After months of waiting, MARVELOUS and Hardcore Tano*C’s much-anticipated WACCA is finally hitting arcades across Japan; so how does the duo’s first effort size up against the competition?
I had my first experience with WACCA back in January at the JAEPO show thanks to some friends at MARVELOUS and Hardcore Tano*C, the developers and creators of WACCA. It was a new attempt at bringing something fresh to the music game genre by using a full 360-degree touch panel surrounding a circular screen. I found myself tapping away as I would have in say beatmania IIDX or Chunithm, another touch panel-based music game. But WACCA was different. There was something about it that felt unfamiliar. The concept of having a full 360-degree panel brought a whole new feeling of immersion to the game.
Conceptually, WACCA is the same as any other note-based rhythm game; notes “fall” to a timing line and you tap in time with the music. However, WACCA added depth to this by adding swipe notes anywhere in the playing field. When I played it back in January, the game was not finished and was what felt like a late-alpha or early-beta state. There were issues with the touch panel not responding or notes not triggering when tapped. Visually, at the time, the game was pretty much fleshed out. With that being said, there was just something that felt missing at the time.
So with all my previous experiences with WACCA out of the way, let’s fast-forward 6 months to the final release of the game on July 18 and let’s see what has changed. For starters, the game now uses the AIME IC Card system for score tracking and other customization features. This is also compatible with the amusement IC network as well, so if you have a recent KONAMI E-Amusement Pass or Namco Banapass, you won’t need to purchase another card to stuff in your wallet or purse. Always a nice thing when so many games in the past used their own proprietary cards.
Upon tapping your card on the reader, you are prompted to register your card to WACCA extremely similar to other games which use the same type of system. Upon registering your card, you are greeted by your in-game navigator, Elizabeth, who seems to be quite sassy based on the way she speaks to you. After a short introduction from Elizabeth, you are prompted to choose your mode of play. The modes of play include; “Single Play”, “Multi Play”, “Become a VIP Member”, and “Stage Up Trial”. Stage Up Trial was not selectable at the time of release. We’re not sure if this is because it simply isn’t ready yet, or if there is a pre-required condition which needs to be met in order to access it.
With myself being an ever-so-passionate player of rhythm games, I chose to do the Single Play option just to see what was different from the JAEPO version of WACCA and the final build of the game. The initial song list contains 51 songs with more being promised to be patched into the game with subsequent updates. The genres range from hard-hitting tracks from the Hardcore Tano*C team of producers, to anime songs, and J-Pop licenses such as one of my favorite tracks “Uma-rvelous” by MONKEY MAJIK × Sandwich Man.
One thing the game has different from the previous build we played is that the “Expert” mode is locked behind a wall, requiring the player to achieve an “S” ranking or higher on the “Hard” mode of said song. This was mildly frustrating, as some of the “Hard” rank charts are quite lacking in the difficulty scale and being a veteran rhythm game player, I wish I had the option to play what level I want. This is also the same method used in Chunithm, so it’s not completely foreign. This is, however, to be expected as they want to obviously encourage people to play the game rather than being turned off immediately from its steep difficulty curve.
Once you pick your song, you’re presented with a menu to change your play settings which include options such as a timing offset, hi-speed (up to hi-speed 5), background darkness, and note color (another option which I was unable to activate). The playing field is exactly what you see in front of you when you look at the machine. It’s a circle, with a touch panel lining the perimeter of the screen. The notes can fall in any portion of the circle, but it seemed during my couple hours of play on the launch day that they try to restrict random notes to be higher than the halfway point of the touch panel. This may be different on the harder “Expert” mode songs. The types of notes vary from your single taps, to hold/slide notes, to swipe notes. What I found really interesting though is that when we played the JAEPO build of the game, there were only left and right swipe notes. In the final build of the game, there are now left, right, forward, and backward swipe notes. This adds a huge amount of immersion to the game and we’re not used to pushing our hands forward or pulling them back when hitting notes in a rhythm game. Aside from this, the game is quite straight-forward and does a great job of explaining how to play in the optional tutorial mode when you first play the game.
After playing our first game, we wanted to see what the other menu options were on the mode select. One thing that piqued my interest was the “VIP Member” option. There are 5 main points to being a “VIP Member”, I will outline them below;
- You get to play newly added songs 1 day earlier than non-VIP members.
- You get to access the full customization option list as well as further detailed scoring info online via the MyPage function on the WACCA website.
- You get an additional 1.2x WACCA points.
- Additional WACCA points for your daily log-in bonus.
- Additional EXP for your daily log-in bonus.
To become a VIP member, you simply select it from the mode select screen and pay the monthly fee of 3 credits (¥300 here in Japan). This is all done in-game, so you don’t need to register a credit card or anything to be able to get the full WACCA experience. This is especially great for players outside of Japan, as Round1 USA has announced that they will be getting WACCA in their stores.
Some of the things which didn’t change are some of the ones that I’m personally worried about. For starters, the touch panel just seems to be quite finicky. Sometimes it just seems to not register, similar to what we experienced during our play at JAEPO. This might just be me, but I don’t think so. Second is the resolution of the screen. In 2019, we kind of expect all games to run natively at high-resolution. Where it’s possible that WACCA is outputting in high-res, a lot of the text and graphics look extremely aliased and grainy. Then again, I could just be being over-picky.
All in all, we feel that while WACCA is still in its infancy, it is a game that has a huge amount of potential if they can just remedy the two major flaws I outlined above. The game has a fantastic soundtrack, it’s extremely visually pleasing (aside from the aliasing), and the concept of the game is honestly really, really fun. We look forward to seeing what the teams at MARVELOUS and Hardcore Tano*C bring to future updates and what the future of WACCA holds!