How To VSRG Like Me
I'm back from my month long depressive episode. Let's talk about video games.
Back in March of last year, I bought an Oculus Quest as a joke for this blog. Okay, maybe not as a captial J "Joke", but I was mainly expecting it to be a "Half-Life: Alyx" machine seeing as I wasn't really interested in any other VR games. I've heard lots of people also say that "Beat Saber" is one of the must have VR games so I got that too, thinking I would only play it for like 5 hours before I got bored (if you have read the post, you should know that I'm not really into rhythm games).
But it turns out that headcrabs scare the shit out of me so I never finished HL:A. And instead Beat Saber is now 1 hour away from being my most played single playergame on Steam.
So I've replaced my crippling fear of headcrabs with a crippling addiction to cutting cubes.
Beat Saber is probably the most fun game I have ever playedand because of this, 2020 has had me do the most excersise I've ever done in my life. I'll be the first to freely admit that once I started playing the harder songs, a particuarly long session would make me want to pass out.
Should I have been playing this game so much that it made me want to pass out? No, that's really unhealthy. But let me tell you it was the most fun I've ever had while wanting to pass out before. However, now as I've played more I must have gotten more stamina or something, so unfortunatly my limbs just die instead of wanting to faint >:(
During the resting times when I would take a break from the game because everything hurt, I started to look at other games in the Vertical Scrolling Rhythm Game (VSRG) genre. This post is going to be a look at the ones I've played, and maybe ones I haven't but want to.
Obviously we have to start here, partly because it's the one I've played the most and partly because I've not actually explained what the game is in this or the post before. I am very sorry if you have no idea what I've been talking about this entire time, so I would like to give you my apology:
VR games (especially Beat Saber) are well known for making you feel cool while playing them, but actually look completely ridiculous to anyone actually watching you. So here is a video of me playing Beat Saber.
Also just so you know, this was like 5 months ago when I was still bad at the game. I don't mean to brag or anything but I'm ranked in the top 100 players in Australia now.
No I'm sorry, that was a total brag. Let me give you another video (from around the same time) as an apology.
Hopefully that also explained to you how the game works. But if you don't have over a decade of experience in playing video games and can't parse everything from two videos, I'll give a brief explanation.
Basically you have two swords of different colours on each hand with which you need to cut the cubes in half with the corresponding colour (so hit the red cube with the red sword). The cube also have an arrow on them, which denotes the direction in which you cut them. A cube with an arrow at the top pointing down means you it vertically from the top to bottom, and a cube with an arrow at the left point right means to cut it horizontally from the left to right. Some cubes have dots in the middle insetad and that just means to can cut them from any direction.
Unlike most rhythm games (as we'll see soon) there is no timing element to the cuts. Instead of getting scored on when you cut the block it's how well you cut the block. For most people this is unimportant unless you are going for rank, but if you must know, it's based on how close your cut is to the center of the block and how much of an angle is made with your saber when it's cut. For more info read this post.
Some people think this is bad and discounts it from being a rhythm game because it doesn't have that timing element, but I disagree. One of the good things about this scoring system is that you can never get a perfect score (on any somewhat complicated map) because getting the max amount of points (115) consistenly on every block requires an amount of accuracy no human has. This means that there is always room to improve.
DJMAX RESPECT V
I actually have recorded gameplay of all the games we will look at, so I'll show it to you first in hopes that it can offset my crappy explanations of video games.
If you're wondering, yes, I have been planning this post so long that I've literally moved apartments before I started writing it.
DJMAX is one of the more standard VSRGs. As you can see it actually scrolls vertically so if you've seen a VSRG before this should be pretty much the same. For this one you just have to press the correct key when the note passes the judgement line and you get scored on how close the note is to the line when you press it. You can also play songs with a different number of keys (4K, 5K, 6K, and 8K) but I mainly play on 6 keys.
This is the first rhythm game I started playing after Beat Saber because I wanted a more normal VSRG experience. Most preople probably play osu!mania because osu! is (I think?) the most played rhythm game in the world, but I don't like osu! from my one experience playing it 5 years ago so I didn't want to install it.
I also looked at Stepmania and Etterna, but settled on Respect V because it looked the prettiest.
DJMAX has been predominantly a console game on PlayStation systems, with Respect V being one of the few titles to come to PC, so the charts are significantly easier due to being able to play on a keyboard instead of controller. They have added a special "SC" difficulty for keyboard players which has become the new highest difficulty, but I'm not very good so I've yet to complete one.
One of the best features of this game is that every (not actually every, but we'll get to that) song is key-sounded. This means that the actual sounds of the song play when you hit the notes, so if you miss a note or hit the wrong key, the song won't sound as it should. Most games just have a generic sound that plays over the song when you hit the notes, but having the actual notes of the song play adds a lot to the experience.
Unfortunately, to do this the developers need to have the actual layers that make up the song so they can seperate them and bind it to the keys at the correct time. This isn't always possible to get due to licensing agreements, so while all of the songs in the base game are key-sounded, not all DLC songs (like in the video) are.
Obviously this isn't the fault of the game, so I can't really blame them but it is a big shame.
This is a game I saw in my Youtube home page being played by a VTuber. I don't really know what a VTuber or Hololive is but apparently they've gotten banned from streaming this game because the publisher is Chinese and one them acknoledged Taiwan as an independant country(?) I don't really know the specifics because I don't actually care, so don't I even know why I'm talking about it right now.
Anyway I thought the game looked fun so I bought it.
The gist of this game is that there are two lanes and you press a key when something goes next to that circle. It's pretty simple. I found out after recording that video is that there are actually two buttons you can use when hitting a lane, which makes mashing way easier if you just alternate between the two.
One thing I don't like is how hard it is for me to read what's going on, the notes take form as many different things and sometimes that makes me just stop paying attention. Another thing is that I've seen the help text on the loading screen say things like "How old are the girls? You're asking too many questions!", which is… a weird thing to say. I haven't looked much into the fanbase of this game, and at this point I don't think I'll like what I'd see.
Quaver is another standard VSRG and is the only one on this list that has a proper replay system, which means I didn't have to spend several tries at recording a semi-decent attempt at a chart that doesn't make me seem completely crap at these games.
I believe it's actually supposed to be a clone of osu!mania so it only has 4K and 7K modes. While it's not as pretty or well polished as DJMAX, it is open-source and free on Steam so that's cool.
Generally, you'd want to play a game like this instead of DJMAX because the community has the ability to map songs for it. For Beat Saber, custom maps require a mod you can't have custom maps at all in DJMAX. This is probably better if you don't actually care about how pretty your game is and just prefer the pure gameplay, but from my experience there is one major issue with this.
People don't know how to make maps so most of them suck.
In DJMAX every song is created by the developers so there is a baseline quality to them, but here there are thousands of people making maps all with varying levels of quality. And in my experience (maybe because I mainly play the easier charts, and those are harder to map for), the quality skews towards the "not good" side.
I haven't found this to be much of an issue with Beat Saber, because the game is just so good that you can find fun in trying to do weirdly mapped charts. There's an entire subcatergory of players who specialise in this skill.
This will actually need a bit of an explaination to start. Deemo -Reborn- can be played in both VR and non-VR. It's a standard VSRG like DJMAX and Quaver, but it becomes 4K for VR and 6K for non-VR. I've played both versions so here is the VR gameplay first.
When I first saw that you could play it in VR, I assumed that it was just for looking around and you'd still need the keyboard to press the notes when you actually play. But no! You actually use your VR controllers to try to physically hit the piano when the notes reach the jugement line.
I'd never would have thought that this would work very well, and it doesn't. VR controllers (or the Oculus Touch controllers at least) are not very accurate, which lead to me often hitting the piano when I didn't mean to.
But even with that jank, it's still pretty fun. Not Beat Saber fun. But nothing is going to beat Beat Saber fun. And although it's not anything like playing a piano, it's enjoyable to pretend that somehow smashing your hands against some ethereal board is making music.
The non-VR mode is just normal VSRG.
I don't really have anything more to say about it.
Last of the games I have played is Spin RhythmXD. This is one of the more interesting games in this list because it's the most like an arcade game. You can play it using an actual MIDI DJ Turntable, but I don't have one of those so I use a mouse and keyboard.
The mouse spins the thing on the bottom with the red and blue rectangles and you need to match those with the dots/lines on the lane. For the dots you don't need to press anything, just make sure they go to the correct colour, but with the bigger notes you need to hit a key on the keyboard with good timing.
There's also those green/line notes that you hit with spacebar, and sections where you flick the mouse left or right to let the thing freely spin. I think there's more stuff in the harder levels, but I'm bad so haven't gotten to them yet.
All this stuff was a bit overwhelming at the start, and took some time to get used to but it's very satisfying to nail a song (or sections of a song if you're me).
My biggest problem (if you can tell by the title of the video) is that I don't like any of the songs the game comes with. I'm just not a fan of very basic house/electronic music.
All the games I've played are on PC but I found out recently that there's actually an entire world outside my apartment filled with many more interesting arcade games. I'll probably never get to play them because I don't ever leave my room and they also all seem to only be in Japan but boy do they look neat.
The first one is CHUNITHM which is a game I found out about after they did a collaboration with DJMAX. I have no idea what is going on, but it looks cool as hell.
This is "Brain Fluid Explosion Girl". I like it because the name is funny.
This one is called "maimai" and it certainly isn't a VSRG, but one of the comments of the video says "all that crazy shit and still the washing machine didn't open…" and that's the funniest thing I've read all of last year.
Also here's a video of a guy doing playing two of these at the same time.
What the fuck.