Released on: March 6 2018
Available Platforms: Playstation 4, PC
Price: $66.99 CDN ($59.99 US) (DLC Available)
Rhythm games have been an essential part of my life since high school. There is no other feeling quite like getting into a zen-like state where nothing exists except for the player, the game, and the music. Despite how crucial a part rhythm games play in my life, I struggled to find the best way to review them. I think I figured out how to do just that with DJ Max Respect. The DJ Max series is quite obscure here in North America. I only found out about it through a friend of mine back in college. They were playing DJ Max Portable 2, were kind enough to have me try it, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Almost ten years later, to my surprise, DJ Max Respect sponsored a Youtuber I watch, which made me close the video, boot up my PS4, and download the game for myself. Is DJ Max Respect worthy of me buying it as soon as I found out it existed?
DJ Max Respect has no overarching story but instead has music videos playing in the background while the player plays the game. While it is true that experiencing the story while also hitting hundreds of notes at the same time is next to impossible, most of the music videos are available for viewing on their own in the gallery menu (the others need to be unlocked). I would recommend players take a look at these, as some of them are incredibly strange, but charming in their strangeness.
DJ Max Respectsˋ visuals are unique in all of the best ways. From a gameplay perspective, the default note and play area skins are serviceable, but nothing too exciting. As the player plays the game, they will unlock far more interesting skins for their play area and notes. Unlocking the different skins is a significant factor that keeps me coming back to DJ Max Respect. There are so many skins to unlock, with their own flair; itˋs mind-boggling!
Then there are the music videos. If their strangeness is putting my readers off of watching them, then I would recommend experiencing them purely on a visual level. There are videos for all sorts of moods. Those that are in the mood for something uplifting should check out the video for “Ask to Wind.” Those that want a more gothic feel? “Oblivion” is the one to check out. For those looking for a Power Ranger parody? Odd request, but the “NB Ranger” series is here for that. These videos also play at 1080p resolution (high definition) and 60 fps for a buttery smooth video watching experience.
The most crucial part of any rhythm game is its music, and DJ Max Respect knocks that aspect out of the park. For the few of us who have played the previous DJ Max games, there are many familiar tracks available out of the box. For those who are new to the series, there are 107 songs in the base game. Some of them have to be unlocked, but there are many songs to choose from without any DLC packs. So many songs that there is bound to be at least one song that will strike the player’s fancy.
DJ Max’s gameplay is another significant factor in my coming back to it. The game is simple to grasp: hit the corresponding button in time with the notes when they reach the note line of the play area. There isn’t much more to it than that. There is a multitude of different modes for players of varying skill levels: 4-button, 5-button, 6-button, and 8-button. As one would guess, these determine how many buttons the player has to keep track of during their play session. During the game, the player will build up a “Fever” bar that they can activate once it’s full, similar to Guitar Hero or Rock Band’s Star Power. Activating Fever mode will double the player’s points and notes combo. During Fever, the player can still fill up the Fever bar if they enable Fever again while in Fever mode already, they will get triple points and note streak instead. The player can continue this exponential Fever mode until they reach a quintuple bonus. Of course, Fever mode is only temporary and will wear off after a while. All of this might sound stressful for those unfamiliar with the rhythm game genre, and it might be for first time players. My advice would be to start on lower difficulties and work up to the harder songs. Pretty soon, this will all make sense, to the point where one might achieve a zen-like state. I mentioned this briefly in my introduction, but the best music games tend to send me into a meditative state, where my focus is strictly on the notes and the music. This is one of the reasons why I love rhythm games, and DJ Max Respect gives me that sense of meditation I crave from them.
DJ Max Respect has a multitude of modes, including an Arcade Mode, Freestyle Mode, Mission Mode, and Collection Mode. Arcade mode is the primary mode, where the player selects their difficulty (how many buttons they want to play with), then they have to complete three stages. For the stages, the player can choose what song they want to play. If the player performs particularly well (hits every note in the song, for example), they can unlock goodies for that particular song (like music videos.) Freestyle mode gives players unlimited access to every song they’ve unlocked thus far, for every difficulty. A friend can even pick up a second controller for some local multiplayer action. Mission mode has the player complete a set of unique requirements with mods that make attaining those requirements much trickier. Then there’s the Collection, where the player can enjoy their unlockables like thumbnail art, music videos, etc. There is a lot to enjoy here. My favorite mode is the Arcade, since it gives me a goal to shoot for, but is also unrestrictive with what song I choose to complete those stages.
One issue I have with DJ Max Respect is with it’s abundance of DLC options. The game does give the player a taste of what the DLC has to offer in Freestyle mode by having a preview of the songs available in each DLC pack. While I do like the idea of the preview, there are so many DLC packs that buying all of them will set the player back quite a bit. It is also worth mentioning that DJ Max Respect is almost full price, so the game isn’t free either. Still, it is worth mentioning that the DLC is entirely optional.
If the player is looking for an extra bit of challenge with Dj Max Respect, then Mission mode is the mode to check out. For others, Mission mode might be a little too much. At first, the missions are pretty simple, clear four songs with a certain amount of points, streak, accuracy, or without missing a certain amount of notes. Pretty soon, though, the missions start adding mods that make them brutal (like having the notes disappear right before hitting the note line). Missions get difficult pretty early, so I would challenge them only if the player feels confident in their skills. The player also gets extra missions with each DLC pack.
Dj Max Respect’s pros far outweigh its cons. Fantastic base song list, engaging gameplay, unique unlockables, and memorable music videos make Dj Max Respect a must-play for fans of rhythm games.