked, but soooo very thankfully, unlocks and collectables are awarded fairly through [do this X amount of times] challenges, which you can track your progress towards in the game’s Collection mode. These are generally reasonable conditions and you’ll unlock lots of stuff passively. Done away with are the random roulette boxes upon Lv up and earning songs from outlandishly hard missions. THANK YOU.
The gameplay itself is MOSTLY solid, which I’ll address shortly. You have all the usual modes; 3, 5, 6, and 8 button modes. Songs will mostly have normal and hard charts, but some will have a MX (maximum) pro chart. FEVER mode is set to automatic by default, and your controller will give you a thrilling jolt of rumble when activated. Challenge handicaps called effectors and chart speed adjusters to give comfortable space between notes at a faster scroll pace are present, as well as the ability to change the theme of your "gear" (chart screen) and notes, which you collect through aforementioned achieving. There is no difficulty setting this time around, and new players WILL be thrown into the fire. Timing is strict, and the hits/misses ratio to stay alive is intimidatingly vast. Grading is peculiar, showing you a circle graph of your statistics. Having synced your performance with 94% of the song is a B grade, with 95% being an A, and 98-100% being an S. Ranking an S on a song will award you its music video in your collection.
Note response is on point, even playing wireless, so a seasoned player will enjoy a fair challenge. Difficulty ranks are mostly agreeable and there is plenty to offer every skill level, with some songs teaching you "bite sized" versions of complex note combinations and patterns that you’ll commonly face in harder songs. Even if you’re like me and you can only appreciate a portion of the roster, it’s important to try out every song; you’ll learn new tricks and gain confidence for when you really wanna bust-out what you’re playing for.
Arcade mode is handled differently this time, with each stage offering you a different list of series-assorted songs. As I understand it, each stage has a 50/50 chance of a certain songs being present. Like… On Stage 3 You’ll get mostly the same songs, but you might get MASAI instead of Outlaw and such. What’s nice about arcade mode is that all songs are available through it, you just have to play toward them and have to do it on that mode. So it feels very arcadey, working your way up to a song to challenge it. (except you can keep retrying without having to feel the defeat an arcade machine gameover!) So this is nice if you’re itching to play songs that you know you won’t be unlocking for awhile.
Freestyle of course, is where you can get your groove on. Playing what songs you’ve unlocked at will, on the mode or difficulty of your choice. Your combo counter will stay consistent through each song you play, regardless of mode or difficulty of the next. So if you’re looking to take on one some the [reach X combo] challenges, or you just wanna show off your unnerving iron will while you stream gameplay, this is the place to be.
I’ve only dipped my toe into the missions pool, and from what I’ve run into so far, the water isn’t just hot, it’s dirty. After completing the adorably mellow intro set, you’re flung into absurd gimmicks such as your gear swaying side-to-side on the screen while you attempt to hit notes in a completely different gear with flamboyant noteskins. This is just the start. So from there, all I can say is from a couple of Korean players I asked; they hate it, and pretty much every mission from Set 4 and on is purely for committed players. Again, it’s a miracle that few, trivial unlocks are associated with this mode.
Now, Let’s talk about some things I said (not so shortly ago) I’d touch upon. Gameplay features. Veterans of the Portable series will remember the thumbstick roll gimmick that was supposed to emulate scratch and sampling. Fun little thing to do other than tap buttons. Well, since we’re playing on a Dualshock, guess what?! We get to do this with both thumbs!!!…….
And it’s terrible. You will struggle to rotate the stick of your non-dominate hand, you will fumble when the game demands you to alternate between them, and missing them can seriously damage your survival ratio. If they don’t make you drop your controller, they will make you fling it. And while we get two spinner sticks to dillydally with, the unique and VERY fun .2 track feature from Portable 3 has been sadly omitted. I suppose there was little desire to work this back into a complete rebuild of the game. Key-tone games are incredibly tedious to code, and .2 only amped up the formula. The upcoming DLC pack might include the feature tacked onto its songs, but I stead doubtful. Any pack that would eventually host Technika wouldn’t harbor its gameplay, so yeah; phooey. In short; If you’re looking for any new shake-ups, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
On the subject of DLC, the two aforementioned packs must be patched in regardless of purchase, and the first as of this review, Trilogy, is a whopping 4GB. I’m sorry, I’m not going to let a sparse selection of dusty, unwanted songs hogging up my drive. I’ve since reinstalled the game back to ver 1.0 and I have no plans of updating it or accessing online mode. The packs are about $8 USD I think and they feature at least one new song or remix, so only get em if you’re itching to play ancient and stripped-down songs, or you’re willing to throw your money at one or two fresh tracks.
I think that about covers it, so let’s wind it down into some pros and cons.
Pros: Solid and smooth gameplay. Crisp updated and new graphics. Online and local 2player. Unlocks are fair and literally manageable. Songs teach an array of technique across well balanced difficulties. Open Fire and U.A.D. might be the greatest rhythm game songs ever.
Cons: Mostly uninspiring new songs. Punishing mission mode with little impact. Theme and motif are bizarre and very unbecoming. Missing intuitive gameplay mode. Unnecessary and frustrating addition of a right stick spin. DLC packs are sparse and are patched in involuntarily.
DJ MAX Respect was a satisfying scratch to my rhythm itch, but I hesitate to recommend it to fans of the earlier series who are contemplating importing it or making a Hong Kong PSN account and buying it with HKD with a card. If you’re only interested in the initial game, import it and let it sail over on the slowboat. If HDD space isn’t a concern or you actually want the DLC, go ahead and grab it off the store. Players new to the series will enjoy a broad and charming selection of songs that the rest of us have known for over a decade, and while the judgment is grueling, well-tailored difficulty charts will see you comfortably eased into mastery of the game.
I hope my review as a tragic rhythm game lover was helpful and insightful. Have fun and happy gaming!
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