Released on: November 7, 2019
Available Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Price: $79.99 CAD ($59.99 US) (Also has DLC)
Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a rhythm game spree. I love it when I find out about new rhythm games. Back when I was in high school, they seemed like such a niche genre. Nowadays, there are so many different kinds of rhythm games on so many other platforms. I feel the current spotlight of the music game genre belongs to Friday Night Funkin‘, but that doesn’t stop people from finding and talking about different kinds of music games.
Enter today’s subject: Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party. This is another game I can file under the “list of games I found out about while watching Youtubers.” From the gameplay I saw, it was colorful, it had charming characters, and the gameplay looked unique. The first time I saw the price, I thought it was a bit expensive, but it went on sale recently, so I decided to give it a shot. Is it time to party with Groove Coaster Wai Wai Party?
Groove Coaster has absolutely no story. There are no central characters, no plot points, nothing. Like DJ Max Respect, I don’t feel like rhythm games need a story since the entire point of the game is to get through the song. Even in the song itself, though, there is nothing in terms of a narrative. I didn’t expect a story, to be honest, especially since the original Groove Coaster started as an arcade game in Japan.
Groove Coaster’s visuals are decent. The graphics during the songs are dazzling, and the roller coaster motif is fun. Every song has a unique flair when the player hits the notes or passes by a particular part of the song. The game is on the bright side, so playing the game in a well-lit room is highly recommended. I like the presentation when it comes to the songs themselves but nothing, in particular, stands out visually outside of the songs.
Speaking of music, this is the area where Groove Coaster shines. Fans of Vocaloid, Touhou remixes, and anime music will love the list of songs in Groove Coaster. There are even songs from VTubers. A few of my favorites include One-Thousand Cherry Blossoms, The Light, Scream Out, and ECHO. That is only a handful of songs I play religiously when playing Groove Coaster, but there are so many other songs in the game
that players are bound to find their list of favorites.
The gameplay in Groove Coaster seems complicated when looking at it from an outside perspective, but once the player plays through the tutorial, it becomes simple. The player, represented by a pixelated sprite, rides on a track populated by notes corresponding to the song played. The goal is to hit as many of these notes as possible to get a high score. Songs on easier difficulties will have simple notes, like Hit (which only requires the push of a button) and Hold (requiring the player to hold the button). More challenging difficulties will have more complicated notes like Scratch (wiggling the analog sticks) and Double Slide (requiring the player to hit two buttons of the corresponding direction, like A and Right, for example).
I got unexpectedly addicted to the gameplay when I first played Groove Coaster. The idea, when I break it down, is enthralling but straightforward. I had to tell myself to put the game down to rest. Even the next day, I thought about trying to master some of the songs and trying to unlock some goodies. Groove Coaster also has hidden optional
notes that astute players can hit during the song. Hitting all hidden notes will positively affect the player’s score, potentially granting them a “perfect” ranking.
The number of things to unlock in Groove Coaster is astronomical. By fulfilling certain conditions (or using coins that the player earns at the song’s end). There are extra player sprites, mascots, songs, and items to unlock, three hundred of them, to be precise. I found myself completing as many of those challenges as possible to get as many goodies as possible. There is also a Challenge Mode where players play through a setlist of varying difficulty. The Challenge Mode rewards players with tags they can assign to their Groove Coaster profile. The game’s lack of an online feature does make the tags purely optional, however.
One obstacle Groove Coaster implements to the player, other than the notes themselves, is its distracting visuals. Most songs are manageable, but on others, it will be why players miss a note or fail a song. I understand that is part of the challenge, but some of them go way overboard. One song has so many sharp turns and blending
visuals that it makes the notes hard to see.
Speaking of seeing, the game has an epilepsy warning when the player first turns the game on, and oh boy, is it deserved. After an extended play session, I had to put the game down to rest my eyes so that they wouldn’t strain too much. Even in a well-lit room, playing for too long can cause headaches or eye strain.
Groove Coaster is an expensive game. Being at full price could deter some players. With what’s on offer, with no DLC, I have to admit the price of admission is steep. There is a demo for the player to try before they buy the game, which is nice. The demo has 5 songs, giving the player enough chance to decide if they want to purchase the game.
Not only is Groove Coaster’s retail price expensive, but its DLCs ask a lot from the player as well. The game has an assortment of DLCs spanning different genres, and they each run at $19.99 CAD ($15.99 US). As much as some of those DLCs are tempting, I’ve had to resist the urge to buy any of them since I’m never sure how much longer the game will keep my interest and how much the DLCs could realistically add to the game.
Groove Coaster has an odd quirk that makes it harder to cover; it does not allow players to save screenshots or videos using the Share function. It might be because Groove Coaster needs to run at sixty frames per second, making it more taxing on the Switch hardware, but it would be nice to save screenshots or videos (especially for review purposes.)
Groove Coaster is a charming rhythm game despite its high asking price. The music is banging, the gameplay makes me want to groove, and there are loads of unlockables. If the game goes on a big sale, I would recommend Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party, but its DLCs and base price are steep.
*June 12th 2021 correction notice: Groove Coaster actually started as an IOS game in 2011 exclusive to Japan. Also, the demo contains 12 songs, not 5. We apologize for missing that info initially.