Review: Just beat it, beat it beat it beat it...
Music-based games are still very niche, despite the success of games like Dance Dance Revolution and Karaoke Revolution. Most other games in the genre are cult hits but rarely make much impact in the mainstream, such as Sony's attempts with the Parappa franchise and Frequency/Amplitude. They're pretty popular with the hardcore set though, so publishers keep pumping out the games attempting to nail the niche audience. This is certainly what Mastiff has done; a company that's released 2 other ?hardcore' titles recently in La Pucelle Tactics and Gungrave Overdose, with the latest release from the small publisher, Technic Beat. Originally developed by Arika and actually released in Japan originally in 2002, this music-based game has a very arcadey flavor and is certainly a ?Japanese' game for all extents. Borrowing musical scores from classic games, and other sources, Technic Beat is a fun little game, but one that can be extremely difficult if you're short on memory and reflexes; though this could be said about many games in the music category. Retailing for $20 or less, TB won't break the bank either, which is always a good thing.
Basically, Technic Beat revolves around running around a stage and playing back a song in the correct way, by means of going to the proper ?circle' and hitting a button at the right time. There's not a whole lot of brain surgery involved, and though different selectable characters can do different things and have special moves to increase your score and there's various wildcards during the session, everything goes about the same way. It's a combination of memory, Simon Says, and reflexes, as you don't really have a lot of time to think, you instinctively need to know exactly which circle to go to in order to play the section of the song properly. There's a very basic beginners mode that lets you make up for mistakes since it starts you at the maximum point level, so those who struggle with the concept can practice. However, if you played Final Fantasy X-2 and had a hard time with the lightning tower calibration, Technic Beat will not be much fun. Regardless, Technic Beat can be brutally difficult since the margin of error isn't very wide. You can get by and complete stages without achieving perfection but you still have to be good if you want to ?beat' the game.
There are quite a few ways to play, and it has a 2-player option for both co-operative and competitive play which would add to the replay when playing with a friend. However, the gameplay is pretty repetitive and there's not a whole lot to it, really. Running around pressing buttons and finding the right circle doesn't take a whole lot of brains, it's just quick reflexes needed, and it is randomized so even if you know a song really well, it might not be exactly easy to memorize entirely. For a $20 game, Mastiff has done good localizing Technic Beat, and the concept is fun, but the game is older than your usual Japan to US release, so other music games have come around and trumped it. If you really like music games, you'll likely love this one, but it's not a converts game, that's for sure.
Visually the game is very Anime-like, with weird characters (such as dancing bears and penguins with scuba gear) thrown into a decidedly ?technic' world that has a ton of color and special effects ? it's like Fantavision without the suckage. Its age does show though, since there are far more technologically advanced games out there on the PS2, in the music game genre or otherwise. Though some will certainly like its clean look and nice presentation, which counts for something. The music is very good, and there's remixes of old Namco tunes from hits like Dig Dug, Galaxian, Pac Mania, and so on. There's over 30 in all, which is sure to make old-school game fans giddy with delight the first time they hear a classic in techno form. There's a good set of sound effects and various touches as well ? it's a music-oriented game, it better have a solid soundtrack and effects.