By Henry Badilla / April 25th, 2018
|Developer||Neowiz MUCA, Rocky Studios|
|Release Date||March 6th, 2018|
I love when video games emulate things from real life in clever ways. For example, in Infamous Second Son, there’s a mini-game in which you have to hold the controller backwards to emulate a spray paint can and draw graffiti on a wall. In Sleeping Dogs, for one of the minigames you have to rotate the analog stick, emulating the dial of a safe to open it. In Rhythm games, however, these gimmicks are usually delegated to a unique controller. For example, the Rock Band guitar, or the drums for Taiko no Tatsujin. So I was really happy to discover DJMax, a game in which the PS4 controller emulates a keyboard or synthesizer in which you have to play the buttons on the screen to simulate an instrument. Now let me walk you through all you need to know about DJMax Respect.
To start, this is a Rhythm game through and through. There is no story mode or any semblance of a campaign in the traditional way. There is an Arcade mode in which you will play three different songs for your best score, Freestyle, where you can play any song on any mode solo or with a friend, Online, to play against others players online, and Missions, which I will talk about later. And this is pretty much everything that the game offers. However, for a Rhythm game the fun comes from playing all the songs in all the styles until perfection, and that’s where DJMax shines.
Gameplay-wise DJMax is pretty basic. The notes of the song will fall from the top of the screen to the bottom and you have to press the corresponding button when it reaches the line at the bottom. There are four different styles of play that will alter the gameplay.
4-Button will use Left, Up, Triangle and Circle only for the notes. 5-Button will use those four and add a fifth button that can be either Square or Right. 6-Button will differentiate between square and right as separate buttons in addition to the other four. And finally 8-Button will add R1 and L1 as additional buttons. All different styles will also use the left or right analog stick in any direction as additional notes, and pressing X or Down will activate the Fever which will increase the points earned on each note.
While hitting the notes is relatively easy (at least while playing on the normal difficulty) the game will also evaluate how accurately you do it by giving more points to notes that were hit at 100% accuracy, while barely hitting a note at 10% will give less points. And as you can imagine, if you want to get an S ranking on all the songs you will need to be as precise as possible. You can hit all the notes but if your accuracy is off you will earn a C score.
But what would be of a Rhythm game without music? DJMax comes with 140 tracks: 40 are new songs, and the rest are returning tracks from previous games. But you won’t start with all the songs available, unfortunately. The game has a rewards system based on playing songs, and playing them well. By just playing a song you will get experience which will grant you something when you level up. And while levels are symbolic with no impact on gameplay, the rewards that you get by leveling up could be a new song, an art piece for the game’s Art Gallery, or a Banner to represent yourself online. In addition there are rewards based on getting a full combo on a song, or getting several A scores. There’s basically a reward linked to anything that you can do in the game, so by just playing any song on any mode you will start unlocking things.
Another way to unlock more songs, banners and even cosmetic changes to the notes in-game is in the Missions Mode. Here you will have to play several songs with a particular goal in mind. It goes from reaching a certain score, to keeping the accuracy of notes hit above 93%. But simply playing the songs as usual is not enough. Sometimes you are forced to play with notes that change speed midway, or fall down slower than usual. There are so many different visual obstacles to make each challenge harder that this mode is considered for experienced players only. I completed around 18 of these out of the 60 that are in the game, and I can’t move forward at this point. I have to simply get better.
And this is definitely the only complaint I have with this game. It’s hard, really hard. I’ve been playing Rock Band on guitar for a couple of years now, and I have no problem playing expert on any of the included songs (let’s leave DLC out of the discussion). But I can play mostly only songs on Normal difficulty in DJMax. This is a game created for its fan base, the people who have been playing this since the PSP, and it’s not really interested in bringing new players into it. Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible, as this is my first time with DJMax and I’m really enjoying it, but be aware that this is not a game to play for two weeks and be done with it. It’s going to take its time to really feel good in it.
Visually the game’s graphics are quite good. The menus are simple, intuitive, and have all the information that you need. I love the animations of the main menu in particular, which make the whole game feel vibrant. In addition each song has a video that plays in the background. While some are from the previous games, these have been updated to be full HD and in general are really well made. Some have the vibe of an anime opening, while others have full 3D graphics that look like they’ve been taken from an existing video game. But in general these are amazing and I really want to stop playing to simply watch them sometimes.
The soundtrack covers several genres including Hip-Hop, Rap, Drum and Bass, K-Pop, Rock, Heavy Metal, Trash, Caribbean Music, Classical Music, and possibly more. These are just what I can think of from the songs I have played. And so far I haven’t really found a song that I hate. I’m more into Rock and Heavy Metal, and Drum and Bass from the electronic side, but I have enjoyed the Hip-Hop and Rap songs just as well. Since the game is Korean don’t expect to find famous songs from Western media like on Rock Band or Just Dance, but the songs that are included are quite enjoyable even for a metal head like myself.
In conclusion, I love everything about this game. The songs are fun, the animations are interesting, and the gameplay is hard but rewarding. The game is out for $50 as a digital download only, and while you could technically beat Arcade on each of the four different styles in less than an hour, the real amount of time that this game will bring you will depend on your enjoyment and desire to be better at it. I’m probably 25 or 30 hours in and there are a lot of things for me to unlock.
For me DJMax Respect feels like the elite club that’s always full on Friday night with a long line at the entrance. If you’re dedicated to improving yourself and work hard and diligently you can finally get in and enjoy it with the elite, but the road to get there is just as fun, so it’s worth taking the challenge if Rhythm games are your thing.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
BEXTERDJMAXdjmax respectneowiz gamesPS4Rhythm Game