Superbeat: Xonic Review – Keep Rocking Baby

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Nurijoy is a newer Korean developer comprised of former Pentavision staff, who were mostly known for the DJMAX series of music/rhythm games. Their latest outing, Superbeat: Xonic, is yet another music/rhythm game, and it’s made for the PS Vita.

The game is essentially a PS Vita port of their new arcade game, Beatcraft Cyclon, and it shows in almost everything from its song selection all the way down to its core mechanics. First, I’ll give a forewarning: I primarily used touch controls when playing Superbeat: Xonic (while analog controls are still there).

The game allows you to use the touchscreen controls or the face-button focused controls, however if you get to the highest difficulty with touchscreen controls, you’ll still end up using a couple buttons anyway – I’ll explain this more in detail.

The game’s three main difficulty settings: 4-TRAX, 6-TRAX, and 6-TRAX FX break down by the number and variety of notes, as well as the combination of the notes. There are standard, hold, flick, and drag notes – each differ in style and difficulty, and can generally pop up anywhere.

4-TRAX being the easiest, you’ll only hit regular notes or perform hold notes. 6-TRAX introduces the flick notes, and naturally has more note placement (and more buttons to press in analog mode). Finally, 6-TRAX FX has you using the shoulder buttons, while also getting more complicated note placement in the songs.

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Superbeat has quite the number of options you can choose from to really customize your play experience: you can modify the note pattern speed, how far away the notes are visible, and more. The main underlining difficulty (separate from the TRAX-difficulty) can be switched in the options menu, with the three options include: softer, natural, and harder. You can also unlock avatars that give you special bonuses at various levels.

One of the things about changing the note pattern speed is that it can drastically increase the difficulty outside the actual difficulty levels. You can toggle the values of speed between 0.5 to 5.0, in increments of 0.5. You can modify the pattern speed before and during a song being played.

There are two main game modes to choose from: Stage Mode and World Tour. As you can expect, Stage Mode has you picking your songs by difficulty/complexity under normal win conditions (you have to reach the percentage needed to pass a song), and World Tour has different win conditions for each song.

As you beat songs in the various TRAX levels, you’ll unlock the corresponding level song in Free Style. As you can expect, Free Style is where you can focus on single songs and how to perfect them, instead of playing entire sets like in the Stage Mode or World tour.

In World Tour, you’ll have to reach certain criteria for each specific track, instead of simply clearing a certain percentage to win. These criteria range from things like achieving certain numbers of combos to clearing the stage with less than a handful of missed notes. It gets interesting very quickly.

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With each cleared song, you’ll be ranked depending on your performance. These ranks start with F (as in fail), all the way to S++, which essentially requires you completely perfecting the song and all of its notes. This breakdown also gives you a total of how many missed notes, highest combo, and more.

As you progress through the various levels of difficulty, you’ll see the songs get more and more complicated with note placement, variety of notes, and of course – the speed. At some points it gets a bit overwhelming to hold down multiple notes while still tapping off alternating notes.

One thing to consider when going through the vast assortment of musical genres – and there are lots – is that notes and tempo will change appropriately to match the song itself. Cutesy, bubbly K-pop tracks are wildly different from breakneck, relentless salsa techno mixes.

The genres don’t stop there either, you’ve got your standard J-pop, nu-metal, progressive metal, thrash metal, classical techno mixes, big beat, R&B, and even stuff from Guilty Gear Xrd, by Daisuke Ishiwatari himself. It’s all over the place and it’s generally awesome to check out each song.

I can understand some fans wanting the soundtrack to be all Asian-produced music or to be more western-heavy, but ultimately the soundtrack feels balanced and really brings in a multitude of genres that really make the game shine.

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One thing to really consider with Superbeat is the earlier point I made – the game is basically a PS Vita port of Beatcraft CyclonNurijoy’s arcade debut. This isn’t really a problem as much as it feels like sometimes there’s a bit too much going on-screen, and it can get a bit cluttered.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the PS Vita (it’s one of my favorite gaming consoles of all time), however, I sometimes felt like it got too cramped on the screen. I’m a bit of a masochist so I enjoy the challenge, but others might get frustrated at clawing their fingers both at the screen and by pressing or holding the shoulder buttons.

This is certainly not a truly debilitating issue, I just found myself occasionally, enviously, looking at gameplay from the arcade version of Beatcraft Cyclon. With that said, Nurijoy has done an amazing job at transferring that insanity to the small screen of the PS Vita.

After you’ve played through various modes and achieved experience points, you’ll level up and increase in level. The only thing this actually does is unlocks the aforementioned avatars, each of which features their own special buffs or effects. You also can’t access the highest difficulty until you’ve hit level 20.

I really enjoy collecting the various avatars, something the developers did back when they last put out a PS Vita rhythm game in DJMAX: Technika Tune. The irony is that I reached the same level of prowess and confidence in about the same amount of time – while it took me reaching level 50 in DJMAX, I was clearing essentially every song on the highest difficult in Superbeat around level 40.

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As you progress and clear levels, you can strive for various things to gloat about – clearing songs with 100% notes being hit, increasing your ranking in the global leaderboards, and more. You can even track all of your personal stats and collectibles in the Back Stage option.

One of the only lingering things I miss from the DJMAX series is the animated backgrounds that made each song that much more unique. I can understand Nurijoy being a new independent studio and having a limited budget, however this is something I definitely missed. The presentation and interface for the game everywhere else definitely shines, and is quite lively in comparison to some other games.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing Superbeat: Xonicand I daresay that it has retaken the mantle of the PS Vita’s definitive rhythm game – a spot that only its spiritual predecessor, DJMAX Technika Tune, held in my heart.

I’d say the game is near perfection for music/rhythm fans, has a widely varied soundtrack, lots of avatars to unlock, a ranged difficulty, combined with a unique approach to musical patterns that manages to keep me even moreso on my toes in comparison to other games in the genre.

Superbeat: Xonic was reviewed on PS Vita using a digital copy provided by PM Studios. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 9.5

The Good:

  • Varied, super catchy soundtrack
  • Dynamic mechanics and controls, it’s like a workout for your fingers!

The Bad:

  • Screen feels a bit too cluttered in maximum difficulty songs
  • Lack of animated backgrounds seen in DJMAX series
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Owner and Publisher at Niche Gamer and Nicchiban. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry.

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