Magical Beat Review

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Title: Magical Beat
Developer: Arc System Works
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 176 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download, Direct Download
EU Availability: Currently Unavailable

Arc System Works has been getting the Vita more and more support, lately.  That developer has always been experimenting with some new things.  When you first think of them, what do you think of?  If you’re like me, the name Arc System Works comes up and I immediately think of fighting games.  Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, specifically, are two big 2D fighting franchises that Arc System Works are best known for.

Among those franchises, there is a lot to look forward to.  Just this past week, there have been two BlazBlue-related games releasing on the PlayStation Vita.  The Vita got its own versions of BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma and Xblaze: Code Embryo recently.  Those are some big releases, especially with the developer jumping into the visual novel genre with Xblaze: Code Embryo.

But that’s not all they’ve been experimenting with.  Just a week before those two releases, Arc System Works brought together another game to the West that is experimenting.  Released months back in Japan, Magical Beat came to the West, which was a rhythm game and a puzzle game and kind of a Tetris game all at once, featuring Vocaloid-like music and DLC concerning BlazBlue and Xblaze.  Originally an Arcade game, here is our official review of Magical Beat.

Story

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Magical Beat doesn’t really have a story or plot attached to it.  You are just thrown into the game and can start playing different Game Modes and battling it out with the gameplay.  If there was a story to be told, it’s that many people from all over “Beat Land” have gathered to fight each other with a fighting style known as “Beat Weapon”.

Despite there being no plot, each playable character does have their own personality within their description at the Character Select Screen.  You have amnesiac androids like A-ko and mischievous rabbit-girls like Inaba.  Each character has its own small background for you to read, though there are no major scenes or anything of the sort when you play through the game.

It is hard to rate the story of this game, since there isn’t one.  But each character’s description is different and has an interesting feel to it.  The character diversity is similar to how characters differ in games like BlazBlue, but with no story attached to the gameplay.

Gameplay

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Magical Beat is an interesting game in that it’s not just one genre.  It’s a rhythm game, but it’s also a combo puzzle game.  It’s also like Tetris.  Arc System Works tried a lot of things and brought them together into this game, with how the gameplay goes as you play each song.  But, at its heart, it is mostly a rhythm/music game.  So, it should be classified as such.

When you first start the game, you will be thrown into the Main Menu, which has four different gameplay modes for you to take part in for Single Player, as well as one for playing against a friend in Ad Hoc Mode.  The single player modes are called Beginner Battle, Normal Battle, Hellish Battle, and My Own Battle.  Each of them consist of playing through a certain number of songs, and, aside from My Own Battle, each one runs a little harder than the last, with Beginner Battle serving as the game’s tutorial and Hellish Battle serving as the “Hard Mode” for the game.

The actual “Battles” take place on a board that looks a lot like two Tetris boards set up right next to each other.  On the left hand side is your character and on the right hand side is your opponent.  As the song starts, a metronome begins, showing you the Beats Per Minute for each song, which could be a fast-paced 180 beats per minute or a slower 120 beats per minute.  This is shown to get it into your head, as you will need to land button combinations on each beat.

As the song plays out, you will be offered pieces that contain multiple “Beatons”, which are square color-coded pieces that you can rotate and send down your board.  Think of it like Tetris pieces and the blocks that they contain.  You can earn points by pushing these down with the right timing with the beat, furthering your score and your progress against your opponent.

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Being color-coded, you will need to eliminate the same-color beatons as you progress to clear room for more as well as to create combinations to send “Jammer Beatons” onto your opponent’s board, making it hard for them to keep their count low.  The opponent can do this to you as well and you must eliminate normal beatons next to the Jammer Beatons to eliminate the Jammers, and if you get your pieces stacked to high, you will lose, just like in Tetris.

The key to getting high combo’s is not only connecting colored pieces but keeping it going and eliminating as many Beatons as possible.  After you connect three of the same color, they will blink for about 4 beats before they disappear.  You can send more pieces down during this time to lengthen the level of the combo if you get pieces with more of the same color that is already blinking.  This is an important aspect of the game as it requires very fast hand-eye coordination.

This is crucial as the difficulty of the game can spike a lot.  Going into Normal Battle can seem fine for the first two songs, but once the 3rd or 4th start, the opponent AI gets a lot smarter and you’ve got to keep combos going as long as possible to be able to outsmart them and get them to lose for that song.  You can also do a better combo with better timing with the beat.  So training yourself for those quick reflexes is the key even to winning in Normal Battle.

The game’s length can really depend.  There are 17 songs total as well as 13 characters.  A skilled player could play through all three Single Player Modes in 2-3 hours.  But, it felt like we spent at least that amount of time practicing in Normal Mode to get the feel of the game and how the difficulty spiked.  For a beginner to rhythm games and puzzle games, I would say the game should last you at least 4-5 hours, if not more.  There is also the extension of that as Arc System has confirmed that they will be bringing characters and songs from Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and Xblaze: Code Embryo as DLC in the future.

Controls

Controls are pretty light for Magical Beat.  Despite being developed for the PS Vita, touch controls are not used while you’re playing the game.  Perhaps they kept the controls the way they were as an arcade game for a reason.  But you will not have to worry about tapping the touch screen or rear touch pad for this, like you do in games like Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f.  You will just be using the buttons.

The buttons you use will also be pretty limited.  When you’re in the menu, you will be using the D-Pad to move around to different options.  Unlike most localized games, Magical Beat keeps its Japanese Control Scheme.  This means that pressing the Circle Button will confirm or select an option in the menu and the X button will cancel an option.  This was made pretty apparent when we booted it up for the first time and hit X, only to be returned to the Title Menu.

When you are in the middle of a battle, you will be using the D-pad to move the placement of your current piece.  You can use the Square and Triangle Buttons to rotate the piece either clockwise or counter-clockwise.  You can also use the Circle button to allow the piece to fall into place.  The Start Button is also used here to pause the game or open the menu.

All in all, it’s a very simple control scheme and only uses 4-5 buttons on the system.  It’s nothing that will be confusing for you.

Presentation

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Presentation is another unique part of the game.  Magical Beat has a very pixel-heavy presentation.  By this, I mean it looks like a very low-pixel game that was made back in the 80s and 90s.  It has a 2D “Retro” look to it.  It also can lead to a misconception that Magical Beat is, in fact, an Indie Game, when it is not.  I think the fact that a big developer like Arc System Works working on a game like this is interesting.  Although pixels, everything looks crisp and smooth.  There aren’t any breaks in the models or anything of that sort.

The audio is something that should be focused on as well.  From hearing the songs, it has a very apparent “Vocaloid” sound, much like the music found in the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva games.  This is because the soundtrack was composed and made by Kikuo, whom is a well-known Vocaloid sound creator in the Nico Nico network.

How the game plays also runs pretty well.  There is a relatively long wait when you first boot up the game.  The Title Credits will start after about five seconds, but the Title Menu won’t be able to be accessed until about 15 seconds in to go in and start playing the game.  Loading songs is quick, though.  It only takes a few seconds to get to the prompt where you can start up the song.  All in all, the game plays very well.  I experienced no technical issues.

Overall

Magical Beat is something very unique.  It’s a little Tetris, a little Vocaloid, and a little BlazBlue all thrown together into one game.  It does have a very steep learning curve and things get very hard very fast, so this is not for the impatient gamer.  There is a fun game behind it once you get the ropes and can get used to the fast-paced nature of the battles, though.  With Guilty Gear and BlazBlue DLC on the way, this is something Arc System fans should definitely look into.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Magical Beat a 7.5/10

 

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