Friday, 6 September 2013

Sound Voltex II:Infinite Infection

Gamespot Score: n/a

My Score: 8.0

(+)Pros: - Innovative style of gameplay which separates itself from most generic rhythm games, - Badass suite of (mostly remixed) tracks, - Remix sound effects during gameplay really get you going, - Higher difficulty songs prove to be a real challenge, - Tons of rewards and unlockables, encouraging players to keep coming back for more, - Online matching makes you the savior of others or can have other players saving you from a pinch.

(-)Cons: - Gameplay requires significant micromanagement and is hard to master, - Most songs have remix tunes to them, and players who are turned off by synth-based music will not like a majority of the given tracks.

Gameplay cost: High (At the time of this review)

Its been a long time since my previous arcade game review (I'm not one to hit the arcades that often), but here's a game that I have been hooked to recently. Ever since my attachment as an intern at a distant office from home (I'm exaggerating), I've been going to the nearby arcade to hit up this interesting new game which was released at that time. Ever since then, I've been going multiple times a week just to play the said game, "Sound Voltex II:Infinite Infection".

Time for a short history lesson, what happened to the first one? Well, Singapore didn't get the "Sound Voltex" arcade machine until this year, and the first one was out in Japan early 2012....which meant that Singapore is a good year and a half late. Well, we got "Sound Voltex II", and that's what I was hooked to. What can I say, the things that draw me to arcades most are the badass japanese rhythm games (especially Konami ones).

The machines.

This is how the "Sound Voltex" booths look like, pretty cool, don't you think? THIS was what caught my attention the first time around. As you can see, the design of the arcade machine itself is exaggerated to no end, and in arcades, its even better. The borders glow and flash with blinding, colorful lights, and the side speakers boom with synth music so good that it makes my ears other words, the machine itself already craves attention, how can one not walk over to it?

Insert coin. Yes please!

"Sound Voltex II" at the time of release in Singapore, was pretty overpriced, even for a rhythm game (most of these are overpriced, compared to fighting games and racing games). Its $2.50 per pop, which is 5 credits at most outlets. This discouraged me at first, but I just sucked it up and played it, because I was so hooked to the gameplay. Honestly though, for the amount we're paying, its a decent exchange, as its easy to tell that there's easily more content (or at least on par), with the other Konami bemani style games. As with most of those, "Sound Voltex II" rewards you if you have an E-amusement card, so if you're intending to go far with the game (like me), having one will definitely make your time with the game more worth it.

The funky and cool ass button layout.

"Sound Voltex II"'s gameplay is different from most other rhythm games available in arcades currently, or from most rhythm games in general. Instead of having a singular button type in its complete layout, it has 2 other unique button types, making it a game with 3 button types that you need to interact with. The four regular buttons (BT-A, BT-B, BT-C and BT-D) represent the buttons that you have to press like in every other rhythm game. The notes come down, you press the corresponding buttons in return, its as simple as that. In contrast with those regular buttons, the FX bars will come down, and those are mostly holds. As the name suggests, FX notes usually mess with the tune and grant some cool sound effects to the music. Te FX buttons are FX-L and FX-R, located below the regular buttons.

Now for the reason why you're playing the game, the sound knobs. These are the VOL-L and VOL-R knobs, located above the regular buttons. In game, these come down as long blue and red bars, you have to turn the knob to correct corresponding colors of the knobs. These bars usually come and lean to a certain direction, you have to turn the knob at the appropriate speed to match that of the bar on screen. Sounds easy, but when you're micromanaging  the other buttons, it quickly becomes a fast paced game that is difficult to follow, at least on the higher levels.

Select your death chart!

As mentioned earlier, "Sound Voltex II" is a game based off remixing, the gameplay itself tells us that, with all the FX sounds and synth based tunes. With that in mind, you can easily tell if the game is for you. If you're into the whole remix thing, the game has an entire library of badass remixed tunes for you to play. Almost the entire song library is filled with remixed tunes, and you may find some of these songs familiar if you're into J-pop (exit trance and vocaloid songs are here, in addition to the amazing Konami originals).

After selecting your song and one of its three difficulty levels (novice, advanced, exhaust), the game begins after matching you with an online individual or your friend (if you're playing locally together at the same arcade). The songs in the game are spread across levels in terms of difficulty, ranging from the ridiculously easy Level 01 songs to the insane Level 15 songs. Gameplay is as mentioned earlier, and as you play through the song and get the mixing sounds going, you can really feel the awesomeness as the screen speeds up and slants itself while you keep your combo streak going. Not many games can match up to the sensation that you experience as you play "Sound voltex II". Beginners should also feel at ease, as the online play system matches you with other players. If you fail a song and your match-made player clears it, you are saved and can proceed on. It works the other way round too, you can be someone else's savior.

Feel the speed!

You get to play 3 songs for each playthrough, and while its pricey, you'll get your kick out of it. The game's higher difficulty songs prove to be a real challenge, and while learning the game is easy, mastering it is not, and songs above level 13 will quickly teach you that. To proceed to the next song, you have to survive through one, and to do so, you have to get your speed gauge above 70%. Its simple, the speed gauge rises as you hit notes and rack up the combo, it falls when you miss notes in rapid succession.  By keeping that in mind, the game is not easy, not by a long shot (though it doesn't compare to Beatmania IIDX, that is bullshit).

As you finish songs, you are graded on your performance, and these scores are saved onto your e-amusement card, so you can access them in later plays (its important to challenge yourself yo get higher scores, both for self improvement and bragging rights). You also receive BLC, based on your score. BLC is the game's currency, and at the end of each playthrough, you can use the BLC you've accumulated to purchase songs at the "Sound Voltex II Station". These songs then become unlocked for future play. There are a crap ton of unlockable songs, and when you combine that with the events that take place from time to time, you've got a nice system of encouraging players to come back. 

Seem confusing? Yes it is.

Cons? Well, people who cannot handle micromanagement will be severely turned off. Seriously, I've known a good deal of friend that gave up after a few plays, just because the micromanagement of the 3 types of buttons was a little bit too extreme.  It seems easy at first, but quickly becomes overwhelming. If you aren't a micro person, practice makes perfect. The game's music library can also be a quick turnoff to players who dislike the synth based music, because unfortunately, the game is FULL of it. Want something that's not so "remix-y"? Other Konami music games can provide that, but "Sound Voltex II" is full of synth.

"Sound Voltex II" is a great experience for me. I'm not too much of an avid player of the game at the time of this review, but I haven't considered myself out just yet. My past 4 months or so with the game have been an absolute blast, and I'd recommend the game to all arcade rhythm game fans, at least give it a try. The controls seem daunting at first, but when you get used to it you'll find a unique rhythm game that'll challenge your micro skills to the max.

Happy gaming!