In a choice that will surprise not only my co-authors who I have been talking with about my choice for this week, but myself as well, I have chosen an arcade game as my game of the week this week. It's suprising not because it's an arcade game, but because it's a series that's not dead yet. It's Beatmania IIDX (Insert any style here) for the arcade/PS2.
Beatmania IIDX (Known from here-on only as IIDX, pronounced TOO-DEE-ECKS) is probably my second favorite game series, only to Dance Dance Revolution because I'm exponentially better at that than I am at IIDX, and I started playing it first. Also, it has better music. (Arguments to start... Never, because I doubt anybody capable of starting such an argument reads this.) So, why not DDR instead of IIDX? Uh... Because if you don't know what DDR is, welcome from your coma. It's the year 2009, and somehow you've stumbled upon this wonderful thing known as teh internets. IIDX is a DJ Simulator of sorts, in the same way that DDR is a dance simulator... It isn't. (Oh, you should know that DDR and IIDX were both created by Bemani, a branch of Konami that solely creates music games that use awesome controllers.) Those parenthesis bring me to my first point. Holy freaking crap the IIDX controller is the coolest damn contoller you will ever lay your pathetic little eyes on.
(That's the Japanese console controller.)
7 keys and a turntable. (It was orginally 5 keys in Beatmania and Beatmania III, which is strange considering III came out after IIDX) Dual-colored, flat rectangle notes fall from the sky, and all you have to do is press the corresponding button and spin a little plastic record. Each key also makes a sound when you press it, but they all change over the course of the song, so you aren't just limited to one key going "THUMP, THUMP, THUMP" to the bass and the other six just playing synth and the turntable doing the crash cymbal. (Actually, on higher difficulties, that's pretty much all it does). However, unlike our crappy American music games, instead of your guitar just making a foul noise... Er... Instead of not making any sound when you press a key when you aren't supposed to, you can still play the sound that each key is assigned to, so you can, in a sense, remix the song as you go. It tends to sound quite terrible.
But, it's not just as simple as hitting the right button at the right time and keeping your "Groove Gauge" from emptying. Well, actually, it is, however, just finishing with some points left in your Groove Gauge is not enough. It has to be filled AT LEAST 80% of the way or you fail. You could have full comboed a chart up until the very end and still fail just because you missed a few notes in a row, despite having gotten a new high score. You don't fail when your Groove Gauge reaches 0 either. You could actually just sit and wait through half of a song and then decide to start playing and still pass, despite having ignored most of the song. I can honestly say that I have done both of these (But mostly the first) MANY times. It makes the game quite frustrating.
The music, as you would expect in a DJing game, consists mainly of thumping trance, techno, and house music, but there is definitely a variety in the genres available. Whether you like eurobeat, hip-hop, or cheesy in-house covers of Toxic (Yes, the Britney Spears song), it's safe to say that there will be at least ONE song you find yourself enjoying as you play. Unlike most music games, though, you won't have a clue as to whether or not you'll actually like a song until you actually play it, because there's no song preview. Instead of a little 10-second clip of the song or something, you get to listen to the same loop over and over and over until you finally pick a song, or until the timer runs out, then you're just screwed into playing something considered Library Rock. That's actually another one of the game's charms. Every song is assigned to its own genre. While, as I already mentioned, most songs are assigned to the standard Epic Trance, Hardcore Techno, or Gabba, as the Japanese like to call it (You probably know it as Gabber... Or don't know it at all.), some songs have totally bizarre genres... Like Education, Cuddlecore, Lovely Trans Pop, or Tri Euro Fantasia (Though that is apparently a very good genre, judging by the whole one song I've ever heard of being placed in it.)
So, sounds like a party, doesn't it? No, not really. Don't get me wrong, I've brought my turntable and several Styles (Each new version of the game becomes the xth numbered Style, though every style after 10th ditched the "th Style" at the end each has its own unique subtitle. IIDX RED, Happy Sky, DistorteD, GOLD, DJ Troopers, and Empress, respectively. If you can't count, we are currently at 16 styles) to friend's houses, and we've had a great time with it... Well... I'VE had a great time with it, and they thought the concept was neat, but you'll need to devote more than just a couple of hours to the game just to start passing songs. This learning curve is STEEP like a... Well, I can't think of a comparison, but this game is hard like a- Oh... No. Even on the easiest setting, you'll probably spend your first few attempts struggling to make anything that remotely sounds the way it's supposed to. Plus, there's a distinct lack of familiar songs, so nobody is really going to go too crazy to play a song called Bitter Chocolate Striker. Don't get me wrong, I've yet to met someone who didn't at least slightly enjoy playing this game, but you're not going to have the party of the century with this game unless you happen to be a Bemani nerd and so do all of your friends.
Video by ST0iiC
For someone playing on Normal, he wasn't that bad. I was hoping to find someone who might have messed up more, just so people could see what it looks like, but it was suprisingly hard to find a high quality video of someone who sucked at it. Just for giggles, this next video is the hardest song I've ever passed (I'm still learning how to play and I've been playing for about 2 years now. It's ranked a 9 out of a maximum of 12 for difficulty) It's one of my favorite songs in terms of music as well, and you can see how awesome the music videos are. Well, okay, you can't really see the video too well in this video, but believe me, for a PS2 game, the graphics that accompany songs are awesome!
Video by Xythar
Now, if you promise to be good until the end of the review, I'll show you two more videos of what used to be the hardest difficulty, and the now hardest difficulty. Trust me, they'll make your head spin and your eyes explode.
IIDX is a pretty difficult game to find outside of Japan. If you have the proper connections and practice in sketchy activities that are frowned upon by copyright laws that I will not confirm I involve myself in, then it might actually be pretty easy to find. However, for the good people, you're gonna have to pay a whole bunch o' money and some import charges on top of the cost of a turntable controller, which'll run you from $30-$60 depending on where you look just to be able to play, unless you're one of the really lucky people who have access to an arcade version of IIDX, in which case I hate you. It should be noted that as with all console versions of their arcade counterparts from Bemani, console versions of IIDX have all of the new songs from the Style they are based on, along with a healthy portion of older songs. Each mix contains about 85-95 songs that clock in at about 2 minutes each, so you can practically get the arcade experience in your own home, just like it says on the box!
In 2006, Bemani finally listened to their North American fans and released a US version of IIDX, simply called Beatmania, as it featured both 5-key and 7-key gameplay. This mediocre attempt to throw fans a bone was... Well... Mediocre. There were only 58 songs available in this mix, despite that it was released after 9th style and really just a collection of songs, sort of a Best Hits (More like, "HEY GUYS! Remember DDR? Lookee! DDR songs!" But we'll save that nerdy rant for... Never, really.) It wasn't even a matter of cost since IIDX has never really used many licensed songs ever, though this was the mix that the cover of Toxic premeired in, which actually got a quite enjoyable Another chart in IIDX RED (I feel like I should mention that the three difficulties of IIDX are Normal (Formerly Light7), Hyper (Formerly 7-key), and Another (Which has always been known as Another). There's also a Beginner mode which lets you play on Beginner difficulty, wimps. The one good thing that we got from this half-assed mix was an improved turntable controller. This one actually has spring under the buttons so they don't get stuck, a problem faced by several Japanese players. (Ha ha) It was the first version of IIDX I played, and as a newbie, it was quite fun. If you see it anywhere, definitely pick it up. You can get the bundle for teh cheap now, and it's totally worth it, even if the mix itself sucks. (Be warned: Do NOT expect to get passed anything harder than a difficulty of 5, or maybe Colors Normal. The biggest gripe for this game was that there was no good set of transition songs to help get players from newbies to near decent players. Believe me, a good year and 9 months of my playing of this game was consisted of me struggling to follow anything rated 7 or higher because there were no good transition songs. It wasn't until recently that I started playing Japanese versions, and it wasn't until then that I could start passing 8's and 9's consistently. Yeah, still not very good at this game, and I tend to be pretty damn alright at most music games. It's hard.)
So there you have it. The Beatmania IIDX series by Bemani. It's definitely one of the most fun, creative, original, and frustrating games you'll ever play.
As promised, here is a video of the Another difficulty. (This is one of my favorite songs from IIDX and it's bound to get stuck in your head. Hello, 20cc)
Video by BeRevoPLAYER
And here is the newest difficulty, introduced in IIDX 15 DJ Troopers, some Japanese character that I can't type, or Black Another. (It's also a great example of how someone can have a Groove gauge of 0 percent at one point and still manage to clear a song.)
Video by djkc2dx