Lost Summer Archives – DJMAX Respect Review

Originally written: 01/26/18

Foreword: I was cleaning out my laptop and I came across an old review I wrote as a sample for an opportunity that sadly never took off. I wrote this review based off of the Asian version of the game as the NTSC version did not come out yet. A lot of content hadn’t come out yet, so expect a lot of things to be outdated here. Two years later and we now have both the NTSC PS4 and the Steam versions. Effing…. POP/STARS is in the Steam version! Time flies. Anyways, enjoy this for the first time seeing the light of day!

“Glory Days” are here again, indeed!

The year is 2009. I remember that hot Summer day, cashing in my final paycheck from my Summer job two weeks before senior year in high school, and immediately spending it on two things, a new PSP and DJMAX Fever. What fueled my purchase at the time, was that I wanted a game to play during my train rides to and from school and I’ve heard through word-of-mouth that this game would fulfill my button mashing needs. What kept me a fan for over eight years, was the music, the game play, and the overall love that the fans, developers, and composers have for the series.

Whether it was in the arcade with Technika, on a mobile device with Ray, or on the PC with Trilogy, the series proved a gateway to other rhythm games outside of DJMAX, yet I always found myself coming back to it. That was why the reveal of Respect was one of the main reasons for me to own a PS4, much like how I purchased that PSP with Fever eight summers ago. Since the release of Respect, it’s a purchase any fan of rhythm games, both new and old, will enjoy.

DJMAX, a franchise and a household name in the South Korean gaming industry since its humble beginnings as a PC game in 2004, had long since staked its claim as a driving force for rhythm games worldwide. For several years it had filled a void in the rhythm game scene with its Portable series.

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The vibrant colors, intricate FMVs which played in the background, flashing effects, the various genres of music, and overall presentation featuring the eccentric announcer JC gave players an arcade experience at the palm of their hands, easily attracting newcomers to the game. The game play, being easy-to-learn yet sometimes unforgiving-to-master, serves as an addiction to keep playing. At some point, every single player of DJMAX have heard these taunting words echoed through their headphones any time you reach a Game Over.

YOU NEED MORE PRACTICE,
NEVER GIVE IT UP!

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Yet, far from discouraging, those words only fuel your resolve to keep playing, and playing, and playing, more and more, until you finally cleared that song that you have been stuck on for an hour. You come for the pleasing aesthetics and awesome music, but stay for the near masochistic game play until you conquer that roadblock and amp up the challenge, pushing yourself, and your blistering thumbs, to the limit.

Neowiz, formerly Pentavision, in this regard have giving fans both veterans to the frantic high-octane five-hundred notes per minute action, and beginners clearing charts at a reasonable crawl, enough content to last for years, if not potentially decades.

This was what Neowiz aimed for, with the release of DJMAX Respect in the Summer of 2017, a compilation of songs ranging from DJMAX Portable 1, Portable 2, and an entire soundtrack of new songs specifically made for Respect. The intent for Respect, however, is not meant to be just a “last hurrah” for the legendary franchise, but also as the title suggests, a Respect to the series and its fans.

Boasting the largest song list of any DJMAX game to date right out of the box with well over a hundred songs, Neowiz adds on to the already robust soundtrack with DLC ranging from their second PC game, Trilogy, to the “Metro Project” Portable games, including Clazziquai and Black Square, and their arcade flagship series, Technika.

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At the time of this writing, the Trilogy and Clazziquai Edition DLC are available for purchase. Aside from their entire catalogue from their respect games, the DLC also added UI tweaks. This included entire overhaul to the user interface to reflect the games of the past. With every pack there is also a new song or two, exclusive to Respect, further empathizing Neowiz’s vision of respecting the legacy that they created, while also embracing the new.

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The game play for DJMAX Respect follows the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” formula as it does little to deviate away from its core game play. There are four modes, 4B[utton], 5B, 6B, and 8B. 4B utilizes the left and up buttons on the d-pad as well as triangle and circle buttons, 5B adds the option of using the right d-pad or the square button, 6B makes it a necessity to use both of those buttons, while 8B adds the shoulder buttons to the game play.

Certain quirks affected game play for the Portable series are fixed for Respect, with the addition of utilizing the two trigger buttons. For example, 8B in the PSP version utilized the L and R buttons, which are also the same buttons used to change the scroll speed in game. The only way to change the speed in 8B was to pause the game and do it from there. Since the trigger buttons are mapped to speed up and speed down, this means you can change your speed in all modes, including 8B, during game play.

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Another quirk that was addressed was the utilization of the analog stick for certain charts that needed it. Now, instead of using the singular analog nub, you utilize both analog sticks for the PS4 controller, although this could be fine-tuned some more as there is no strategy in any of the analog notes. I’ve found myself simply holding the stick in any direction I pleased, rather than twirling the analog stick as it was a necessity in the Portable games.

Lastly, sticking to the “tried but true” formula, you must play through the game to unlock content, including songs, note skins, gear skins, and other elements. A personal problem I had with this, is that some of the unlocks you won’t see for a long time as you’d have to grind to unlock said songs through “achievements.”

There are milestones that you must complete within the game, ranging from how many songs of a specific difficulty you play, how many missions you cleared in Mission mode, and even how many times you missed a note. There are 24 different achievement categories in the game, each ranging from as little as five tiers for the more “challenging” tiers, to the average of ten tiers. After each tier cleared within a specific achievement, you unlock whatever is underneath that tier, then you move on to the next.

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If there’s a specific song you are aiming for, you often find yourself grinding songs just enough time to unlock the song you want to play in Free Mode, otherwise the only chance you can get to play these songs are whenever they appear in Arcade Mode.

Thankfully the DLC packs all come with the songs readily available in both Arcade and Free mode so there isn’t any grinding, but, DJMAX has always been a series about grinding for content. You get the most out of your money this way as you won’t be able to unlock everything within the first couple of hours, but it is a game meant to be played in bursts, much like, again, how the original Portable games were.

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At the current moment this game is only available to the Asian, Japanese, and the Korean market. All versions of the game are in English, making it highly import friendly. The great news is that there is a US release on the horizon as it was revealed during PSX 2017, so expect that release sometime during early 2018.

Regardless what region you pick this game up for, I highly recommend this game to anyone. It’s a grind fest, it’s brutal for the first time playing, and a PS4 controller isn’t a PSP so one would have to get use to the aerodynamics of the PS4 controller. With so much game play and content meant to last literally years, it’s a worthy investment and a proper sendoff to a franchise near and dear to me.