The key-based gameplay of Konami’s Beatmania series has received a tribute with the release of Nanjing AQUATRAX and bilibili’s INVAXION. Featuring a number of different settings, electronic music from the east, and a neon-drenched world, should you set out to be the very best?
Much like DJMAX or Beatmania, the goal of INVAXION is simple. Notes will scroll from the top of the screen to the bottom, and players must time their button presses to the position of the keys at the bottom. Those just starting out with the game can go with the four key setup, while those who are more familiar with rhythm games can go with a six or even eight key setup. Rather than use a dedicated controller, these keys are mapped to the keyboard. Though it does not work as well as the systems in other games, what is here gets the job done. Just don’t be surprised if it takes some getting used to. There is certainly a high barrier of entry though – songs are divvied up into “Standard,” “Hard,” and crushing “Trinity” difficulty settings, and encourage replayability.
If anything, INVAXION cannot be faulted by the amount of content it provides – the Quick Play and Arcade modes are just the start – the Cosmic Tour mode offers a number of different planet to conquer, each with their own missions and rewards. Complete songs with certain parameters, and currency to unlock additional songs, “Heroes,” and themes. There is a fair amount of content with a gradual learning curve (complete with tutorial missions at the beginning for neophytes), and will no doubt keep players busy for some time.
Players will also be able to take on the world with the game’s rank-based mode. With it, PVP comes into the picture as players up their ranking and take on different challenges. Getting a full combo is not enough – players must also be accurate when hitting notes in order to get the highest score and top the leaderboards. Time will tell if this mode is adopted by the rhythm game community, but it is a welcome addition that treads new ground.
A rhythm game is only as good as its music, and the song selection in INVAXION is par for the course. With more than 50 tracks, the selection of tunes leans heavily on pop and electronic style music. There’s not a lot of variety – don’t expect any Western tunes in the lot – but it caters to the audience quite well. It’s just a shame that some of the notes do not always sync up to the melody of each song – an audible noise happens whenever you press a note, and it sometimes sounded dissonant when everything comes together.
If anything, the aesthetics of the game sometimes work against it. At certain points of the game, the entire setup will shake and move in time with the music. It can be hard to focus during these times, though there are a number of options and “Heroes” that can be utilized to ease the burden and make things easier on the player. Despite this, expect to get a number of “Good” ratings rather than the “Maximum” or “Just” ones.
Though INVAXION’s gameplay does not shake up the rhythm game genre, the amount of options available is second to none. Those willing to cut their teeth will find a challenging title that pays tribute to the greats.