DJ Max PortableDJ Max Portable is a Korean music game for the PSP. It’s the first game I’ve imported and my absolute favourite game so far. It’s amazingly fun.

The basics

The concept of the game is pretty simple. A song plays and, as it does, notes fall from the top of the screen to the bottom in four columns (in the easiest mode). Each column corresponds to a button and you are to press the button when the note hits the bottom. When you press a button an instrument or a part of the vocals is played, so if you press the wrong button the song sounds strange. Everytime you miss a note you lose heath and when your health reaches zero you have failed and have to start over again. You can get more health by unlocking new skins (or gear as they’re called in the game) and you can get more tolerance for near misses by unlocking new notes.

Difficulty

I read some reviews before getting this game and they said that the game is very hard compared to other similar games. I’ve never played a game like this before so I can’t really tell if that’s the case, but it sure is difficult enough for me. When I first picked it up I could hardly finish the easiest songs. To complete the Rookie DJing mode and reach the highscore you have to complete four stages. At each stage you select a song of increasing difficulty that you have to complete to advance to the next stage and after completing some songs at the first stage I thought that it would be near impossible to complete all four stages, let alone six or eight button mode (Pro DJing and Master DJing). But after a while your brain adapts and connects the notes you see to the fingers you use to press the buttons almost like a reflex. You also become famliar with the songs and get into the beat. After a couple of days (playing a few hours each evening) I completed the Rookie DJing for the first time, then I completed some songs in six and eight button mode directly after. Eight button mode is not that different from six button mode. I sometimes feel it’s easier than six button mode in the way the notes are distributed over the buttons.

The music

The music in the game is pretty good and you end up playing the songs in your head when you’re not playing the game. The songs are from a wide variety of genres so there’s something for everyone. A few songs are joke songs and I don’t like these much, but over all they are good. In some (few) songs you don’t play much of the melody (or the song doesn’t have much melody) but some odd percussion or sound effects. I don’t like these songs much, but there aren’t that many of them. There are also a couple of songs that I refer to as carpal tunnel songs since they involve so much button smashing that you can feel the carpal tunnel syndrome coming around the corner. The songs I like most are the anime-ish songs and rock songs.

Each song has a music video that play in the background when you’re playing. They’re pretty simple animated visualizations, some better than others. But you can’t pay much attention to them while playing, at least not for songs you aren’t familiar with.

Modes

Just so you know what I’m talking about below I’ll run through the different parts of the game here. There is, as mentioned above, Rookie DJing, Pro DJing and Master DJing which are 4, 6 and 8 button mode respectively where you have to complete four stages in order to win. Then there’s Free Mode where you can play any song you’ve unlocked in 4, 6 or 8 button mode. When playing in Free Mode the objective is to get as high a combo as possible (combo is how many notes you’ve hit in a row without misses) which will land you a spot on the highscore and accuracy (hitting as many notes as possible perfectly in a song) which will give you discs for your collection (the discs represent an accuracy combined with the difficulty of the song). There’s also Club DJing where you get to select different clubs where you have to complete four songs of a certain genre to complete the club. There can be songs in the clubs that you haven’t unlocked and cannot play in the other modes.

Apart from the game modes you have the Gallery which shows you how much you’ve unlocked and shows your “DJ Class” based on this. Here you can view your disc collection, unlocked concept art images and unlocked music videos. Then there’s the OST and M/V Clips sections where you can listen to the songs and watch the music videos respectively. And there’s of course the ranking chart with the highscores.

Language

The game is made in Korea. The manual is in Korean. Don’t worry! :) Almost everything in the game is in English. There are only a few things in Korean and you can play this game with no problem at all as long as you understand English.

First, this is an Asian game, so the O button means OK and the X button means cancel. I find this to be more logical than the US/EU way, but it is how it is.

I’m now going to tell you all you need to know to understand what happens in this game. When you’re prompted with a yes or no question the word on the left is yes and the word on the right is no (and you press O to accept). When you first start the game (after the animated intro) you’ll be asked to activate auto-save (in Korean). Just accept. You’ll want to have this on as it saves your best score for each individual song. You can verify this setting in two ways: 1) complete a song - if the memory stick light on your PSP flashes then the auto-save is on - or 2) go to Save Data in the Options menu and select On. If On is already selected (you can’t select it) it means that auto-save is on - press X to exit without changing the setting.

When you exit any of the game modes you’ll be asked if you are sure you want to exit. Just press O. The only other thing that’s in Korean is when you unlock something after completing a song and when you enter the highscore. When you unlock something a text in Korean is displayed and you’ll hear cheering. The text just says that you’ve unlocked new content. If it says “bla bla bla NOTE bla bla” it means that you’ve unlocked a new note. The same goes for “MEDIA” (new music video to the gallery), “IMAGE” (new image to the gallery), “OST” (new song playable in the OST section) and “GEAR” (a new skin is made available). If the text is in Korean only you’ve unlocked a new song. I don’t remember what it says when you unlock new Effector and when you unlock the Master DJing mode. It’s possible that that text was in Korean only too. It’s not really important. You’ll notice what you’ve unlocked. New songs and media are indicated by a bubble that says “New”. When you play in Free Mode and get a high enough combo to get on the highscore list and exit you’ll be asked if you are sure you want to quit. Answer yes (the one on the left - just press O). You’ll then be informed that you’re on the highscore. Just accept and then enter your name to the highscore.

Lasting appeal

I’ve had DJ Max Portable for almost three weeks now and I’ve hardly taken it out of my PSP. I removed it briefly for playing some other games and when others played on the PSP, but I then put it back in. When I say that this is my favourite game, perhaps you’re interested in what games I’ve played on the PSP so far:

I’m hurrying to write this review before I get Bleach - Heat the Soul 3 and Tekken - Dark Resurrection in case any of those become my new fav. :)

The game has some 50+ songs (you unlock more songs as you play) that have 4, 6 and 8 button mode and 1-3 difficulties per song and mode. That’s plenty to keep you occupied for hours and hours. You can also flip the notes around (a feature you can unlock while playing) which gives variation to songs you already master. There are other features that make the songs harder, like fading notes. That is, if it isn’t difficult enough for you (which it probably is).

Tips

You’ll want to play this game with your headphones on since it makes it both easier and more enjoyable. I use my Koss Porta Pro headphones when I play.

I found it easier to play on 2x speed in the beginning. The speed setting doesn’t make the music or notes go faster. It only affects how fast the notes fall which means that at a higher speed the note falls faster and is therefore visible on the screen for a shorter period of time. A higher speed means that you see less notes at the same time which makes it easier to distinguish which note you have to hit first. Some songs require even higher speed. But for all four button songs 2x is as low as I go.

This game eats up a lot of battery (or perhaps it’s just me losing track of time). When you’re on a roll and have a high combo that will put you at the top of the highscore I recommend you play with the power cable connected if you’ve been playing for a while. Otherwise you’ll, like me, learn the hard way that the battery can quit on you just as you are entering your name to the highscore. :( Note: your highscore is not saved until you exit the highscore list (you’ll see the memory light flash).

It’s possible to use the L and R buttons for the blue notes (normally played with up arrow and triangle), but I don’t recommend this. It’s possible that you have other preferences, but I find it easier to just use my thumbs. It’ll also be easier to switch to eight button mode later. Also, I’d advice against using the down arrow and X to control the speed as you’ll hit these buttons by accident while playing. You can control the speed with L and R instead or just adjust the speed in-game by pressing Start and adjusting it in the pause menu.

Gameplay video

I made a gameplay video the other day. I usually play better :) I just wanted to try to record something. It’s a pretty easy song, though I just unlocked it. I’m paying in Free Mode. When I press a button the corresponding column flashes. If I hit the note perfectly it says “MAX 100%” and if I miss it says “Break”. The reason the combo isn’t zero when the song starts is because it was my second attempt at recording so I had some combo left from the previous try. Gameplay screenshotYou can also see the Korean message asking if I want to quit at the end. The icon at the bottom that says 2.5x shows that I’m playing at 2.5x speed.

You can download the video here (9 MB). It’s a zip file containing the video and a thumbnail ready to play on a PSP. To play the video on PC you have to use QuickTime or a codec that can play H.264/AVC.

Glitches

There are two bugs in this game that I know of. One is a well known one that I’ve seen in other reviews: when you use the L and R buttons to switch album in the OST section before you’ve unlocked any songs for the OST the game will freeze and you have to restart your PSP. This no longer happens when you’ve unlocked something.

The other bug is when playing four button Free Mode and using the Random function (which I use alot) there’s a chance that a song in normal mode (6 button) is selected. This will freeze the game but you can still exit the game by pressing the Home button. You’ll lose any combo you were building of course. It doesn’t happen very often though.

I think that about covers it. :) Any comments or questions are welcomed. If you want I could write up a translation of the dialogs that appear in the game (preferably after you’ve bought the game by using this link ;) ).

I should also add that I’m very happy with YesAsia’s shipping of this game (I’ve shopped alot at YesAsia, but this is the first game I’ve bought). It shipped on a thursday and I was playing it the following tuesday. This was with the free shipping.