(Editor’s Note: This is a message from the Management. We at Console Gold do not condone the use of drugs or alcohol, regardless of the circumstances. We especially do not condone the use of drugs or alcohol while playing a bad Japanese music game filled with flashing lights, white noise masquerading as music, and bizarre anime characters so surreal in nature they wouldn’t be out of place in a Silent Hill game, despite the allure this might hold. Tempting though it may be to get completely blitzed drunk off your rocker while playing games like Technic Beat, we must point out that while our reviewer may think highly of his sense of humor, he failed to understand the message it sends to our impressionable readers. We have since altered his review where necessary to tone down his questionable choice of words. We now return you to the review of Technic Beat already in progress.)
… in 17 years of electronic gaming, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve stared at a game slackjawed and said, “Wha…?” From the minute I fired up Technic Beat, my collective senses were under an assault reminiscent of the beating they took when I saw Moulin Rouge. There are non-stop flashing lights, grating techno music, and dancing dolls. I swear someone must have been tripping the light fantastic while drunk to the gills when they made this.
As a game, Technic Beat is not exactly a challenge. There are several different game play modes, but you can burn through each one in a matter of minutes. I find myself unable to recommend this game as anything more than a novelty rental as there is literally nothing here. Technic Beat is all about the flash and the bang, but if that’s all I was looking for, then I’d buy a bag of fireworks and shoot them off my balcony. (Ed. We at Console Gold also do not condone the use of illegal use of fireworks, but if it’s a pretty enough show and you’re serving ribs, can we come?)
There are only so many ways you can render a firework exploding, and you’ll see all five of them in the first minute of Technic Beat. There are all types of geometric shapes exploding in rays of light throughout the game without much variance. Each level is a slightly raised and tilted dance floor, and you move your character across it and try to hit the lighted circles in tune to the music. Everything is laid out well enough so that you always know where you need to be. I’ll admit it would be tough to get lost on such small levels, but rest assured everything you need to complete a dance contest is right in front of you.
You can play Technic Beat as one of six different characters, and while they all have their own special moves, each one moves very similar to the other. The characters are in serious need of some kung-fu grip, because they just move their arms and legs up and down as they run around. The details on each character are distinct enough so you can tell the penguin from the robot from the bear, but the developers may as well have made six different skins for the same model. Whenever you move one of them around, it is downright cute, but all they seem able to do is slightly jog with stiff arms and legs.
So you have to review a dance-based title whose gameplay hinges on listening to music, and being in the right place at the right time in order to score points. What would you consider to be the most integral part of the game?
Those of you who said “marketing” can leave this review right now.
The sound effects are a collection of crowd cheers, disc jockeys saying, “Aww, yeah” and sparkles exploding into showers of pretty colors. I never knew there would be actual sound effects for such things, but modern technology never ceases to amaze me. There really isn’t any dialogue to speak of, so good or bad vocal performances were not an issue. The majority of my problems with this dance game came with the music, and was it ever a drumming.
Technic Beat features techno-rave tunes of varying degrees of annoying. There are also re-mixes aplenty with most of them coming from old school Namco titles like PacMania, DigDug, and Galaxian 3. You also get to choose which song you will listen to in most of the game play modes, except for Sudden Death. What you cannot do, however, is preview the songs prior to starting a level. I have a confession to make now – I’m a Dance Dance Revolution freak. (Ed. Figures.) Whenever I see it in the arcades, I must get some DDR action. What’s nice about that game is you can at least preview the songs before jumping into action. Technic Beat would be so much the better if I could at least know ahead of time whether the song would be worth grooving to.
The annoying comes fully to bear with the inability to preview the songs. I guess if we were able to preview the tracks available, we’d return the game instantly because the collection that is here is nine kinds of awful. Maybe this key feature was intentionally left out… I smell conspiracy. And something cooking in the kitchen. Be right back.
The controls are the best thing about Technic Beat, but only because they are so dang easy to pick up. You move the character around with the thumbsticks, you execute the character’s special move with the X or the triangle buttons, you activate the markers (the flashing circles) with the square button, and you use your super action with the circle button. These super actions are special moves that can only be used a certain number of times per stage.
The goal of the game is to activate markers at a certain point to score points. In order to score the most points, you need to maneuver your character to the best scoring position before the marker needs to be activated. As a song plays, markers appear on the dance floor. These are circles within circles, and the inner circle expands until it gets to the outer circle where it will explode. You need to activate the inner circle with the action button while it is as close as possible to the outer circle. The ease with which this is accomplished is based on which character’s special move you use. For example, the little Pokemon-lookalike thing can pick up markers and carry them with it across the dance floor. The penguin can slide across the board activating markers as he goes, and the bear can pick up multiple markers at the same time. All of this handles with ease, which makes the game simple to just pick up and play. Just don’t try to pause the action.
I paused the game to go the bathroom at one point, and when I returned I stared at my two options: Restart or Quit. I hit the start button repeatedly, but no dice. I had to either replay the levels I just went through or quit altogether. I even flipped to the control section in the manual just to make sure I didn’t mistakenly hit another button. The manual clearly said the start button is for pausing the game, but I guess the developers figured people might not want to go back to it.
If Reverend Jim from Taxi were a game developer, this might be his first release. For the first 20 minutes I played, I sat on my couch slack-jawed at what I saw. I moved the little Pikachu knock-off ’round and ’round and activated every marker I saw. I’d pick up markers, carry them to other markers, then activate them all. I was continually rewarded with a cacophony of audience cheers, “hip” banter, and musical chords that stood in stark contrast to the techno beat of the song I was dancing to. I go through each of the characters and select an odd mix of songs for each one, then get used to their individual special moves.
It then occurs to me that I’m just playing the same game several times back to back. I think the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. The end result for all of my efforts never deviated – I was congratulated and told to play again and that was it. Technic Beat is a loop, and not so fun for kids. With different modes like Sudden Death, where you have to turn in a flawless performance against increasing odds or the game ends, or Level Certification where you work to get a specific grade on a level, you might expect a reward or at least some influence on the rest of the game.
You can get certified out the ears on every level, but the only thing left to do then is zero your results out and get certified again. May I ask, why this was ever considered to be a good thing? A person plays Technic Beat just to get the chance to wash their scores away and play it again? Boy, sign me up for that one.
I’m stumped by what must pass for entertainment in Japan. Maybe it’s just a cultural thing, but I have absolutely no idea why anyone anywhere ever would consider Technic Beat a worthy addition to their game collection. This is the type of thing people put into a time capsule with the hope that whoever digs it up 100 years from now has a better understanding of it. There are a lot of different gameplay options, but none of them are fun. A quote from Young Guns 2 sums up my thoughts on Technic Beat pretty accurately:
Sherriff: “I got two lots of news for you, good and bad. The bad news is all we gots for dinner is horsesh%*.”
Convict: “Then what the hell’s the good news?”
Doc: “There’s tons of it.”