DJ Max Technika Tune Review

Today, I blog about Technika.

My experience with rhythm games has been for the most part rather limited. I beat Gitaroo Man on Normal and played Parappa the Rapper at a friend’s house. I may or may not have drunkenly stumbled on a functioning Guitar Hero controller once. So it’s with virgin eyes and fingers (the first two times don’t count apparently, or if you’re drunk) that I approach DJ Max Technika Tune for Vita.

The first time you boot up Technika, you will be asked if you had any previous experience with the DJ Max series. Should you choose “No”, two things happen. First, you’ll be informed that the game has set the difficulty to “Easy”. This prompted me to immediately change it to “Normal” upon reaching the main menu. See, this is not something that needs to occur. The developers could have just as easily changed it without insinuating that I needed to ride the gaming equivalent of the short bus. People who play on easy mode probably don’t even bother checking the game menu anyway, and should one by some twist of fate fumble upon the correct combination of inputs that brings them to the difficulty settings, they’ll just assume easy was the default. By the way, if you play on easy you’re a scrub.

  The second thing that happens is that you’ll be shown a brief tutorial explaining the core mechanics of the game. Now after bashing developer Pentavision over a rather small and insignificant detail, it’s only fair that they should receive praise for an equally minute and unnoticed aspect: the tutorial is to the point, effective, and simple. There is no extraneous razzle and dazzle. Text appears explaining what to do, you read it, you perform the action once. That’s it. Bravo, it’s been 30 seconds and you now know how to play! Gameplay-wise, Technika is… well, a rhythm game. The goal is to hit things at the right time. The things here happen to be circles spread between the two horizontal halves, and the right time part is taken care of by a scrolling vertical bar that jumps to the other half and reverses direction when it hits the edge of the screen. The hitting part is arguably the most intuitive, and is performed via the Vita’s touchscreen. Pentavision’s twist to the genre however is that some notes need to be hit using the back panel, which seems about as revolutionary as adding an extra gear to your car. By the way, automatic transmission is like driving in easy mode.

By the time you reach the main menu, one thing becomes clear: everything is done via the touchscreen. Menu navigation is done by pressing your pudgy fingers to the glass instead of using the elegant weapon for a more civilized age known as the D-Pad. The analog sticks protrude uselessly from the device previously known as a Vita, now reduced to the state of a fat and rather poorly designed tablet.

The intricacies of the option menu.

  The meat of the game lies entirely in Arcade mode. Four further options are presented to you: Star Mixing, Pop Mixing, Club Mixing and Freestyle Mixing. These are all equivalent to various modes present in the Arcade cabinet releases should you be familiar with them. To give a brief rundown, Star Mixing mode lets you play 3 charts sans back panel notes, Pop Mixing follows the same format but this time with back notes enabled, and Club Mixing lets you select 3 songs from various themed sets, with a fourth “boss” track being added at the end. Completing charts in the aforementioned modes makes them available in the self-explanatory Freestyle Mixing section.

Average chart difficulties follow a Star < Pop < Club progression, but there’s still some variability within modes. The gameplay is fun and the touch controls function well once you start an actual song. The back panel notes are a gimmick, true, but it works well enough. Having rather small hands, I ended up using my dominant one to perform actions on the front panel while holding the Vita and pressing the back notes with the other. It’s not the most intuitive thing out there, but it works well enough. Besides, the grip is hardly the main source of difficulty in this game. As an arcade port, Technika is necessarily unforgiving. You can afford a few misses here and there, but as soon as you lose the thread of the song and multiple notes in a row start slipping by you, it’s game over. A well-designed game however will keep its players interested despite the hardships, and Technika performs admirably in that regard. World-wide scorecharts means that much more competition, and replay value is kept high due to a large selection of songs (Wikipedia tells me 67, but the actual number of charts is higher than that since the same songs are available in different modes). As you might expect given the developers’ base of operation, the tunes are heavily Korean influenced. The game’s of course not exclusively filled with k-pop and actually touches a large variety of musical genres that I previously did not even known existed.

  The songs are accompanied by visuals in the background that you’ll be too goddamn focused on trying not to fuck up the gameplay to ever notice. However, Pentavision graciously included an “Album” mode where you can not only listen to all the tracks, but also view the animations that come with them. Like the songs themselves, the videos are in eclectic styles, and are all for the most part extremely well executed. Well worth a watch in between two bouts of Arcade mode.

A few examples of the different styles.

  In addition to the virtual jukebox, there’s also a “Collection” tab that inventories the various images that you’ll unlock by playing through the game. Nothing really wrong with that, and being showered with “x unlocked!” messages after pretty much every song at least gives me the impression that I’m progressing. To further drive that point, the game also incorporates a level system which is tied to the list of available sets in Club Mixing mode.



The Good:

-Simple but polished gameplay, after a period of adaptation
-Outstanding visuals
-Difficulty that spurs you forward
-Vast and varied (to my eyes at least) selection of songs

The Not So Good:

-Navigation is entirely via touchscreen
-Despite the addition of back panel notes, the game would’ve felt more at home on a larger screen, say a tablet
-No chart editor/ability to play own songs
-The Facebook integration option is—even if disabled by default—in poor taste


If you’re a fan of music games and own a Vita, chances are you already own this game. If you abhor them, DJ Max Technika Tune will not sway you. But if you have even a moderate interest in rhythm games or enjoy the kind of difficulty only an arcade game designed to suck you out of your quarters can provide, there’s still time to ask for that Technika before the end of the world Christmas Boxing Day the end of 2012 Chinese New Year.

Posted by Kyhz under Video Game Reviews, Vita | Permalink

One Response to “DJ Max Technika Tune Review”

  1. Fungi says:

    if you are new to music games: taiko DX (PSP) or DIVA f

    if you are not new to music games: skip this one unless you have pointy stylus fingers or enjoy GRINDING FOREVER
    or I guess if you absolutely must tap circles to KARA