Preview: Superbeat XONiC scratches the rhythm game itch

While the Vita may indeed be a dying handheld, no thanks to Sony and their complete lack of support for it or the PlayStation TV, I can't deny that the handheld contains some of my personal favorite games. From Persona 4 Golden, Tales of Hearts R, Gravity Rush and Tearaway, the Vita allowed me to experience some fantastic stories. It easily also has some of the best rhythm game franchises from Hatsune Miku, DJ Max Technika and even Persona 4: Dancing All Night, and now I had the pleasure of checking out Superbeat XONiC, a spiritual successor to the DJ Max games.

DJ Max 3 (PSP) was easily the answer to Konami's popular Beatmania series. Then later, on the Vita, it introduced touch-only controls with Technika Tune. Now, Superbeat XONiC introduces a hybrid, allowing players to either use physical controls with the face buttons and the d-pad, or play exclusively on the Vita's touchscreen. This is a cool move as there are those that prefer one control scheme over the other. Having played around with both, I can safely say that both work really well.

As is standard for the DJ Max games, a bulk of their soundtrack is made up of original songs, very much like the Project Diva games. It's great then that once again, the soundtrack is made up songs that are absolutely perfect for a rhythm game. Just a single glance at the main menu and its stylish transitions coupled with upbeat dance music will make any previous DJ Max player feel right at home. It's great stuff. 

I won't go too in-depth on the game since we have to save that for our official review, but I will detail how gameplay works.

Songs can be played in a variation of either 4-trax or 6-trax. What that means is that you'll either only have four face buttons to worry about in 4-trax, or six in 6-trax, with obviously the latter being far more difficult. Notes scrolls from the inside of the screen outward, kind of like Persona 4: Dancing All Night, but it's somehow much easier to follow. As they hit the outside circle, you have to either press the corresponding face button, or touch that part of the screen.

It seems extremely easy at first, but as you start playing the tougher songs, it gets deviously difficult. But the 4-trax mode does a good job at easing players in, and once players get comfortable, the switch to 6-trax is rather seamless.

Whereas P4D was a rhythm game with a layer of story, XONiC is purely a rhythm game, down to its core. But even without a lengthy campaign, there is tons to do and unlock, as well as an entirely separate mission mode that I will detail more on November 3rd, when our official review goes live.

If perhaps the cast of Persona couldn't convince you to partake in their rhythm game, or Hatsune Miku and her gang of vocaloids just aren't doing it for you, and you just want more of DJ Max, XONiC is a pretty fresh take on the formula, with some pretty sweet tunes to boot. Just because Superbeat: XONiC ditched the DJ Max namesake, doesn't mean it's any less of a rhythm game.