Commentary

12/11/2012

DJMAX Technika Tune Review

Our official review of the rhythm title for the PS Vita.

By: Ryan Winslett

Filed Under: Mechanics Music Review Rhythm

My fingers fly across the screen. I’m trying desperately to keep up with “Son of the Sun,” but its crazy drums and spastic beat are making it difficult for me. Every time I find the rhythm the song changes its pace and I’m left reeling.

I would be saved if I could only hit enough notes in a row to activate Fever mode, turning even my poorly timed button presses into perfect scores. But I’m botching it. Missing one note leads to missing another. My mind stumbles and I’m left struggling to catch up as the song’s timeline races out in front of me.

Then it happens. I miss one note too many and I fail the song.

I’m not angry, though. Quite the opposite. I’m motivated to dive right back in, improving my familiarity of the notes and waiting for that moment when muscle memory finally forms and my hands tap out the beat of the song on their own.

I glance up at the clock and see that it’s 2 a.m. Where did those last few hours go? Thank God it’s not a work night. I want to at least make it through the end of “Son of the Sun” before finally heading off to bed. My score won’t be great, but at least I’ll be able to drift off to sleep knowing that I didn’t let the song get the better of me.

The “Son of the Sun” title screen fades away and the first notes appear. Once again, my fingers fly across the screen, keeping up with the rhythm just a little bit better this time.

***

DJ Max Technika Tune is a rare gem for the PlayStation Vita. It takes full advantage of the hardware, offering a rhythm gameplay experience you can’t find anywhere outside of the arcade. It’s a meaty game overflowing with style, beauty and a soundtrack packed full of songs you’ll find yourself humming in the shower to.

For those new to Pintavision’s DJ Max series, the gameplay sounds pretty simple, on paper. The player selects a song and said song plays out on a screen divided horizontally into two playing fields, both of which will be filled with various types of notes as the song progresses. Like in most rhythm games, a timeline moves across these fields (left to right on the top and right to left on the bottom) and, when it lines up with the appropriate note, you simply tap it to add a beat to the soundtrack. Some notes require you to leave your finger there for a moment while others must be dragged across the screen.

It’s an easy concept to grasp, but as the songs increase in difficulty and new notes are added to the mix, you’ll eventually find yourself conducting a lightning-fast orchestra of color and sound, your fingertips dancing across your Vita screen in order to create some beautiful music. It’s exhilarating, addictive and rewarding.

And when I say “rewarding,” I’m talking in both an emotional sense as well as a physical sense within the game world. Doing well on a song will unlock all sorts of additional goodies including new songs, DJ icons and note skins that serve as in-game perks (Fever builds more quickly, missed notes don’t hurt your score as badly, etc.), as well as screenshots from the 66 songs’ videos and more.

The track list in Technika Tune is almost exclusively K-Pop, which means you’ve probably never heard any of the songs before. But whether you’re playing a peppy number from lady-group Kara, tapping out the beat to a club-mixed piece of classical music or grooving through something from the bass-heavy techno or hip hop selection, each of the songs will earn its own special place in your heart. And if a handful of the tunes aren’t quite up your alley, the extensive library doesn’t exactly leave you wanting for options.

If you somehow manage to master the game’s full track list within the three difficulty settings and four modes of play, you can even change things up by switching options that affect the notes’ behavior. You could change the timeline’s direction and have the notes fade off of the screen as the timeline draws near, for instance. Or maybe you’re good enough to have both timelines move from the right with completely invisible notes? I don’t think I’ll ever be that good, but at least the option is there for those who have far better reflexes and far more time on their hands.

As an added bonus, DJ Max Technika Tune also makes its library of songs available as a playlist, letting you listen to the tunes without having to interact with the game. Or if you’re too busy playing the game to notice what’s happening in the background, you can even check out all of the music videos without the screen being filled with bright glowing notes.

Along with having a fantastic soundtrack (I recommend playing with earphones for the best experience), Technika Tune looks absolutely gorgeous on the Vita’s OLED screen. It’s a slick and sexy package with responsive controls and more than enough content to keep you coming back for more.

With such a frantic touchscreen game, you need a flat surface to play on, freeing up both of your hands for optimal tapification ™. This could hamper the game’s portability for some, which is why a separate set of controls for utilizing the back touchscreen are also available. It’s not the ideal way to play, but it gives you an option for those times when you really want to play on the bus but don’t have a good surface to rest your Vita on.

It’s just another bit of proof as to how well the developers thought this game through.

***

I failed “Son of the Sun” two more times before finally reaching its end, a shock of triumph shooting through me as I complete the last line of notes. A couple of rewards pop up on the screen and let me know how well (If a D grade can be considered “well”) I’ve done. I decide not to hit the button allowing me to post this score directly to Facebook, opting to wait for a day when I get an S, or even a B, to “brag” to the world.

I glance up at the clock and see that it is now 2:15 a.m.

“That’s it,” I say to myself. “I did it. I can finally go to bed.”

Even as I’m thinking this, my fingers have begun moving on their own, scrolling through the track listing.

“Okay, just one more song,” I tell myself. “But THEN I’m going to bed. I mean it this time.”

***

8

DJMAX Technika Tune is a headline title in its genre.

This review based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.

Filed Under: Mechanics Music Review Rhythm

About the Author:
Ryan Winslett is an Arizona-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a contributing writer for Gaming Blend and his work has also appeared on Joystiq, Gamasutra and Joystick Division. His only crime is loving too much.

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