From the North American console debuts of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone and Superbeat: Xonic to the announcement of Persona 3 and 5 Dancing All Night sequels, 2017 is a great year to be a rhythm game fan. So of course, what’s one more re-release to add to your musically inclined smorgasbord? Originally released last year for the PC, The Metronomicon is back on consoles for an encore with a new mode and some fresh new tunes that will have everyone getting jiggy with it. Put simply, The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor is a musical masterpiece.
In The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor, four graduates from the Neon Shield Academy are tasked with ending some strange parties, where monsters rave and destroy all who stand in their way. Throughout the 50-song, five-world campaign, the crew recruits more people to their cause, including a scientist, thief, and a peculiar old man. The plot is, for the most part, very silly and doesn’t take itself too seriously; most rhythm games shoehorn an explanation for their mechanics, and this one is no exception. However, the game is wacky and charming enough that it gets away with the slightly cheesy storytelling.
The most unique thing about the game is within the mixture of two unlikely genres: rhythm and RPG. Akin to something like Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor tasks you with controlling four lanes of four characters, hitting the corresponding notes in order to land attacks. Depending on how many consecutive beats you can mash correctly, you’ll be able to cast three different tiers of attacks or spells. After selecting an attack, you’ll have to switch lanes for a short period before you can go back to that character. The characters you select are important as well, since you’ll have to balance what they offer with the enemies at hand, who will constantly attack you regardless of whether you cast attacks or not. It’s this frantic flow that is the game’s shining moment: what should fail spectacularly becomes a marriage of perfect gameplay. While it will be overwhelming for the first few songs, the game’s three difficulty levels means that newbies and veterans alike can enjoy the music and practice along. The game also supports multiplayer as well, so you can bring a friend along if you want to grab some help or tackle a harder song together.
The presentation of the game is top-notch for an indie. I didn’t notice any framerate drops while playing (a constant steady experience is essential for music games), and the scrolling notes are distinct enough and don’t blend in with the background. This is also important since you’ll be constantly afflicted with debuffs such as having the notes be monochromatic or spinning around, so having clear cues is important for a good experience. While I was mostly focused on the note charts, the backdrops are colorful and fit the aesthetic nicely. It’s goofy, unique fun with a fantasy flair. You also get leaderboards, which will appeal to the rhythm game fans who love being on top. Heck, I felt like a big shot getting the top score on a couple of the hardest songs (though this will probably be outdated by the time I post this review):
I was surprised with how well the RPG mechanics work within the game as well. While The Metronomicon sways more towards the rhythm aspect of the two genres, there are still things that will cater to those that love to grind. By working through songs in the story mode, you can level up your attacks as well as stats, and get equipment in order to change your stats. In addition, the game has an elemental rock-paper-scissors rotation (where elemental enemies will be weak and resistant to certain elements), so you’re better off experimenting with a team setup before tackling a set challenge. I really liked how each character is a distinct class with their own advantages and disadvantages: Clark, the medic, is almost entirely dependent on defensive spells, while someone like Wade is a physical force to be reckoned with. These archetypes are great for playing around the game, and you’ll need to keep switching teams in order to succeed.
Boss battles are also dependent on these RPG mechanics, since they need to be defeated in order to complete the stage (as opposed to regular stages, where you simply need to survive). Like my preview of last year’s original release, I didn’t really enjoy them as much as I thought I would since they do end up killing the flow of the rhythm game aspect. Even if you play perfectly, you’re going to have to grind a couple of songs in order to get strong enough to beat the boss, and it doesn’t help matters when the boss can tag out for a few seconds and distract you with a low-level enemy.
Of course, no rhythm game is complete without music. The main game features fifty songs from an eclectic group of artists, with exclusives from artists like Shiny Toy Guns and Jimmy Urine (Mindless Self-Indulgence). Whether it’s hard rock or chiptune or J-pop, there’s going to be something to enjoy for everyone. The music encompasses a plethora of genres rather than having one set flavor in mind, which is a great approach to the rhythm genre. It takes the “I normally wouldn’t listen to this, but it’s great here” vibe that the Rock Band series does and runs with it perfectly. Additionally, the game will launch with two DLC packs that were previously released for the PC version, and include some other indie game tracks as well.
Aside from the main story mode, there are a couple of different ways to play along. You have the usual freeplay mode where you can practice your skills, and an arena where you will have to fulfill different sidequest conditions (such as beating an enemy while perpetually dizzy or not healing). New to Slay the Dance Floor is Endless mode, which is exactly what it sounds like: a gauntlet of increasingly difficult songs where you have to defeat the miniboss of each stage to complete it. You can regroup after a few songs, and enemies will pounce at you harder as you complete more of them. It’s unlocked after you beat the game, so it’s a nice little post-game challenge for those that want to prove their rhythm game worthiness.
The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor is one of the most infectious rhythm games this year. Its perfect blend of music gameplay and RPG mechanics is an ambitious one that sticks the landing, and the addictive soundtrack will have your toe tapping long after you turned it off. Just stay away from the dancing bears if you’re not shaking it like a Polaroid.