Publisher: PM Studios
Developer: PM Studios
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
I made a fundamental mistake when I started playing Superbeat Xonic: I started playing it at almost the exact same time as I cracked open Persona 4: Dancing All Night.
Now, I know that it's a little unfair to complain about a game being something it's not. You should evaluate a game on its own merits, rather than against standards it's not necessarily even trying to meet. That's especially true in this case, seeing as Superbeat Xonic is purely a rhythm game, whereas P4D brings in all kinds of visual novel elements to make the whole thing more Persona-like.
And yet…well, because I'm almost literally playing them side by side, a straight up comparison is inevitable. And viewed in that light, it's hard not to find Superbeat Xonic anything but underwhelming.
Let's start with the obvious difference: unless you're really fond of leaderboards, there's not a lot of replayability here. You play a level, you set your high score, and you move on to the next track. You can play the levels again in free play mode if you want, but as I said, unless you want to move up in the global Superbeat Xonic DJ rankings, I don't get why you would. Forget there not being a Persona-like story with characters and decisions to be made, there's not even a career mode here. Needless to say, it makes the game feel a little empty.
That's not the only area in which the game falls a little short, either. While Superbeat Xonic allows you to move back and forth between buttons and touch controls, neither one is particularly satisfying. Even at the absolute lowest difficulty level, playing with buttons requires a level of dexterity that I definitely don't possess, as the game calls on you to rapidly move back and forth between the D-pad, the face buttons and the thumb sticks. Then again, as annoying as the buttons may be, they're a little less frustrating than the imprecise touch controls. I can't count the number of times I had a combo come to an abrupt end as the game suddenly decided that I hadn't dragged my finge at quite the right speed, or that the area that was acceptable for the first two beats was suddenly unacceptable for the third. Seeing as Superbeat Xonic scores you on things like that, you can see why it would be a little frustrating. (And, again, to go from this to P4D and back again really highlighted for me how lacking this game is on the control front.)
Even the music — which you'd think would be the game's strong suit, considering the developer's pedigree includes the DJ Max series — leaves something to be desired. Everything here, regardless of genre, is covered in a shiny pop sheen, and after awhile you just feel like you're playing the same track over and over again. When your classical song sounds like your rock song, and the two bear a passing resemblance to your pop song and your big-beat dance track, it doesn't make for a very diverse-sounding game. Rather, it makes the whole thing sound blandly glossy.
Which, I guess, is the best way to describe Superbeat Xonic as a whole: it's nice enough to look at, and it does what it does with an expected degree of competence, but you wouldn't mistake it for the best the genre has to offer. And seeing as that particular best came out not too long ago, that makes it especially hard (if not outright impossible) to make a case for playing this particular game as this particular point in time.