DJ Max Portable 2
The best rhythm game on the PSP gets a splendid follow-up.
So...um, let me pose a question to you. Last month at the Game Developers Conference, Sony had a fun little import game tucked away at their booth called DJ Max Portable 2, the follow-up to the hit rhythm/music game that was released in Japan last year. Now, with the fact that the game was shown at a US event by a major US publisher, shouldn't that mean that SCEA has shown interest in bringing the game here? Alas, that's not the case. DJ Max Portable 2 is without a publisher, and that's a shame. I know D3 Publisher or someone else could easily pick up on these games and automatically be tapping into a goldmine. Seriously, this is the best musically inclined game for PSP since the Lumines titles.
The interface works in a similar manner to Konami's Beatmania games. Bars scroll onto the screen, rolling from top to bottom. Players have to hit the coordinating buttons on a longer bar as the shorter bars pass by them. Doing so begins to build a huge combo, and also builds up a Fever ability. Fever can be activated by hitting X and multiplies the score surprisingly high, going anywhere from two times its current value all the way up to six. The game not only features single bars to hit, but strings to hold down the button for, kind of like the "hold step" in the Dance Dance Revolution games.
DJ Max Portable 2's gameplay system can't be beat. It's quite kinetic and even a little forgiving for early or late button presses, but those seeking out a challenge shouldn't worry. The game is definitely hard enough. In fact, even on the easiest of difficulty settings, the game mounts incredible pressure on the player, with multiple bars scrolling down at once that become hard to keep track of. Novices can start the game with simple 4B (four button) play, before eventually moving in to deeper territory and coordinating more buttons with play. Up to eight can be used in all.
The graphics have a simplistic appearance, with the bar interface in the middle of the screen and some background art for each song playing on the sides. It works reasonably well for the PSP, just like the first game. The music list has over forty songs to choose from, including the likes of Makou ("Right Now"), Planetboom ("Starfish"), and Ruby Tuesday ("Good Bye"). Hardcore players will no doubt be finding favorites in no time, and those who want to take a listen to what's available can hop into the game's Jukebox Mode and shop around.
Along with the various multi-button modes, DJ Max Portable 2 also contains a Free Style mode, where players can select whatever songs they want to try out. The game also has a Mission Mode, with a number of challenges to be completed in order to move on. The most noteworthy feature, however, would be the Network Battle. A second friend can join in a regular battle, or can even endure a mixing battle against you, if you two are up for it. This adds a great deal to the game, although two copies are required to get it working. Just find another Portable player and you should be fine.
The game can also be "linked up" with the DJ Max Portable original game when indicated on-screen. Simply load in the first games and certain songs can be imported for play. It's not a bad feature, but it seems like a little too much work. And if you want to play the songs from the original game, wouldn't you just play the original game in the first place? Players can also view unlockables in a virtual collection, along with videos from the unlocked songs.
The fact that DJ Max Portable 2 doesn't have a US release lined up is a pure travesty. This is one of the better music/rhythm games for portable play and to see it taunted so much at GDC and then ignored when it comes to an actual release...it's just hard to take. Oh, well. Drop $50 on an import copy and have yourself a good time. The game includes a selectable English option, along with Korean and Japanese if you're up for that. So it's import friendly, fun, and challenging -- all that's left is a US distributor and things can only go up for this franchise.
What's Hot: Stellar song list; link-up abilities for two players; great gameplay
What's Not: Becomes difficult in a hurry; no sign of a US release