Almost out of nowhere, Magical Beat suddenly arrived on the North American PSN store late last month, courtesy of Arc System Works USA. There was no fanfare, barely any advertisements beforehand and for a long time no one even knew that it was being translated for English. Thankfully we already knew what Magical Beat was after checking out the Japanese demo of the puzzle rhythm game earlier this year, so we definitely couldn’t pass this up now that it was actually available for american vitas.
From the developers of Guilty Gear and Blazblue, Magical Beat combines a match three puzzle game, like puyo puyo, with a rhythm game beat-matching mechanic to produce a unique & engaging game play experience backed with an eclectic mix of songs. When you think of puzzle games with a musical element, you may call to mind Lumines from Q Entertainment. Compared to that where the music was more of an accompaniment to the puzzle solving, the songs in magical beat are directly tied into how you’ll play the game. To play, you more or less do what you’d do in any other match 3 game and try to match shapes of the same color to clear them from the field. Magical Beat puts it’s own spin on that formula by having a metronome set to the tempo of one of the many tracks available in the game on each stage. Rather than placing your blocks all willy-nilly, you need to drop them in time with the beat of the music or face a penalty which may hinder your progress.
Unlike many puzzle games, there’s no purely single player version of the game, you’re always competing against someone, be it a CPU character or another friend over ad-hoc Wi-Fi. Before you begin your battle, you’re able to choose from several different characters, all of which have a short backstory to go with their 8-bit style character portraits. There are no major differences between the characters in terms of game play, so it all depends in whether you’d prefer to play as a cyborg girl, a cyborg boy (who also looks like a girl, a slightly evil alpaca or any of the other weird and wonderful characters.
The difficulty starts off at manageable pace, but ramps up quite sharply in the later game levels. in the 10 level battle, It was pretty straightforward until around level 7 where I noticed the cpu player suddenly seemed to become much quicker and less forgiving in sending blocks to your side to knock you out. Once you’ve mastered the standard battle and bested all of it’s levels, the aptly named ‘hell battle’ mode gives you another 10 levels to face with the difficulty of the CPU opponents pushed even higher. The ‘my own battle’ mode gives you the chance to play a single level and select any one of the songs you have available. Magical beat’s song based puzzle battles can become quite addictive especially when you’re in the multi level battles and have a good deal of momentum going from song to song. Even when the CPU takes you out and you’re booted to the continue screen, I’d always find myself jumping straight back in to get my revenge.
There’s 12 songs available in the main game for you to play, varying in tempo or difficulty. Once the tempo starts to get to the higher speeds later in the multi level modes, the game becomes much more frantic. It’s best to keep your cool while playing and try not to get flustered or frustrated when your opponent is putting pressure on you. loosing sync with the rhythm of the music can put you in a dangerous position and send your blocks flying randomly, possibly complicating your next move.
There’s a varied selection of music, with many tracks penned by popular vocaloid composer kikuo, as well as several tracks from Arc System Works’ other games, BlazBlue and Guilty Gear available as downloadable content in the PSN store for you to play in the custom ‘My Own Battle’ mode of the game. Each one of these packs is $1.99 for 4 songs and extra characters which is rather reasonable considering the main game is only 10 bucks. For me at least, that’s a fair price just so I can play Holy Orders in the game.