Rhythm based games can be a tricky sell these days. In a genre that is pretty cut and dry when it comes to gameplay, it’s hard for developers to separate itself from the others. Superbeat: Xonic is a rhythm game that manages to separate itself from the others on the Vita, but in this case it’s not necessarily a good thing.
Superbeat: Xonic is not that different from other rhythm beat games for the Vita; the up, right, and down buttons on the D-pad control left side of the screen, while the Triangle, Circle, and Cross button operate the right side. This time around, there are notes that use the twin sticks and Right and Left bumper buttons.
Unfortunately, this is where some of the problems lie. Initially, I started playing Xonic using nothing but the buttons which there is nothing wrong with that method except that switching between the regular buttons to the twin sticks and back again proved rather cumbersome on the more difficult songs.
Fortunately, I realized that I could use the touchpad, which was something that had not occurred to me at the time. This method was much easier in the long run as I could navigate my thumb to the notes on the screen and to the sticks easier.
The difficulty is set up with the common easy, medium and hard choices. However, adjusting the speed of the songs also increased the difficulty while giving you more experience points in the game. Regardless if you lose the level or not, you are still awarded points. There are three different modes; 4 TRAX mode (easy), 6 TRAX (medium), and 6 TRAX FX (hard). When selected, three tracks are played in succession and the performance is evaluated at the end. Local scores can then be uploaded to a global online leaderboard.
As you pass different songs and levels, you are awarded with new DJ Icons, Key Sounds, Experience Points, and World Tour Levels. The DJ Icons are very much key to your success during the World Tour mode. Each DJ Icon you can equip grants you attributes that will help you in either modes, but you find the most beneficial if you are attempting the World Mode, which is probably the weakest area of the game.
World Mode consists series of missions that are unlocked as the player advances in level. Each world is named after fourteen different nightclubs from around the world and has a goal, or limitation, depending on how you look it; don’t miss a number of notes, get a certain ranking after the song, etc. Each world has three levels that typically requires you do play three songs in succession and they go from easy, medium, and hard difficulty each time.
The difficulty settings are very off balance. What should have been an easy level in a world turned out to be the hardest and vice-versa. To be fair, assigning a particular DJ Icon is the key to passing some of the worlds as some have shields and such to help get past areas. While this is what helps set Xonic apart from the rest, it is also the most annoying. It turns out you have to just play the Trax Levels consistently to unlock what is needed to get through the World Mode and some will just find this more time consuming than what it is worth.
The track selection seems to be all over the place as well. The game sells itself at the beginning to contain more techno/dub step music, but this isn’t the case. With over 50 track from around the world, there is a hodgepodge of tracks that don’t seemingly make sense to be in this particular game. There is a piano track at the beginning, metal, and some songs that seem like they belonged to a cute splice of life anime opening rather than being played in a club with a DJ.
While Superbeat Xonic puts itself out to be a certain kind of rhythm game with techno beats and other dance music, it quickly becomes apparent that it isn’t the case. With a solid free-play option, Xonic falls a bit flat in the World Mode as some players will not realize what they need to do to progress with the unlockable items. While that helps set it apart from other game like it, i.e. Persona Dancing All Night, it will alienate newcomers to the genre and veterans alike with its strange choices of songs and uneven difficulty.