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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. Pronouns: Patriarch, Guido, Olive, Catholic



14 comments
  1. Andrew Phillips
    Andrew Phillips
    March 12, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Touch controls!?!?

  2. アントナント
    アントナント
    March 12, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    It has analog controls too

  3. Uncle Slick
    Uncle Slick
    March 12, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    I’m ashamed that I know where this is from.

  4. Andrew Phillips
    Andrew Phillips
    March 12, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    But do you actually have a copy? Unfortunately I do.

  5. Brandon Orselli
    Brandon Orselli
    March 12, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    I prefer to use touch with these kinds of games. IDK. Some always prefer buttons. I mentioned that in the review :p I added a quick addendum to specifically point out the analog controls.

  6. Uncle Slick
    Uncle Slick
    March 12, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Sorry.

  7. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    March 12, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    That sounds (heh) great, but I usually suck at rhythm games. That being said I’m doing surprisingly well in Deemo.

  8. TheMaverickGamer
    TheMaverickGamer
    March 12, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Got this for Christmas last year. Great rhythm title. I can’t pull off any of the harder tracks on 6-TRAX, let alone 6-TRAX FX, so my experience was capped somewhat, but it’s definitely enjoyable.

    I wish it had the full version of “Heavy Day”, but the game opts for tracks that are ~2 minutes or so in length, so it would have been too long. The track list as a whole is a mixed bag, but there’s some solid stuff in there.

  9. Brandon Orselli
    Brandon Orselli
    March 12, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    That was something I noticed too! Should’ve mentioned it..

    IIRC song length was similar in DJMAX, it’s something about that length and maybe how it translates to playing in the arcade? This was originally an arcade game after all.

    Some songs were seemingly broken up into two, like that Japanese power metal song w/vampire themes.

  10. Alaka'i Lester
    Alaka'i Lester
    March 13, 2016 at 12:43 am

    Ooo yeah, this is definitely my favorite rhythm game so far this gen.

  11. xmrsunshine
    xmrsunshine
    March 13, 2016 at 5:24 am

    I was looking for a review of this literally 12 hours ago on this site when I was about to buy the game and was bummed when I didn’t see one. I bought it anyway and it’s good to know that the review wouldn’t have changed that. Game seems good so far.

  12. Brandon Orselli
    Brandon Orselli
    March 13, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Ha! I was trying to get it done way back when it released – I normally pass up all reviews we get to other staff as they have more free time but this was one game I was seriously hyped for. I promise we’ll be more timely with other reviews moving forward :)

  13. Dak
    Dak
    March 13, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    what songs are we looking at when purchasing this game and what language are they in? I’ve no experience with rhythm games except for OSU!

  14. Brandon Orselli
    Brandon Orselli
    March 14, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    They’re mostly a mix of English, Korean, and Japanese. It’s kind of rare for stuff to have LOTS of vocals, and I’d say it’s more dominant with English and Korean songs (the developer is Korean and they tapped lots of musicians who did work on the DJMAX series).