First Dissidia, now this? I haven’t even finished Star Ocean… my PSP has been working overtime lately, no thanks to the newest installment of DJ Max Portable, titled “Black Square”. And let me tell ya… it’s incredible.
Clazziquai Edition just came out a month ago, so the timing of this release may seem a bit early - but remember that CE was a sort of beginners-only release to introduce new players into the frenzy that is DJ Max, and BS is the “official” next game in the series.
Most fans of DJ Max Portable will tell you that DJMP2 was better than CE for one specific reason - difficulty. CE was just too freakin easy, which in turn made the note charts boring, and ultimately made it… feel weird, like it wasn’t as fun to play. Well, none of that here - Black Square is a full-blown challenge for the already initiated, and Pentavision has made some very subtle yet crucial tweaks from DJMP2 and CE:
Club Tour Mode
The “story” mode of Black Square - it’s essentially the same as what we had in CE, but this time with no wussy 2-button songs or any sort of tutorial mode (thank god). The action picks up right away, and while you start off at the 4B level, the difficulty quickly ramps up.
4BFX, 6BFX Modes
4BFX is 4 button mode plus the two shoulder buttons, and 6BFX is the same as 8B mode in DJMP2.
The selection of songs is as strong as that found in DJMP2, with 48 tracks balanced between trance, electronica, house, rock, and general pop music, and between vocals and instrumental-only tracks. Some of the tracks are from previous games - my quick count by memory has 14 tracks from the previous 3 DJ Max games including “Supersonic”, “Nightmare”, “Higher”, “Divine Service”, “Hamsin”, among others. The background video is an improvement from DJMP2, but not as well-animated as those in CE - probably to save room for more songs!
To me, this is by far the biggest improvement with Black Square over CE, and to a good extent over DJMP2 as well - the note charts have been tweaked such that they are much smoother to play through without being frustrating or egregious. There’s plenty of bouncing around with two-button combinations and plenty of fast one-button-at-a-time runs (see below) - quite simply, the songs are much more fun to play! Furthermore, almost every song, regardless of difficulty and mode, has a great note chart - so now, instead of always playing FTR or Ladymade Star or Flea, I find myself frequently playing the songs I don’t like as much just because the note chart is so fun to play through. This is a big deal as it really expands the playlist and gives the game much, much more replay value.
DJMP and DJMP2 had a wide range of difficulty from the level 1 songs all the way up to level 13 or 14, with a pretty even distribution of each; CE was stacked with lower-level songs - BS readjusts this accordingly with the majority of songs between level 6 and 10, which is where most experienced players will fall. Of course you always have those crazy guys that blaze up the level 14 songs like nothing - and there’s plenty of space for them to work in BS, as many songs have a hard, MX (super hard), and RD (redesign - uberhard) version that average about level 13. Thankfully, there’s very few extremely easy songs - for example, the easiest 6B song is level 4, which makes great sense - what would you be doing in 6B if you didn’t know what you were doing! Couple this fact with the great note charts and you have a truly expanded playlist and vastly improved replay value.
Lesser Features and Tweaks
- One of the more noticeable features was the inclusion of the initial “Try Your Ability” note - a single note that drops at the very beginning of the song to give players a sense of how fast to set the speed at - this is a life saver for those trying to keep their combos between songs of varying speeds. There’s a bit of time to quickly adjust the speed with the shoulder buttons (or in the pause menu if it’s in FX mode) to make sure they don’t drop too quickly or all clog up the screen at once.
- BS, like CE, has the “auto fever” setting that automatically triggers the fever multiplier, but unlike CE, the fever bar charges much slower when the auto is activated. In many of the story mode songs, it’s necessary to have the manual fever on to reach a certain combo or score requirement. Oh, and did I mention the max fever is 7x now?
- CE was a bit uncomfortable for me because the selection of note graphics weren’t great - I ended up using Aqua Note the most but I still didn’t like it much - come to think of it, they weren’t that good in DJMP2 as well. BS has a good assortment of notes and gears to choose from, varying in shape, thickness, width to accommodate for all preferences.
- There’s some cool stuff in the “Collection” area, including a substantial “DJMAX Live MIRACLE Concert” video with a couple songs being performed live by the actual rapper and DJs - probably not as nerdy as a DDR competition, still just as awesome!!
DJ Max Portable Black Square Trailer
Add all these things up together with the tried and true quality of Pentavision, and you have yourself the best DJ Max Portable game yet - and quite possibly the best PSP game to date (no disrespect to Crisis Core and Dissidia!) And yes - even though this is a Korean import, there’s an option for English or Japanese! Why can’t all game companies be as understanding…
If you’re still new to DJ Max, I would recommend you start with Clazziquai Edition, then work your way up to Black Square. But of course, if you’ve always been a stud at video games, just go straight to Black Square - it might be a bit frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it, there’s nothing more fun and with more replay value on the PSP today.
And what’s a DJ Max blog post without a demonstration from yours truly? :)
It’s actually the room shaking, from my blazing fast thumbs
Addendum: Pentavision has released an UPDATE to Clazziquai Edition, adding extra difficulty to several songs. It’s an extra 200mb on your memory stick and takes advantage of the data install function.
Addendum2: DJ Max Fever is set to release on January 9, 2009 - the first DJ Max Portable to hit American shores. If you don’t feel like paying the import premium, just wait another 2 weeks and pick this one up!