Publisher: Neowiz Games
Price: $49,99 USD
Release Date: March 6th, 2018
For the most part, rhythm games are highly unfriendly for western gamers. Despite the genre’s diversity, only a handful of games are easily available to players not living in Asia. Often times they will require special controllers and peripherals to be played, or can only be found in Arcades.
The Playstation 4 has already built a respectable library of rhythm games. Popular titles such as Project Diva and Taiko no Tatsujin were the best options up until now, but a new major series has just hit the platform: DJMax.
DJMax is a rhythm game in its most classic form. Music plays, notes trickle down over a track and the player must press the correct keys with the right timing to score points. Naturally, it’s much harder than it looks like, as anybody who’s ever played a rhythm game can attest.
I’ve been a fan of this genre for a little while now. I had been playing the same titles some time already and I was feeling eager to sink my teeth into something new. DJMax blew away all my expectations and delivered a more polished experience than I had hoped.
DJMax Respect has several game modes, each with a different set of quirks.
Arcade Mode gives a list of randomly-selected songs to choose from. Clearing three songs will successfully clear a round. You are given an evaluation at the end for the entire playthrough.
Freestyle Mode is the usual freeplay song list. The player can change difficulties, button schemes, cosmetics and modifiers for each song. You can only play music that you have previously unlocked. Freestyle also contains local multiplayer mode.
Online Mode is exactly the same as playing Freestyle multiplayer, except with an online opponent. The only difference is that any song can be played, regardless of whether it has been unlocked or not.
Mission Mode is similar to Arcade, except missions have specific clear conditions. Each mission has a list of specific songs that must be played back-to-back, without changing the preset difficulty and button scheme.
Furthermore, missions often impose special modifiers that will make it more difficult to clear songs. Fading notes, randomly varying the speed of the track, or distracting the player by moving the tracks left and right. Mission mode is easily the hardest of all game modes.
Local multiplayer can be accessed by playing Freestyle Mode and connecting a second controller. Both players must play the same song, but they can choose different difficulties and button schemes from one another. Online multiplayer is the same but all songs are available and both take turns choosing which music to play. Online play requires an active PS+ account.
I had no problem finding opponents online within the first month of release. Yet, I can’t really say that there was a lot of people online. It’s quite possible that the online for this game will become empty after a while. Other than having my ass absolutely kicked by every opponent I played, the Online actually works quite well. The only issue I had was that picking Random will randomize not just the song, but also the difficulty and button scheme. There’s a very high chance that it will just leave you with a setting you have no hope of clearing.
Each song has up to three difficulties, and for each difficulty you have 4 button schemes. They are referred to as 4B, 5B, 6B and 8B, denoting how many different notes will appear.
As it was my first time with this series, I went with 4B first. It was easy and intuitive, quickly allowing me to grasp the game and finish the first few songs. I was feeling quite confident after a couple of hours, so I shifted gears up into 5B. Or rather, I tried.
Adding a new key to the button scheme threw me off completely. I could easily follow the notes on screen, yet my hands were lacking the muscle memory to correctly press notes on the new track. I had to go back to the easiest songs and relearn the entire game, with baby steps this time.
Going up to 6B and 8B songs wasn’t as tough as the jump from 4B to 5B. It was at that point that I realized that certain songs’ most difficult modes were not necessarily the ones with most buttons. I could find incredibly hard 4B songs that had easy 6B schemes, as well as easy 4B songs that were tough at 8B and ever tougher at 6B.
After about 15 hours into the game, I started to appreciate how well and polished everything was structured. Because every song has different difficulties and button schemes, the number of different beatmaps in the game is huge. Better yet, every song has at least one difficulty and scheme that is easy, one that is average, and another that is incredibly difficult. There were almost no songs I could not play at all, despite being inexperienced.
It’s not just music that needs to be unlocked in DJMax Respect. Concept art and cosmetics, which can be freely used in any mode, are also unlocked as you play. It’s also possible to change which side of the screen to place the track, as well as dimming the video’s brightness.
Every song has a base score of 300.000. With 100% accuracy and no Fever bonuses, your score would always be 300.000.
Scoring a non-perfect hit on a note will deduct a certain percentage of the points. Fever works the same way, except it increases the score of every note press, up to 20% more points at Level 5.
Claiming that DJMax Respect is not a difficult game would be a lie. The game is incredibly hard, perhaps more than any other rhythm game I have ever played. Surprisingly enough, it was also the most beginner friendly one as well. There’s just as many easy musical beatmaps as there are difficult ones, which is definitely Respect’s best strength as a game.
While this may sound dissonant with my previous claim, DJMax Respect also happens to be the most forgiving rhythm game I have played to date. This is due to two different things, which I will explain.
The first is key press timing. Usually, a rhythm game will punish you for getting the key press timing off, even if just a little. It came as a big surprise when I found that DJMax Respect was not dropping my Combos, even when my presses were completely off. It’s possible to get most of the song off-tune and still obtain a Full Combo. The game will not drop your combo unless you completely miss a note.
There is also an exploit that lets you finish songs that would be otherwise too difficult for you. Pausing the game and resuming will rewind the song slightly, meaning that you can slowly crawl through a song’s hardest sections by pause-scumming. The only person being cheated is yourself though, but I did find it weird that such an obvious cheat was left in the game. Restarting a song from the pause menu will also undo any mistakes you might have committed, restoring the combo score you had at the start.
The rhythm games I like the most are always the ones with the biggest song lists. DJMax Respect has over 140 tracks, with more coming as DLC.
After trying out every song in the base game, I was glad to find that I had enjoyed most of the tracks. In fact, I’ve tagged over 100 of them as favorites. Alternative music isn’t really my thing but I believe most genres of music have at least one representation in DJMax.
Every track has a different art style. High quality animation, simple animation, childish scribbles, and even live action video. Every song has a different personality that stands out. Music from previous titles have all been remastered to run at 1080p@60FPS.
Boost Mode on PS4Pro caused glitches on the Korean version of the game. The issue has been patched and there should be no issues with any models or versions of the game. Boost Mode does nothing.
Although I’ve described the pause issues as exploits, I don’t believe it’s actually a downside. It almost feels as if the developers are laughing at me when I do it.
An issue many users will find is that the requirements for certain unlockables are very obscure. There are guides on the Internet for unlocking everything, but it still feels unnecessary obtuse. Furthermore, I feel like I would need 500 hours to platinum this game. Just improving enough to the point where I can do all the missions is insane enough.
This review took a very long time to get out because I felt that it was incredibly unfair to write up on the game without spending a lot of time fiddling with it. The more time I put into DJMax, the more I came to appreciate the design and polish that went into it. I’m conviced that this is one of the best rhythm games available for the Playstation 4, and it comes loaded with content. It’s friendly for newcomers, which is what I believe will make it successful.