The music/rhythm genre is seeing a bit of a revival this year. A new Rock Band game came out, the Guitar Hero franchise returned, and on the Vita we’ve been able to play Persona 4: Dancing All Night. The Vita roster is now getting a new rhythm game in the shape of Superbeat: Xonic – and it’s closer to Persona than it is to Rock Band or Guitar Hero.
Where games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero rely on a selection of familiar (and often classic) songs, Superbeat: Xonic takes a different approach. The track list here is big, with over 50 songs on offer and a lot of diversity among them. While the appeal of the songs themselves isn’t as great as those in the console-based games, the variety is much larger than what we saw in Persona 4: Dancing All Night. And while you’ll often play Rock Band with some onlookers (who aren’t enjoying the gameplay but rather just the music), Superbeat: Xonic is played as a solo game. Because of this, Superbeat: Xonic gets away with the lack of expensive licensed tracks – even though that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have enjoyed some.
Without a library of songs that spans several decades of chart-topping music, Superbeat focuses on the core gameplay – which is, for the most part, extremely well executed. Controls are handled using either button control or touch screen control – with the button option feeling a tad more precise, especially in the more difficult levels. Game modes aren’t terribly diverse, but the game adds layers of complexity and challenge through unlocking harder styles of play as you progress. You start out with relatively simple tracks, but pretty soon you’ll have more notes to hit, less time to react and special tasks to complete. With a large library of songs and this amount of variations, Superbeat: Xonic will keep rhythm game enthusiasts entertained for a long time.
There is a career/world tour mode as well, but it’s a tad underwhelming compared to the story mode in Persona 4: Dancing All Night. In Superbeat: Xonic, you’ll face an increasingly difficult set of challenges and will also be able to unlock new skills and features – but the experience outside of the main music portion never feels all that immersive or engaging. Luckily, the rhythm-based stuff itself is excellent fun, with the music tracks being closely tied to the button presses – a dynamic a lot of music games don’t get quite right.
Once you go through everything the game has to offer, the only reason to go back would be to tackle the online leaderboards and see how you stack up. This can be fun for the competitive players among us, but we’re hoping that Nurijoy is able to include some licensed tracks in their next game – their strong core gameplay deserves it!