DJMAX Technika Tune: A challenging audiovisual rush

November 9, 2012

The DJMax series hasn’t found much light here compared to other music games here in the U.S., but it still managed to find its niche here. While some are familiar with the Beatmania-styled Portable series (DJMax Fever and DJMax Portable 3 both making their way to the states), the lesser known Technika has only made an arcade appearance for the last three years of its existence. At most, those machines have been scarcely placed around the country.

Fortunately for us, the fine folks at Pentavision decided to give us a taste of the arcade scene by bringing Technika to the PlayStation Vita. Considering the arcade cabinet has a 22-inch touchscreen, how well would this game translate to the Vita’s five inch screen?

Better than one would actually think.

The Technika series plays much differently than the Portable series. The screen is split into two horizontal sections where various notes are placed. When the timeline passes through the center of the note, you tap it and earn points. Missing the note will cause a combo break and health loss.  Various notes you’ll encounter are the regular Pink Notes, where you simply tap the note to activate it; Drag Notes, where you move your finger along the pattern of the note as the timeline moves along; Hold Notes, where you hold the note down until the timeline reaches the end of the tail; Chain Notes, like Drags where you have to move your finger along with the timeline, but instead at different points in-time with the music; and Repeat Notes, where you tap the first note, but then tap each additional point as the timeline moves along. Occasionally, the Repeat Notes will have holds in them as well.

The game is broken up into four different modes. Star, Pop, and Club modes are where you’ll be spending a majority of your time, considering most of the songlist has to be unlocked. Playing a chart in any of these modes will unlock then in Freestyle mode.

Technika Tune is a spectacle musically and visually. The game is packed in with over 60 music tracks from previous DJMax titles, eight of which are brand new to the series. The developers have also promised DLC, so the already-robust songlist can only get bigger. Each track in the game has its own background animation to enhance the songs. Ranging from live-action videos to some of the best abstract and animated videos you’ll ever see in a music game, each song comes to life thanks to Pentavision’s meticulous eye to detail.

While most of the songs’ backgrounds are beautiful, it does tend to cause a bit of distraction while playing (like in RockSTAR by Mr. Funky). The interface is taken directly from DJMax Technika 2, and the rainbow visuals only help to amplify not only how beautiful the game looks, but the power of the Vita itself.

Technika has a really difficult learning curve. While the game starts off easy, it suddenly takes off out of nowhere and start throwing difficult patterns in your face forcing you to hit the screen in very interesting ways. The Vita’s back panel is also used in various charts adding a bit of challenge to the traditional Technika style. The only problem I had using the back panel had to be the struggle of hitting notes at various points on screen.

Since you’re holding the Vita in your hands to play in this style, it will be a stretch to hit certain notes since you won’t have a free hand to hit chords or hit other crazy patterns. Sadly though, turning the back panel off and forcing the game to play traditionally either makes the charts harder or easier than they should be. Easier since everything is on the front screen, but harder because some patterns will just be ridiculous without the back panel (again, see RockSTAR by Mr. Funky in Club Mixing).

The game is also very grind heavy. Almost everything in the game is unlocked via leveling up. Considering the game has 100 levels to go through, it will take a while to unlock everything for both gameplay and the Gallery. This game is also tough for people who have large fingers (such as myself). Due to the smaller size of the touch screen, a large touch might trigger another note by accident, causing a combo break.

Despite the game’s shortcomings, this is one Vita game that shouldn’t be missed. With stellar music, visuals, and gameplay all packaged into one game, it’s a unique rhythm experience that shows people exactly what the Vita can do.

Pros: Great songlist, amazing visuals, unique gameplay
: Grind heavy, back panel implementation is hit or miss, songlist might not appeal to everyone

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.