Let’s get it out-of-the-way up front: I like arcades. So much so that I spent a good chunk of time in my not-so-recent (May 2012) trip to Japan in their arcades (Taito Stations, Game Stations, etc) throwing 100円 coins in pachinko, slots and UFO machines (or skill testers as they are more commonly referred to here). There is a huge variety of video games available in a Japanese arcade that you could easily blow your large chunks of your travel budget there, unlike the typical fare in the Australian equivalents.
But I digress; while there are many posts that could be written on the Japanese arcade, this one is about my favourite of them: Konami’s Jubeat machines (the Engrish on that site is great).
While I initially avoided them due to lack of familiarity I did eventually give them a go in Kyoto at an arcade on Kawaramachi-dori. And I was hooked, first go. It’s a simple concept, like Guitar Hero and its cohorts: tap the squares in time with the music.
Unlike Guitar Hero et al, Jubeat’s main screen is actually inside the squares themselves. A 4×4 grid of plastic squares contain the displays that prompt your interaction; the squares light up in sequence and you hit them at the appropriate time, in harmony with the music, to score points.
Anyway, while attempting to find an iOS game that might replicate the functionality of the original game I discovered that KONAMI had released the original game to the app store as jukebeat (Australian/US Store) or jubeat plus (Japanese iTunes Store link). Imagine my surprise! An opportunity to throw hours at the game that capitivated me in Japan without the need to feed the machine 100円 coins.
I installed the original Japanese version of the game (as that is the one I fell for, after all; but a Japanese iTunes account is required) but a few minutes with the jukebeat game from the Australian stores suggests they are the same, aside from the available music. The game itself is free. Konami charges for additional music tracks available via in-app purchase, should you wish to progress beyond the three bundled songs.
Each track has three levels available: a Basic level for beginner and intermediate players, an Advanced level, and an Extreme level for those who consider themselves insane. Naturally the levels are arranged in order of difficultly from 1-10, with your typical Basic level running 1-5, Advanced 5-8 and Extreme 7-10.
Playing the game by yourself can be quite amusing, hit the Single button to start a song on your own and attempt to beat your own score. Your performance is ranked a Failure (D and below), or Clear (C, B, A, S, SS and SSS). Hitting every square at the right time during the song will net you a Full Combo.
The difficulty curve is quite decent, though some games of the same level vary in difficulty; presumably that comes down to your playing style. It is pretty simple to learn to play though, and quite hard to master.
The music choice is varied. Interestingly, a decent chunk of the Japanese music is available via in-app purchase in the Australian/US version but not vice-versa. The majority of the music available is stuff that KONAMI has created themselves – either as originals for the game (KONAMI or copious packs) or from other games they have created. There’s a few packs in there from pop/rock/oldies though so it mixes it up reasonably well.
Additionally, you can host and join games (much like the original jubeat machines which are networked) over the local network and bluetooth (I was unable to find anyone willing to subject themselves to humiliating defeat in a match against me); just pick your song and host a game. Likewise Game Centre is built in, its depressing looking at the leader boards though.
But the proof is in the pudding: I’ve spent about ~40 hours playing since I rediscovered it a few weeks back. It is rather addictive; the innocent thought “one more go” common among the pounding of the iOS device screen. Speaking of, I’ve found it easier to play on my iPad than my iPhone (Giraffe Phone or otherwise) as you can use full hands and many fingers to play. My iPad has so far survived several dozen drummings without being worse for wear; but gentle players need not hammer the screen at all, just press carefully.
My advice: give it a go. It’s great fun and can be quite addictive. And if you’re after a challenge on a real jubeat machine, the old Hollywood Karaoke building on Bourke St in the Melbourne CBD (next to Hungry Jacks) has an arcade with two Jubeat machines. Be ready to take a pocket of shiny gold coins though: $1 will buy you four songs.
PS. For fun, here’s someone attempting one of the bundled songs (Japanese version) on Extreme: