It was the night of February 20th, a particularly chilly Tokyo night. I was on my way home from work and it hit me. “Today is the release of Arena Mode for IIDX!” So, I made my way over to Taito Station in Shibuya. Upon entering the game center, I was blasted by the sounds of Chunithm, Dance Rush, and Sound Voltex. But I wasn’t there for any of that. I was there to slap some buttons and attempt to beat some players throughout the country of Japan. Well, at least online.
Upon making my way to the beatmania IIDX 27 Heroic Verse Lightning Model cabinets, I made sure that the machine had the patch installed containing the Arena Mode release. I placed my E-Amusement Card to the sensor and logged into my profile. After logging into my profile, I was greeted with a menu which housed the new Arena Mode icon. Once choosing the mode I paid for my game with Konami’s digital currency, PASELI, and I was on my way to becoming a true IIDX top-ranker.
After I picked the Arena Mode option, I was prompted with a menu that asked me if I wanted to play online with other players or if I wanted to play locally with players in the arcade. Now, obviously I came here with one intention and only one intention, to battle players online to establish myself as a superior player of beatmania IIDX. Or at least that’s what I thought I was going to do.
Now, I was familiar with the Arena Mode functionality and what it consisted of, however, the Heroic Verse version of Arena Mode seemed different. I mean, conceptually it’s still the same, but it just seemed more fleshed out. The matching screen now has a graphical interface that really gives the game an Esports feeling. Which makes sense seeing as that is the direction that Konami is looking to take the game with its Bemani Pro League. The new matching screen displays each individual players’ Note Radar and what their Class Rankings are. As for myself, I am a “Chuuden” class, which is one class lower than the top class ranking of “Kaiden”. This means that I get paired up with players who usually are a significantly higher level of player than I am. Or ever would be. The matching screen shows if a player is also a top-ranking player in the area they are from as well as if they’re on their way to becoming a ranking player in their area.
After the matching screen, you are taken to the song select wheel where you choose the songs that you wish to challenge your online battle opponents. Now, what is really cool about the Arena Mode this time is that there is a song discrepancy between standard beatmania IIDX cabinets and the Lighting Model cabinets. There are 9 songs on the Lightning Model Cabinets that are not playable on the standard cabinets. If someone playing on a Lightning Model cabinet chooses an exclusive song to the Lightning Model cabinet, the players that they are battling with through arena mode will still be able to play the song on a standard cabinet. This means one major thing. The song data for all of the Lightning Model songs are present on a standard cabinet.
Upon completing a song, you are taken to the familiar-looking result screen, however now instead of your registered rivals or in-store scores showing, the opponents you’re battling online are displayed. You have an opportunity to earn a total of 8 points across 4 songs. The first place gives 2 points, second place 1 point, third and fourth place 0 points. Across 4 songs the rankings can obviously change so there are some moments where it’s pretty nerve-wracking. Especially when you’re in the first place and you see your opponent graph turning both white and red with every note knowing that you’re one mistake away from taking that top spot.
At the end of four songs, a victor is declared, and the game is over. The game has a varying rank for the Arena Mode which determines the level of players that you’re matched with. For instance, I am a rank A-5 which places me with top-level players which are honestly, light years ahead of me in terms of skill. The highest level one can be is rank A-1 whereas the lowest rank is D-5. If you place first or second place, you can earn experience to push you closer to the next level ranking. If you place third or fourth, you lose experience and have the opportunity to be knocked down a rank.
On top of all of this, you earn something called “Arena Cubes” which are exclusive to the online mode of play for Arena. After you earn a certain number of Arena Cubes, you can unlock content or earn rewards such as in-game currency, in-game v-disks allowing you to play Leggendaria charts, or even new songs or new song charts. It’s a very involved way to unlock content which doesn’t really feel like you’re trying to grind out until the next unlock. There are always little things being unlocked along the way.
All in all, I had a good time with the release of Arena Mode for IIDX 27. Sure, it sucked when I was on my second game and the first song that came up was Chrono Diver -Pendulums- Another, twice. Also, songs that have lots of tempo changes, those suck too. But those two points aside, it’s a really fun mode and it really allows you to see just how good you are compared to other players. This is especially good if you’re considering to be part of the Bemani Pro League. Just what treasures will be hiding behind this season of Arena mode still has much to be seen, but I’m looking forward to it and hope that the system music for the Arena Mode becomes playable just like Lethal Weapon. It’s such a banger.