Published on April 17th, 2013 | by Christian0
DJMAX TECHNIKA TUNE – S+Rank
Hello everyone! Changing gears a little bit this week, I want to spend a little time talking about a game that’s been taking up a not insignificant amount of my free time lately. It’s also not a Japanese game at all, which places it outside of the usual coverage on this site, but still I think it deserves mention! The game is DJMAX TECHNIKA TUNE, from developer Pentavision out of South Korea, and in my opinion it’s absolutely mandatory if you’re a Vita owner and enjoy music/rhythm games at all.
So, the thing is, before I got this game I had no real opinions about K-Pop. When Gaijin Densetsu co-founder Peter asked if I was into it, I could only respond, “probably.” After spending some time with the game, and enjoying songs like First Kiss and End of the Moonlight, I have to say that yes I’m totally into it. Unless you’re completely opposed to pop music out of some kind of misplaced loyalty to your preferred genre of music, then you’ll probably really like at least some of the music in this game. So maybe, if you’re that guy or gal who’s just so metal that they can’t live without double bass drums or so punk that they can’t handle music this polished and overproduced, then yeah I guess you can skip DJMAX. Otherwise, you’ll probably find yourself enjoying a lot of the music in this game, whether it is straight k-pop, trance, hip-hop, happy core, or any of the other various styles represented in the game.
Once you make peace with the music, the game itself is pretty easy to get into. I don’t have a huge amount of experience with Rhythm games. Many years ago I worked at the Southern California nickel arcade chain “Nickel Nickel” and during that time I played my fair share of Guitar Freaks, Dance Maniax, and DDR, but I missed the big Guitar Hero and Rock Band craze for home consoles. The appeal of this genre is akin to the appeal of singing along to your favorite songs in the car. Even though games like Rock Band came to more and more resemble playing actual musical instruments, the main attraction has always been just playing a game along to your favorite songs.
DJMAX is about as removed from actual musicianship as you can get, requiring no plastic guitars or drum kits. The only thing you need is a set of deft hands with which to tap along to the beat with on the Vita. When you should tap, drag, or hold notes is dictated by a bar that scrolls back and forth, alternating along the top and bottom halves of the screen. Some of the notes require use of the Vita’s rear touch-pad, and I’m happy to report that aside from requiring you to hold the Vita in an awkward position to be able to hit all the notes and access the rear touch-pad, it works quite well. Instead of having a generic highway of notes like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, each song has a unique video that accompanies it and adds a ton of character to the proceedings. They might not all be to your taste, especially if you’re resistant to the overly anime/cutesy/saccharine visuals that many have, but if you’ve got an open mind you might find yourself liking them more than you might have expected.
High score fanatics will get a lot out of this game. Trying to hit each note dead-on for the 100% rating, getting perfect combos, and S+ ranking your favorite tracks will have you playing songs over and over again. Different mixes (i.e. difficulties) for each song ensure you can see most everything without having to master the game’s punishing hardest setting, and an option to turn off the rear touch is there if you can’t find a comfortable way to hold the Vita and hit both the front and back simultaneously. Completing songs and doing well increases your DJ level, unlocking new player icons and note graphics that impart various bonuses. The leveling component is a nice touch that walks the fine line between usefulness and necessity, dangling a carrot in front of the player but not requiring that they catch up to it in order to succeed.
It’s kind of quaint to see an old school rhythm game like this now, though I guess even Rock Band ditched the peripherals in its latest incarnation: Rock Band Blitz. Still, handhelds seem to be a better home for the genre, since the Vita, 3DS, tablets and smartphones all have a tactile component that delivers immersion beyond that of a controller without requiring any clunky peripherals. If you’ve been away from rhythm games for a while and own a Vita, this is one I highly recommend picking up. DJMAX is the perfect game for handhelds, the kind you pick up thinking you’ll play just a few minutes, and then those few minutes turn into a half hour or more.