The popular game for rhythm & music game junkies, DJMax, has moved out of the arcade and into the palms of your hands with the latest installment of the hit franchise, DJMax Technika Tune, for the PlayStation Vita. Technika Tune combines all that made the series great into one bundle for gamers on the go. How does this latest pocket-sized version of the arcade series hold up?
For fans of the series, DJMax Technika Tune will feel very familiar. The game is essentially the same from the arcade machines with a few extras taking advantage of the Vita’s features. For those who are not familiar with the game, Technika Tune is a music-based game where gamers will have to follow a series of on-screen prompts to complete the musical score currently being played. This includes pressing “notes” on the touch screen at the right time, along with sliding, tapping, and completing other gestures along with the music selected (similar to various other music games).
Technika Tune compiles music from across all the arcade games plus a few new additions just for the Vita, so there’s a lot to play through. The game includes four arcade modes. These modes, like the original arcade games, are generally skill-based. “Star Mixing” is the beginner mode where only the touchscreen is used and only basic gestures are required. On this mode, you will need to complete 3 songs that you can choose from the songs menu. “Pop Mixing” is the intermediate mode which includes use of both the touchscreen and rear touch pad plus more difficult gestures to follow on screen. Once again, only three songs are required. “Club Mixing” is pretty much the pros-only mode for advanced players. This mode uses all of the game’s features on the touchscreen and touch pad. In addition, Club Mixing requires that you complete four songs. The final mode available in the game is “Free Style.” Just like the name implies, you can go through the menu of songs available (including songs unlocked from other modes) and play as you please. All of these modes give the player the option to go at his pace, although there is a bit of a steep learning curve.
Technika Tune is by no means an easy walk through the park. The game is tailored to core fans who dedicate a lot of time at perfecting their skills. At the same time however, any gamer can become a pro with a little hard work and dedication. Fortunately, before getting right into the game, a tutorial will take you through the basics of how to play. The tutorial itself can be a challenge as it is like throwing a baby into a pool so that they can learn how to swim. The tutorial goes step by step with each kind of note and gesture that you’ll need to perform throughout the game, but it doesn’t pull any punches; You’ll need to keep up and it will not slow down for you. Fortunately, if you don’t think you’re ready to get into the meat of the game, you can always revisit the tutorial through the game’s menu. As a side note: One should also note that difficult levels can be changed under the options menu. This will adapt each arcade mode to your difficulty of choice accordingly (Easy, Normal, Difficult).
The game itself is quite fun and addicting. Admittedly, for someone who is not a regular player of the series, it will take a bit of time to get into the game. I suggest starting out on the Star Mixing mode (on easy or normal difficulty) and working your way up from there. Each stage has a good selection of songs that get a little more challenging as you progress. You can select from a variety of music on each stage. Whatever you want to play, as long as it’s available to you on the menu it is up to you to choose. As mentioned prior, the game can be challenging, but it’s oh so satisfying when you actually get a nice firm grasp of the controls and mechanics (which are all based on touch functions for gameplay). Just about all of the stages I played (all of them) are responsive. As long as your timing is right and your screen isn’t dirty, the touch functions respond as they should.
Now, when I say Techika Tune is challenging, even on the beginner’s mode, there are some songs and stages that will make you want to rip your hair out. The speed and accuracy needed to keep up with some songs is mind boggling at times. But as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” Or more likely, a lifelong dedication to playing this game and only this game. Your hand-eye coordination has to be on point, especially when progressing to some modes that use the rear touch pad and that use gestures which require you to tap multiple times for one note and alternate. Be warned, it may make your mind melt. The challenge however, doesn’t only come from the game’s difficulty. Playing the game on the Vita’s screen can be a challenge at times due to the fact that the Vita’s screen, while large for a handheld, is considerably smaller than the arcade machine’s screens. Because of this – your hand can get in the way and impair your vision from time to time. This is especially true when it comes to the lower half of the screen. There are ways around it, but you do have to train your brain and make a conscientious effort to keep your hand out of the way. I would have found this game a little better suited for a tablet or even the Wii U.
There is a good variety of songs on the game that include popular K-Pop, Dance, Trance, Rock, Hip Hop, House, and more. Most of the music (like 99%) are original songs or mixes from Asia. Don’t get the game expecting to see some tunes from your favorite Western artists in it. The DJMax series originates from Pentavision studios in South Korea, so it is heavily influenced and surrounded by the musical culture found there. Still, there are a lot of good songs to hear. Each song has a music video, either music videos from the artists themselves, or backgrounds and visuals made for the DJMax games. Some are quite creative, others quite odd. For the few animated videos, there are some with beautiful art – others are also a bit crude; But while you’re playing the game itself, the background video will not be focus for you. Now, if you do want to kick back and just listen to the music and watch videos, well, you can do that too.
DJMax Technika Tune has a nice little addition at the “Select Menu” where you can simply listen to all the music in the game and watch their videos (if they have one). This can be found under the “Album” option on the Select Menu. You can even make a playlist by favoriting music in the Album area. Back at the select menu, there is also a “Collection” mode. Under “Collection” you can find all the extras that you unlocked throughout the game. This includes an image gallery, bonus movies, your play data, and internet ranking. This all takes you back to the fact that there is a lot of replay value in this game.
In addition to the 60+ songs in the game, there are tons of things you can unlock. This includes images, video, and audio that can be found in the “collection.” Not only are there unlocks to find, but there’s also the matter of bettering yourself. Each song you play under each stage and each mode is scored based on your performance. S is the highest you can get – So challenge yourself to do better, beating your previous scores and achieving perfection. The game also contains small perks that you can unlock for use during the game, and a level meter for your profile. There are also leaderboards for each mode where you can check your ranking and try to outscore other gamers around the world. No matter which way you look at it, DJMax Technika Tune has a ton of content and a lot of replay value.
DJMax Technika Tune is the complete arcade experience in the palm of your hand. Although I do feel the game would have been better suited on a larger screened device, it still performs well enough on the Vita. Technika Tune provides a true challenge that can be frustrating at first, but rewarding after mastery. With a plethora of content to go through, DJMax Technika Tune will have you tapping your foot, nodding your head, and playing the game for hours, days, weeks, and possibly months without end. This is surely a game that any fan of the DJMax series will want to pick up and it’s also a really great game for music game fans looking for a challenge.
[Note: A free digital download code for DJMax Technika Tune was provided for review by Pentavision]