In my years as a gamer, I've come to love the rhythm-based genre. Whether it's using my feet with Dance Dance Revolution, my palms for Donkey Konga, or my digits with Guitar Hero or any of the Hatsune Miku titles, these music games often find my way into my heart with the greatest of ease. But DJMAX Respect, the latest in the DJMAX series, is a beast of a different kind. This is the game that sets the rhythm game players into two categories: those who play for fun, and those who play to compete. And if you find yourself in the former like myself, well I've got some bad news for you.
Featuring 147 songs (107 from past games and 40 new songs), DJMAX Respect will have players hitting the right buttons to the beat of the music. Modes can range from the simpler four-button songs to the expert-leveled eight-button tracks, each with their own set of normal-hard difficulty. Its Arcade Mode will let you play the majority of the songs right off the bat, but to unlock them all, you must go through Mission Mode and complete levels with the right set of requirements. But believe me: the path towards rhythm game greatness is tattered with hazards and unexpected twists and turns.
I might have used the term "simpler" in my previous paragraph, but there is nothing "simple" about DJMAX Respect's gameplay. Nay, this music-based game has a sheer sense of being unforgivably brutal to its players and whoever else wants to try their hands at what at first appears to be just another rhythm game. Instead, you will be greeted with fast-paced button-mashing and a hardcore difficulty that's been hidden behind some great music and visuals. This is the sort of title that judges you harshly with your gameplay, slapping you with a "FAIL" screen if you mess up even just a wee bit much!
My experience with DJMAX Respect had me experiment with how to play this game properly. At first, I had my DualShock 4 controller in my hands like normal, as I attempted to press the buttons at the right time. When that didn't work out, I tried to play the game with the controller on a flat surface, as if using a miniature arcade stick. Of course, this caused me to accidentally initiate the tempo of the button-pressing to higher levels, causing me to mess up even more-so than before. It was then when I realized that this is the type of game that required you to be a thumb master with both the left and right buttons, and while I did just a tad bit better there, it still resulted in many moments of pure failure.
Needless to say, my mentality of being a true rhythm game master has been pushed all the way down to mere fanboy levels thanks to DJMAX Respect. This is the sort of title that should be the final round for any music game tournament, as it truly separates the novices from the experts. And even though I was a ginormous failure at this title, it's one I can't be mad at. For a rhythm title to come out that slices the chumps away from the serious players, you have to give it a lot of, well, respect.
With that being said, it would've been nice to have a sort of mode where you can play the levels and songs in a fail-free zone, so as to be able to enjoy both the music and the visuals that are presented. Tracks from the likes of NieN, Paul Bazooka, GOTH, and even Ridge Racer composer Sampling Masters MEGA are brimming with killer beats, beautiful vocals, and unique personality, showcasing a sound worthy of any of the best dance clubs on the planet. Its anime-inspired visuals that accompany the songs are also noteworthy, being reminiscent of the works of late GAINAX/Studio TRIGGER productions. Even in their 3-4 minute intervals, these shorts often find themselves telling a beautiful story, despite the music being the only thing conveying its emotion. (Then again, that's what makes a great music video in the long run.)
However, if you find yourself managing to master DJMAX Respect, you'll be able to access the songs, visuals, and other goodies in its Collection Mode. (Those who have played past DJMAX games, it's similar to Portable 3's Lounge Room setting.) However, in order to gain access to these tidbits, you've gotta be really good at this game, and being good is -- as mentioned -- easier said than done. For those who are able to appreciate these awards, then you deserve all the praise one can attain from the music game community; those who can't, well, you've gotta keep on practicing until you do.
- Excellent music selection
- Plenty of game modes
- Beautiful visuals
- Extremely difficult
There are two kinds of reactions DJMAX Respect will give its players: either you will be considered the best rhythm gamer on your block, or you'll be deemed a mere fair-weather fan of the genre. The result will not be known until you dive into any song in its normal, four-button setting. As for me, I'm okay knowing that I suck at DJMAX Respect, as it shows that developers NEOWIZ know how to take their challengers very seriously. If you play these sorts of titles just for fun, I'd stay clear; those who see them as a way to compete with the best of the bunch, DJMAX Respect awaits for your skills.
Promotional consideration provided by William Murphy of Creative Hit Consulting