Saturday, February 23, 2019

Pop 'n Music Portable (PSP) Review.


I've been a fan of Pop 'n Music for a long time now.  It's one of my favorite rhythm series of all time.  The downside is that it's also quite an expensive series to collect, they typically don't get released outside of Japan.  Once you've managed to get a hold of the game and a console that can run it, you'll need to buy a special controller for it.  However, there are some cheaper games in the series and today I'll be reviewing one of them.  This is Pop 'n Music Portable for the Sony PlayStation Portable.  (Click on "Read More" to read the full review.)





Story

There is a story in this game (believe it or not) and it is tied to the adventure mode.  I'll talk about that more in the gameplay section because the story isn't very deep and it is tied into the concept, making this mode speak for itself.  Other than that, this is just a regular old fashioned rhythm game that focuses on gameplay over story.



Gameplay

Gameplay is simple, just hit all of the dropping notes that appear during the songs/stages.  The goal is to get the best score as possible and to get that you'll have to pay attention to the timing of the notes.  Hit the notes too early, you'll get some points but it you hit them at the right time, you'll get a better dose of points.  There's also a bar at the bottom of the screen and if it doesn't stretch out to the red part by the time that the song ends, level failed.  Doesn't get any more simple than that.

There are some advance options when you pick a song.  I don't know what most of them do because of the language barrier. (we'll get to that soon) The advanced option I did understand was the one that changes the speed of the notes.  This feature is good for when playing the harder songs that have a lot of notes close together.  The higher you set it, the more the notes are separated but they also drop into the song much faster.  It's a feature that mainly hardcore players will use.

There are multiple difficulties and what they do is add more buttons to press.  You have five note mode which gives you five rows on the highway (the thing where all of the notes come down) and you have five buttons (technically six) that controls each row.  There's a seven button and a nine button difficulty and yep, they give you more buttons to work with.  When it comes to this series, I normally say to work your way up the difficulty chain but not in this case. This game is missing the biggest thing that the arcade and console versions have.  I am talking about the special controller that was made for this series (picture included in article) and playing this with the PSP's buttons is too uncomfortable on the higher button settings.  I recommend playing this game on five button mode. (Maybe seven button mode for if you are feeling lucky.)



Does this lack of the controller ruin the fun and experience.  Not really.  It is still very fun to play and works well on the PSP and it is a good gateway drug to introduce new players to this series.  There's a few different game modes such as the standard arcade mode, where you can just select a song and play.  There are some multiplayer modes and one of them feels very weird to play because it requires two players playing the same PSP.  One player uses the D-pad, while the other uses the buttons on the other side and the goal is to just get a better score than the other player.  If this sounds uncomfortable then you'd be right. The way to play this mode is by turning the system sideways.  It felt like I was trying to move a small table.  If you don't want to multi like that, there's a better multiplayer mode but it requires two PSPs and two copies of the game.

The last mode is adventure mode.  This mode has you playing as either Mimi or Nyami (the two series mascots), travelling in a board game like world where MZD (a weird demon possessed DJ) has lost his records.  You've guessed it, you need to find them but there will be trouble in your way.  Other Pop 'n Music characters will be on certain parts of the field and you won't be able to progress unless you battle them.  Winning battles will earn you special currency that you can spend to unlock MZD's trials.  You'll need to beat these to level up your character, so you can unlock more areas to explore.  Be warned, there are traps and when landed on they'll drain you of currency and when you are all out, it's game over.  Don't worry, it doesn't reset your progress but you will be sent to the start of the board and will have to earn your currency all over.  Make sure to keep an eye out for treasure chests.  Opening these will give you much needed items and also some neat cosmetic ones that change the design of the highways.

This game is mostly in Japanese but don't let that discourage you.  All of the real important things, like songs, the score and note goals are in English or are easy to understand because they use numbers.  I barely know any Japanese (that should change in about a year) and even I managed to understand what I had to do to beat a stage in adventure mode.  Heck!  I managed to one-hundred percent the game.  Although, I came close to rage quitting a few times, not because of language barrier but because of how hard some of the stages were.

My only complaint (other than how awkward the multiplayer is) is that adventure mode can get a bit grindy at certain points of the game.  You'll be finding yourself replaying songs just to get to certain places and some of these places require a lot of currency to travel across.  Keep playing though, it's worth it when you get past those dreaded sections.



Graphics

The graphics are in good ol' 2D, with a lot of cute and colorful characters and level design.  Okay, most of the characters are cute, there are some real creepy and bizarre looking ones as well.  Characters from other Konami games also appear along with a song from the series that they are from.  You've got Simon Belmont (from Castlevania), Goemon (from Mystical Ninja) and Vic Viper (from Gradius).  Animation is smooth but expect to see a lot of repetitive and basic movements that feel like that you looking at a GIF instead of seeing a fully animated character.  Yeah, I know, most games have repetitive animation but it's really noticeable in this game.



Sound

A very varied soundtrack full of music of all kinds of genres.  You've got rock, rap, video game, classical, spoken word and so much more.  There's even an anime TV show theme section featuring tunes from One Piece, Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star), and even the theme song to Neon Genesis Evangelion.  It's quite a packed setlist and also a very fun one at that.



Overall, Pop 'n Music Portable lacks the proper means of giving you the full Pop 'n Music experience (because the PSP doesn't have a Pop 'n Music controller) but that doesn't stop it from being one hell of a Pop 'n Music game.  It's very fun, very charming and is a great way to get introduced to the series, while satisfying the veteran players as well.  Pop 'n Music Portable is well worth importing and it gets a poptastic eight out of ten.


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