Vocaloid may not ring a bell to anyone outside of Japanophiles in the West. In Japan, Vocaloid is a major success with dozens of albums and countless collaborations with various Japanese music artists. This is the first Project Diva game that has made it to the Western shores. Project Diva has a unique rhythm-based gameplay structure that is both tough as nails and addictive. Don’t let the cute “girly” visuals fool you. This game is for everyone who loves music or rhythm games.
Icons flash across the screen in different patterns and you must press the corresponding face button. Arrows also require you to press the D-pad direction plus the color of that button. New in F are scratch stars which also goes into the technical zone segments which are mandatory for getting higher grades at the end of songs. New on Vita is the ability to use the touchscreen or rear touchpad to scratch these stars. This is so much easier than using the right thumbstick on the PS3. Technical Zones are areas where you have to hit every note perfectly to get a huge boost in your score bar. Notes rank from Cool, which is perfect, to Awful which is a complete miss. Cool and Great scores will build up your multiplier. Safe or lower will drop it. Each song has two technical zones with a chance zone near the end. New in F is the ability to build up a large star meter in your chance zone to unleash a mega scratch star to play an extra segment at the end. You must hit all of these to even get close to an Excellent or Perfect score.
These scores will unlock new items to buy in the shop which is the other half of Project Diva F. You can outfit your Diva’s room with new tables, chairs, decor, computers, etc. You can also unlock new costume pieces for your character. There are plenty of items to unlock so you will be kept busy doing this long after unlocking all 30+ songs. The Vita features a new edit mode for making your own music videos or editing already made videos and sharing them online. Project Diva F has a lot of content and will keep you coming back for higher scores or just to play your favorite songs.
When it comes to song selections, these aren’t as great or memorable as the PSP Project Diva games, but some songs are fantastic and memorable while others or pretty lame. It’s a mixed bag and everyone will have different favorites, but there are enough songs to please everyone who plays this game. The graphics are a step up from the PSP games but I feel they could have been a bit better on Vita. The textures look a bit muddy on Vita, but overall the graphical style is very unique and spot-on when it comes to Vocaloid. I would have liked to have seen at least one pre-rendered video per song, but everything is performed in real-time.
As it is, Project Diva F is a fantastic game and the best rhythm game on Vita. If you love your J-Pop or want to venture out into something new then take this game for a spin. Just be warned, the songs are all sung in Japanese and the lyrics are in Japanese as well. Don’t bet on any localization because it wouldn’t be Vocaloid or Miku if it was.
Final Fantasy has had some strange offshoots like Chocobo Racing, Kingdom Hearts, and the TBS Tactics. A rhythm game is probably the only genre Final Fantasy hasn’t touched and it’s one that the game belongs in. Final Fantasy is full of some of the best video game music ever created. While later titles aren’t exactly up to par, there are plenty of songs here that fans will love across all 13 core titles.
The basic gameplay is broken up into 3 stages that are randomized. BMS is Battle Music Stage. Usually, one song from each game is picked that was used in a battle, usually a major boss fight. Your four characters stand in front of bars similar to a horizontal Guitar Hero. The entire game consists of only 3 tap types. Hold, tap, and slide. The speed and combination of these 3 can make things really difficult on the Ultra mode but the standard model is just way too easy even for beginners. EMS or Event Music Stage is a song picked during some sort of popular or well-known cutscene and the said scene plays in the background to the music. It’s great seeing Rinoa and Squall waltz in Final Fantasy VIII or watching Aerith’s death scene in Final Fantasy VII. The game is mixed up a bit where the ring you tap flies around the screen as you follow it to complete the required taps. The final stage, FMS or Field Music Stage, has your leader character walking down a re-rendered field from each game collecting chests and the field music from each game accompanies it. This stage consists of one bar that you can move up and down to follow waves. There’s a third boring stage where you tap a crystal in the center of the screen as bubbles fly into it, these are for the opening and ending themes in the main mode which are as boring as ever.
This may sound simple, but the other half is leveling up your cute chibi FF characters and equipping items and weapons to last through the harder difficulties. Characters with higher HP won’t die as easy (meaning you can mess up more) and this includes their armor (they won’t take as much damage when you do mess up). Characters with higher luck infield stages will find more items. This is a unique twist on the rhythm genre and helps push it forward in a way that’s never really been done. Thanks to the many extras such as fully rendered trading cards and DLC there’s a lot to be had in this package. If you like the lesser-known songs in these games the Dark Notes mode will help you here. You can acquire new songs vita StreetPass or battling friends in multiplayer for the highest score. These are all set to the hardest difficulty so practice is needed.
With such a content-heavy rhythm game it begs the question as to who this title is for. Rhythm game fans will appreciate the mechanics and use of the touchscreen, but may not care for the orchestra and chiptune heavy music. Final Fantasy nuts may love this game but not really like the fast-paced rhythm action. It’s something that can appeal to anyone who even hates RPGs, but the Final Fantasy only music may turn Rock Band and Guitar Hero fans away. Despite who this game is made for, whoever picks it up will enjoy a simple yet rich game full of detail, content, and attention to detail that hasn’t been seen since the earlier days of Final Fantasy.
DJ Max was the best rhythm franchise on PSP and helps jump-start that genre on Vita. Technika is a reboot in a way but still feels familiar. The game uses the touchscreen and rear pad exclusively ditching the button interface. This may take a while to get used to for DJ Max PSP vets like myself, but after a while, you will see the difference in challenge and pace when playing.
One thing I did notice right off the game is the continued lack of multiplayer and modes. There is Star Mixing (3 songs using the touch screen), Pop Mixing (4 songs using front and rear), Club Mixing (a choice of genres), and Freestyle. There’s the usual album that shows your wallpapers and unlocked videos but that’s it. Why Pentavision insists on having no multiplayer is a mystery, but I’d like to have it in future installments. Thankfully the game is packed full of songs featuring both licensed and original music from J and K pop to rock. Kara is a huge appearance in the game since they are one of the biggest female KPop groups in Korea. They have 5 songs on here and they are fantastic, I actually listen to them outside of the game now.
The songs still feature various DJs and mixing masters from previous games like ND Lee, NieN, and vocals by So Fly and various other Korean singers and rappers. Getting into the gameplay, videos are now played full screen in the background and look gorgeous on the Vita’s screen. Colorful dots are displayed and you must tap them to get Max 100% with the timing of the beat but there are long strands you have to hold down and follow the bar along with the screen. The playfield is split horizontally into two sections and you will be going back and forth between them. Some notes require quick flicking of the touch screen as well and it all adds up to the tense fun. The rear touchpad notes look different with purple and black borders around their notes requiring you to tap and hold. After a few hours, you will get used to the system and slowly increase your difficulty.
As you level up you will unlock equipment that gives you passive abilities like extra XP gain, HP, and even free breaks. There’s also an option to add a modifier to increase the speed of the notes coming in which is sadistic but it’s there. Even after playing for a good 10 hours I’m still unlocking stuff and increasing my score. The songs are so great and fun to listen to that I can’t get enough of the game. If you loved previous games you must get this, anyone, who hasn’t should jump in any way. Technika Tune is the best rhythm game on Vita right now and hopefully, future installments will improve upon the franchise further.
The band rhythm genre was one of the shortest-lived I have ever seen. Starting with Guitar Hero and quickly being killed off with games like Rock Band 3, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, and DJ Hero 2. There were a ton of them, but because of the constant yearly releases the public got sick of these quickly and now the genre is pretty much dead. Harmonix decided to go back to its roots and release another controller-based rhythm game like Amplitude for PS2. Before you insult the game, read on.
Blitz is just as addictive as the other games in the series but in a different way. You play all the instruments at the same time, but this is a very important thing that you need to remember: This game is about scores and not hitting every note. You only use two buttons on the controller to hit each note on the left and right sides of the track. You play like you normally would in a Rock Band game, but just with two notes. Don’t sit there thinking this is easy. The game can get downright hard, mainly because you have to constantly keep your score multiplier up. As you play along you will pass gates that will turn the multiplier wheel. It will stop at the lowest set number. Make sure you switch between tracks and get those multipliers upon each one! If you play close to perfect you can raise each track by four with plenty of room left before the gate.
This sounds hard and stupid, but the game is so much fun! It also helps that you can use power-ups that you unlock by raising your cred. Using the power-ups costs coins that are earned based on your score. There are a lot of fun power-ups such as a rocket that will shoot ahead and destroy some notes. Certain instruments can have double points, bombs, flames that spread around and increase your score, 2x multiplier, and the list goes on. You will find yourself trying out different power-ups and using your favorites. I also love how you can use your entire Rock Band library. You can also download any Rock Band song from the store and it will work with this game! This, of course, increases replayability quite a bit.
Blitz incorporates Facebook integration for co-op play and most multiplayer stuff. This is both good and bad. Good for people who use Facebook, but bad for people who don’t or who are paranoid about their internet security. I didn’t have a problem with this, but I know some people will. One issue I did find annoying is that there is only one stage the game plays through. Sure it changes a bit as you go along, but I would have liked to have seen more. Other than that there really isn’t much wrong with this game.
In the end, this game is by taste. Some people may think just hitting two buttons is stupid, but if you sit down and play for a while you will realize how ridiculously addictive this game can be. The game keeps your adrenaline up by constantly having to switch between tracks and keeping your multiplier up. If you are a huge Rock Band fan then give this a whirl, but due to the small list of songs the game comes with, newcomers will find the game less appealing. You should really only play this if you have a large Rock Band library.
Before Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Harmonix created this fun rhythm game using pop, hip-hop, industrial rock, and other genres. You tap away on your controller with a “pick your own path” type of gameplay. The game is fun and very challenging, and comes with some great tools.
You use the square, circle, and triangle buttons to tap away on a track. Use the D-pad to rotate the tube and pick any track you want to play. You will know when you have to play when you see a green line connecting dots. This gives you a break between sections so you can rest your thumb for a second. Tracks range from vocals, synth, bass, drums, guitar, and other instruments. When you successfully complete a section that instrument will continue playing. Score perfectly in that section of the song and the instruments won’t turn off when you enter the next gate. I found this a little annoying, but it encourages you to play perfectly the song doesn’t stop. You are scored, as usual, and a meter is shown on how bad or well you are doing. Fail too much and you will fail the song.
That’s the entire game in a nutshell. It seems simple, and it is, but the game is challenging later on when you have to do longer sections and faster button presses. There’s some pretty good music here by Powerman 5000, No Doubt, Fear Factory, and other popular musicians. The visuals are trippy and can give you a headache after a while. They are psychedelic and full of bright colors and fractal shapes. One thing I found useless was the free scratch mode which lets you press one of the three buttons while moving the left stick back and forth to scratch. This isn’t there for anything but for fun I guess.
Once you beat the main game on each difficulty you can go into Remix mode which plays a song while you add your own notes to the song. This can be pretty fun for people who want to change up the game themselves. However, I did find that there should have been more songs, but I guess remix mode is supposed to remedy that. There are a good dozen hours of gameplay here and you will keep coming back to master the game.
For just a couple of dollars, Frequency is one of the most fun I have had in a rhythm game since Rock Band 2. I found myself coming back and trying to master the songs. The music may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you open your mind you will find a gem of a game here.
There are hundreds of thousands of games out there, but only a few hundred are considered masterpieces or classics. These are my personal top ten. I know it’s to everyone’s taste, but you can’t deny that these games are great. I have played hundreds in my 20 years of gaming, I have played through three generations of consoles, so at least I can speak on experience. I will try to be non-biased and even address some flaws in the games I pick because I have no problem with that. Flaws are flaws, and not a single game is perfect. There are more that are my favorite, but I would have to make a top 50 list.
This was one of the first games I had ever played at 2 years old. It helped introduce me to the gaming world and I just fell in love with the fast speed and intense gameplay. StH2 had some of the best level designs out of any game in the series and one of the best soundtracks to date. I remember never being able to actually beat the game because it was too long and too hard. I could never get past the factory level with all the grey orbs floating around Robotnik. I had to beat it many years later using an emulator and quick saves, but I still enjoyed it every time I played the game. I think I actually ruined my cartridge from taking it in and out of the Genesis so many times.
In fact, I even remember my first Genesis for Christmas of 1992. The copy of StH2 it came with kept freezing up in the system, so my mom took it back to Circuit City to exchange it. I remember throwing a tantrum because no matter how many times I blew the cartridge it kept freezing after pressing Start. The series has fallen off the deep end in the past ten years, but nothing can ruin the memories of this classic gem.
9. Gran Turismo
This game changed everything for me when it came to cars. My very first racing simulator actually made me think about every turn and what car I had to choose. I always played arcade racers before because consoles didn’t really have the power yet for realistic physics and graphics. I actually learned some things from this game like how to recognize cars on the street, and basic ways on how cars operate. I was sitting in front of my TV at 8 years old tuning my car and adjusting things like camber angle, toe angle, stabilizers, sway bars and gear ratios like a champ. I then followed the series all the way to Gran Turismo 5 today and have witnessed one of the greatest evolutions in gaming history.
I remember the skepticism from PC gamers because of the greatness and expectations from System Shock 2. I didn’t have a PC capable of playing any major games throughout my early gaming years. My computer didn’t even run Flash very well, so I solely relied on consoles. BioShock’s narrative and atmosphere made a huge impact on me and the gaming industry as a whole. The first time seeing a Big Daddy and Little Sister was just shocking. You felt trapped in this underwater utopia, but you were also memorized by how it could have been accomplished in such an early time period. The game just worked so well and felt different from the standard military shooters at the time. BioShock 2 was too similar to the first game and just didn’t make the same impact.
The second game was so much better than the first because it created a whole new world and a much more likable character Ezio is one of gaming’s most familiar faces and the game itself was revolutionary for its time. A huge open world in a historically accurate Rome, Italy was just unheard of. There was so much attention to detail that you had to sit back and just take it all in. The characters were likable, and the story was memorable with a deep and tangled political plot. The game was also violent with a fighting system never before seen in an action/adventure game. This game was almost perfect in so many ways that the rest of the games have yet to capture.
6. Syphon Filter
Syphon Filter was criticized a lot for ripping off Metal Gear Solid plot-wise. The game had unique characters, a memorable plot, and some of the best-level designs ever seen for its time. The stealth was perfectly executed and had some memorable moments. I have played this game numerous times and was actually my first-ever third-person shooter. I remember how confusing the game was because I didn’t understand how shooters worked. I was so used to platformers, adventure games, and puzzle games. After playing this game I felt like I was part of the grown-up crowd. The other two games on the PS1 were just as good but not as memorable as the first game. This has grown to be one of my favorite games of all time just due to the wonderful memories I have had.
I used to beat the game once a week using the one-shot-kill code then again without it. I memorized every enemy, and how to get every kill without being seen in stealth missions. I even went as far as replaying certain dialog scenes because they were just that cool. Syphon Filter is a mostly underappreciated game because of the lack of releases the series has seen. The last game came out three years ago on the PSP, but thankfully Syphon Filter 4 was announced for PS3.
5. God of War
God of War changed my way of thinking about action/adventure games. I remember driving to K-Mart to buy my copy after reading reviews and hearing the game blow up on forums. I didn’t really expect much other than Greek mythology-themed Devil May Cry. I was dead wrong. The game had one of the most thrilling and epic combat systems ever created. I never really even knew what quick time events were until God of War made them cool and did them right. It added a whole new layer of depth and connection to the combat that has never really been done before. The huge boss fights, gorgeous (at the time) visuals, and unabashed nudity and sexuality that few games dare tread. God of War still impresses to this day and with each iteration in the now 5 game series. Kratos is also one of the most memorable and recognizable characters to date. Make sure to pick up God of War Collection and God of War Origins Collection if you missed out on those four awesome games while waiting for God of War: Ascension.
Gears of War changed my mind on shooters the way God of War did for action games. The gameplay was just so different from your standard shooter. It was heavy-hitting, atmospheric, and featured some of the most memorable characters and stories to date. For a futuristic military shooter that’s a huge achievement. The weapons were memorable, it was perfectly balanced, and everything had a dark crunchy hit to it. The game was nearly perfect, and the graphics were out of this world at the time. I remember this being the first next-generation game I ever played when I got my first Xbox 360 for Christmas of 2006. Each of the three games in the series is amazing, but nothing compares to when I first played the first game. It wowed me like no other, and Gears of War is one of the few games I have played multiple times.
Sure this series along with Rock Band single-handedly killed the band instrument rhythm genre, but nothing compares to the first Guitar Hero. This game is the reason why I currently own and play the guitar today. Pulling off complicated riffs, solos, and chords with the then high-tech guitar controller was like magic. I spent dozen upon dozens of hours replaying songs and getting high scores. Sure it cost a lot, but it was well worth it to me. While the songs weren’t originals they were masterfully re-created and the guitar controller responded perfectly. The games later in the series lost sight of the value of mastering songs and just start pumping them out uncontrollably after GH3. This game redefined the rhythm genre and took the entire world by storm. Most people nowadays never played the first game, and they were missing out on a lot.
This was the first game I spent over 100 hours on. The world was so rich and fantastic that I felt like I was playing in one of my favorite fantasy novels. The lore, characters, quests, and loot were just so addictive and engrossing I couldn’t put it down. I remember one play session going on for 12 hours when no other game has kept me in front of the TV for that long. The expansion pack was even more amazing, and the graphics blew me away. Of course, there were a lot of technical problems, and the PC version was better, but I sure had a ton of fun with this game. Skyrimis just as good, but it didn’t wow me like Oblivion did because this was my first Elder Scrolls game. To be honest I picked this up for $60 expecting not to like it much and I was dead wrong. Anyone who has just played Skyrim needs to go back and play this. It revolutionized the action RPG genre in my eyes and a lot of games have tried to copy it to this day.
Yes, I am talking about the 1992 Sega Genesis/Arcade classic. This is my favorite video game series of all time and this is because it was the first video game I ever played. I remember my cousin babysitting me and seeing him control these characters on-screen at 2 years old. I remember seeing him pull off Scorpion’s mask and burn a character. It was something I saw before, and soon enough I was mastering the controls and beating him at 2 years old. I never knew how to pull off a fatality until years later when the internet became more mainstream, but I loved beating this game constantly. To date, I own almost every game in the series on several different platforms and have pre-ordered every recent game since 2004’s Deception. I don’t think I have played a game more than Mortal Kombat, but I still enjoy Japanese fighters. I find Mortal Kombat more accessible with more interesting characters and a story because they aren’t cliché and generic like most Japanese fighters tend to feel. There’s a whole giant story behind each and every character and they are all unique.
The DS doesn’t have enough good rhythm games, but Elite Beat Agents helps fill that void with a campy off-the-wall style that any fan of the genre will enjoy. You play as three Charlie’s Angels Esque agents (men instead of women) with crazy hairstyles who go out helping people do impossible tasks that break real-world rules. Various stages include helping a pirate find treasure, helping a taxi driver deliver a pregnant woman to a hospital after a cop tells him to not speed ever again, or a movie director making successful movies. These are told in comic-style frames and they are quick and funny to watch. You play about 30 seconds of a song then you watch the rest of the wacky story unfold, and how good you were at that segment determines whether or not they succeed in their goal or fail.
The gameplay is different from most rhythm games in the sense that you don’t follow colored blocks that fall into place and you hit it at the right time. The game uses solely the touchscreen, but I couldn’t really dig the way the rhythm mechanic was designed. You hit numbered circles, and depending on the beat, an outer circle will close in, but once it gets even with the numbered circle you tap it. The numbers tell you what order to hit it, but you must follow the colored group. Various other “notes” range from following a ball with your stylus, double-tapping, triple tapping, or using a spinner to fill a meter. These are weird for rhythm games and help add to the random crazy feeling of the stories, but it is really hard to master because timing is hard when trying to line up circles within circles.
Later on, the songs get harder so there are all these circles floating around and you can get confused and lost on the tiny screen and the game has little room for error. Keeping your meter in the Yes is important because if you are in the No after the segment you fail that part of the story. My issue is that the meter is constantly running down and you are keeping it up, so failing a lot in slow sections makes you fail faster. Once you get the hang of it you start having fun, but younger people may get frustrated quickly due to the high learning curve.
A rhythm game isn’t complete without good songs and EBA is lacking here as well. There are famous songs here such as Village People’s “YMCA” or Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8ter Boi” but that’s just it, it’s a hodge-podge of random artists and these are just cover songs (remade by someone else). Not only that, but the audio is very low quality and tinny so it feels like a half-baked rhythm game. I like some of the songs here, but there should have been more consistency and fewer random pickings, plus there are only 19 songs so you can finish this in one or two sittings. The game also lacks any type of modes besides multiplayer so you will get bored after a few sittings with this game.
EBA has a great sense of humor, funny stories, and a decent selection of songs, but it feels like it’s missing something and the high learning curve will turn anyone away except the hardcore rhythm fans. This is a great weekend rental or something you can pick up in your bargain bin if you are craving rhythm action on your DS.
Being able to play a game using your own music isn’t new, but being a good one is hard. Beat Hazard lets you select your own music and then uses the tempo to create difficulty spikes and flow of enemies. The beat of the song is seen in the bullets you shoot as well as the crazy explosions on one screen that can give you a seizure. When you select your music you get to decide the difficulty. Pick a heavy and fast metal song and you’ll be lucky if you get through the whole thing. Pick a normal soft rock song and the difficulty is very gradual.
When you actually start shooting there are several power-ups that range from increasing the volume, shot power, money, and bombs. If you die you can collect the stuff you’re dropped, but if you keep collecting the stuff you get more and more powerful. You can use the money to buy perks that range from power-ups when you start, extra lives, and other various perks. There’s a good amount and it’s worth playing just to unlock them all. However, the game doesn’t have much depth so this is a 30 minutes-at-a-time game or you will get bored. The visuals are decent, but the special effects that flash around remind me of Geometry Wars on crack.
So this is once again a game that makes you the decider of how fun of an experience you get. The engine underneath does a good job using the songs to be great a fun space shooter, but I would like to have seen more power-ups or maybe something more 3D. If you don’t like 2D space shooters you won’t like this even if you get to use your own music. The game can get really hard quick and can be a bit confusing at first until you get the hang of it. There are quite a few modes such as multiplayer, boss rush, and endless mode so there is some variety there. For the low price, you can’t really go wrong so pick it up and enjoy the craziness!
The Rhythm/Music genre has always been about great music, and whether your rocking out, dancing, or singing you are meant to have a great time, but the game also has to have responsive controls. If the game can’t also be read without thinking your game is broken. Making a good rhythm game is hard since the genre is so bloated these days. The game also has to have good sturdy hardware that’s responsive.
Rock Band 3
Rock Band isn’t a unique or original game anymore so why does it win for the second year in a row? The new peripherals and the fact that it actually teaches you how to play music now. With the addition of the new keytar and being able to play with a real guitar? That’s ingenious, and while the gameplay hasn’t changed much that addition of excellent hardware makes it a winner.