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DJ Max Portable 3 Review

Review; Nov. 2, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
Don't let the sweet K-pop tunes fool you; it's blisteringly hard

There are 2 types of music games in the world. There are those you break out at parties, which allow you to sing horrible imitations of popular rock songs and have a good time with your friends. That would be the Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and DJ Hero camp. Then there’s the other music game, the one that requires hours of dedication to complete a song, eagle eye accuracy to make sure you match up notes with only seconds available, and generally feature sugary Korean-pop songs or catchy Japanese-rock tunes. These exist outside the mainstream, the Beatmania IIDX’s, the Guitar and Drum series, and now the DJ Max Portable series. The third installment, DJ Max Portable 3, for PSP is one of those hardcore games, the ones which require the dedication, the time commitment, and the patience to learn all of the nuances and controls. That’s not to say a beginner couldn’t conquer this game -- just don’t expect to have a good time at first. In fact, expect a long, steep and difficult climb ahead of you.

The basics of DJ Max Portable 3 are simple. There are three modes you can access from the main menu: arcade mode, which consists of the bulk of the gameplay; mission mode in which a majority of the unlockable items will be obtained; and lounge mode in which players can check play data, rankings, and watch the cool music videos which occur in the background during gameplay.

When playing the actual game, there are different modes for playing the songs, as well. The classic modes, 4T and 6T, are the most common modes most DJ Max players will be familiar with and consist of using a combination of the buttons and D-pad to match the notes. The numbers correspond with how many buttons you use, with 4T being four buttons, and 6T being six. New to the DJ Max series is the remix mode, which not only incorporates button presses, but the use of the analog nub as well. This one, again, uses a number system, with 3.2T, 4.2T, and 6.2T referring to the number of buttons being used during gameplay (.2 is the analog nub).

The mission mode is the main draw for new players to DJ Max. In this mode, players are given specific songs to play and must satisfy certain tasks during gameplay such as obtaining a certain combo or certain score. The songs and challenges get much harder in the later stages, but for the most part, mission mode does a good job of gradually taking you through the different songs and mechanics to learn at a leisurely pace. Once again, it seems that at higher levels, the difficulty climbs dramatically with no warning, and newcomers will struggle with learning the timing of the notes with the button presses, making the incentive to continue with the game difficult at times. This brings up the leveling system in DJ Max, a great incentive to reward hours of practicing with unlockable character avatars and even wallpapers for the PSP. As you progress through the game, you gain experience points for doing well, finishing missions, and trying new songs. These experience points contribute to your overall level, and as your level increases, more modes, characters, videos, and wallpapers become unlocked. Sure, it rewards you more with sheer persistence rather than skill, but after hours of practicing a song to get that perfect score, it’s always nice to see some reward for your progress.

DJ Max Portable 3 is not an easy game; in fact, for both veterans and newcomers alike, it’s a very difficult game. The amount of concentration and hand-eye coordination required to complete some of the more difficult songs borders on near manic in detail. However, despite the steep difficulty level, I couldn’t stop playing the game. I always had that urge to do better, to get incrementally closer to a higher score or completing a song without failing. It has more in common with the video games of old, where pure reaction and memorization triumphed over lowering the difficulty level or putting in a cheat code to make the game easier. There are difficulty settings in the game, but they make no difference if you’re not willing to put in time and effort to getting better; even easy mode will make short work of you. This is a game that rewards practice and actually makes you a better player as the game progresses. It’s simple really: If you play -- I mean really play the game -- you will become better.

So before picking up a copy of DJ Max Portable 3, ask yourself, "What kind of gamer am I?". Are you the one who wants a quick fix and a bit of fun, or the one who will devote time and energy to becoming better at the game? Depending on your answer, this game may very well be the game you’ve been waiting for. For all the rest of you, stick with the Rock Bands and Guitar Heroes; you’ll have more fun that way.

Note: If you can’t stand K-pop songs, you shouldn’t play this game. The entire soundtrack is filled with them.


Review Score

Everyone 10+

Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

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