It’s never, ever the same beat twice
Project Diva f was supposed to be my go-to music/rhythm game on the Vita. After falling in love with the series on the PSP, the idea of a more visually impressive, technically advanced, and smoother-playing Vita version was music to my ears.
Music to my ears. Because, it’s a music-based game. Get it? See, it’s… ah, nevermind.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Sega mucked up the basics of the Project Diva series by adding in stupid touch-based note markers mixed in with the standard button-related ones, and I hated every moment of it.
South Korean studio Pentavision rose to rhythm gaming fame with DJMax, a series that bore more than a passing resemblance to Konami’s Beatmania franchise. As that series went on, however, it quickly gained its own distinct identity, helped by a combination of highly challenging note patterns, a stylish interface, and artistically-produced visual elements.
It’s funny, then, that DJMax Technika Tune is based off an arcade game that also supplemented button-centric controls for touchscreen interaction. Here, however, Pentavision didn’t take their already-existing concept and force a new interface into the mix—the created an entirely new project.
In DJMax Technika, the screen is split in half vertically, and as a line passes horizontally along one of the two sections, note markers needs to be cleared as that line crosses over them. Five types of notes are presented: Standard Notes (tap when the line intersects them); Hold Notes (tap and hold on the note marker until the line has completely passed through it); Drag Notes (tap and slide your finger along the length of the note in conjunction with the line); Chain Notes (drag your finger along the note as the line passes through each of its marked segments); and Repeat Notes (tap on the initial portion of the note marker every time the line reaches specifically-marked segments of it).
It’s unsurprising that Pentavision would see Sony’s new handheld as the perfect method for bringing that arcade experience home. The Vita’s hardware is also used to add in a new twist: some of those markers can now require interaction via the back touchpad instead of the front touchscreen. It’s funny, because this setup adds complexity and challenge to the game, but it also—at times—makes hitting multiple notes at the same time much easier. Thankfully, those who aren’t keen on the idea have the choice of setting all markers to only work via the front touchscreen. I always appreciate when games give players a choice in these kinds of matters, so kudos to Pentavision on that one.
Of course, music/rhythm games are far more than just the systems they provide or their forms of gameplay interaction. DJMax Technika Tune is a very different beast from the mainline DJMax series—and it’s possible that some fans of that franchise will view Technika Tune as more of a casual experience. Indeed, I think this is a game far more accessible for players that aren’t rhythm masters, but that’s not something I see as being a bad thing. Technika Tune still provides a high amount of challenge at its higher levels—far more than you might expect going into the game. Unlike the PSP DJMax titles I’ve played over time, however, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by Technika Tune right from the start. It’s a nice feeling—one that encourages you to continue on, and feel as if you can get better.
Praise also must be given to Pentavision’s dedication to crafting spectacular visuals. Technika Tune’s interface is slick, and every one of the game’s 60+ tracks are accompanied by top-quality music videos that you’ll want to go back and watch again outside of the distractions of gameplay.
There’s something else that Technika Tune deserves praise for: not being ashamed of being what it is. As a fan of music/rhythm games for a long number of years now, I’ve seen more than a few Japanese titles scramble for Americanization when brought over to our shores. Not Technika Tune; this is a game built on Asian artists and musical styling—capped off by a number of hit tracks from K-pop supergroup Kara—and it wears that badge proudly.
I’ll be honest: I’m not sure how hardcore DJMax players are going to take to DJMax Technika Tune. That’s no comment on the quality of the game—it’s simply acknowledging the huge difference between the gameplay and concepts of the two titles. When looked at on its own, I’ve become a genuine fan of Technika Tune. Sony’s portable needs fresh, unique experiences, and Pentavision’s twist on their long-running DJMax franchise provides exactly that.
SUMMARY: South Korean developer Pentavision brings their latest DJMax title to North America, giving rhythm game fans—and Vita owners in general—a superb product that excels in style, substance, and sound.
- THE GOOD: Highly-produced audio and video combine with genuinely enjoyable (and thankfully accurate) touchscreen-based gameplay.
- THE BAD: There should be some method for activating Fever mode with your left hand.
- THE UGLY: How many times I’ve listened to Kara’s “Jumping” thanks to this game.
DJMax Technika Tune is a PlayStation Vita exclusive.