SUPERBEAT: XONiC (Switch) Review – Rhythmic Excellence
Platforms: Vita, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: acttil, PM Studios (US) / Rising Star Games (EU)
Release: 21st November 2017 (US)
After getting great rhythm games like Deemo, the Switch proved to be a great platform for all types of games. Yet, one game was always missing, SUPERBEAT: XONiC. Originally released on the Vita it quickly gained a huge fanbase for being one of the hardest but very best on the console. Now, after more than half a year, the game is finally ported to the console, along pretty much every feature.
Similar to most other rhythm games, SUPERBEAT: XONiC is all about hitting the right buttons at the right moment, depending on the played music. This time around there are 2-3 “lines” on each side, each bound to a corresponding button (“up”,”left” and “down” for the left side for example), on which different kinds of notes slide along. Once they reach the edge of the lines, the corresponding key has to be pressed. At the beginning it may seem fairly easy but as soon as more difficult songs are chosen, the game starts to throw all kinds of different notes at us. From the ones that just require to hold the button to joystick-dependant ones, where the moves of each joystick is required to hit them, or even FX-sounds which are controlled by the rear triggers.
Needless to say that it becomes almost impossible to identify all these different styles in mere seconds during more complex songs … at first glance. Divided into three essential modes, 4-trax, 6-trax, 6-trax plus FX and a Free Mode, PM Studios slowly introduces the player to these mechanics. Beginning with the easy 4 lines mode to the more difficult 6 lines ones and finally ending in the full-blown experience. While it still feels overwhelming, having the option to practice each mode individually, to create an own level of challenge, is a great way to learn the basics.
Additionally, the 68 songs are also divided into different difficulties, indicated by a little bar below every one of them. Ranging from slow, very easy piano ensembles to super fast, challenging electro or rock tracks. After being overwhelmed by the quite mediocre tutorial and even outpaced by most other songs, SUPERBEAT: XONiC´s great implementation of “learning by doing” through the various adjustable values was greatly appreciated. The fact how I improved myself after every song, to be able to continue on the next harder one was fascinating. Surely it helps to listen to the music since all button prompts are synchronized with certain tunes or melodies but the ability to appropriately react to them is still a thing to be learned. Due to the constant improvement of the own capabilities during each session, playing SUPERBEAT: XONiC is very addicting and I often muttered to myself “just one other song”. In combination with the option to increase or decrease the game speed or to change the general difficulty the options for said customization are practically endless.
Another big reason for this addicting experience is the really well paced progression system. After every successfully completed song we earn experience depending on the high-score, mistakes and much more. Every new level grants a new avatar for the DJ and even a whole new track. Depending on the chosen DJ there are even various power-ups like more earned EXP, a shield in case a mistake is made or various other little buffs. While these are neat, they are never a core part of the experience. On the other hand, having to unlock nearly half of the 68 included tracks could be somewhat of a deal breaker for less active players. Even though it´s possible to get a new level after 2-4 songs, it takes more than just a few hours to actually unlock the whole game,so replaying the songs is a necessity, in order to unlock new ones.
However, the music itself is simply fantastic and definitely worth the extra time to unlock it in most cases. While the selection is heavily influenced by JPop or Idol-Pop, which build a huge part of the collection, more western genres like Techno are present as well. Naturally the general direction is more aimed at a techno/Pop audience, yet, the looks and presentation should already indicate that. For fans there´s a huge selection of unique tracks with beautiful cover art, diverse sound design and pretty much everything you could desire. However, the more complex dubstep tracks in particular don´t feel “right” on easier modes like 4-trax, due to the sometimes off-putting button-sound-timing synchronization and should be favored for the even harder 6-trax one, if you dare.
Visually, SUPERBEAT: XONiC is a stunningly beautiful looking game, which could be ported to Nintendo´s handheld with nearly no compromises. Completely consisting of bright, nearly overwhelming colour and lighting effects, it´s not a demanding game, allowing it to not only run very stable but to offer a great viewing experience as well. Of course the tiny buttons and not ideal Joy-Cons are not the best controllers for a reflex-based rhythm game but I had no problems after a bit of practice. Naturally, the game also supports touchscreen inputs, which work really damn well, or just grab a Pro Controller. As previously mentioned the music is fantastic and combined with the colourful presentation, SUPERBEAT: XONiC is a joy to look at.
I expected a lot from SUPERBEAT: XONiC, after all its praise and its long-term support with new music packs, there had to be something special about it. After spending more than just a dozen hours with it, far more than initially thought, it practically surpassed all those expectations. There might be some tiny flaws, like the sometimes mediocre implementation of 4-trax in complex songs, the unlocking system or lack of any other mode than the three main ones, but the base gameplay is so pure, so fun and so addicting, that it all vanishes as soon as the game starts. All in all, SUPERBEAT: XONiC is definitely the best rhythm game on Switch, to date.
[A Review Code was provided by acttil]