NOSTALGIA Op.2 Location Test Report

NOSTALGIA. A piano game. A rhythm game.

The game that replaced BeatStream, and the spiritual successor to KeyboardMania, has been somewhat criticized and not hugely-successful in Japan due to various factors, including BST-gate. Although the game had a fairly long testing period, and went through several revisions before the final release, some players have mentioned feeling that the game wasn’t “up-to-par” for the BEMANI series.

The simple gameplay can be enjoyed by almost anyone, and the songlist caters to various audiences, including BEMANI fans, casual players, and anyone in-between. With the “FORTE” half-version update, a few important features were added, and players’ complaints were addressed, but something still felt missing…

THAT ENDS NOW.

NOSTALGIA Op.2 began location testing on July 13, and it’s a game-changer.

More on that in a bit. Excluding the long-running and important testing for DANCE RUSH STARDOM, the last Location Test for a new version of one of Konami’s BEMANI music games was nearly a year ago, with the prematurely-canceled test for beatmania IIDX 25: CANNON BALLERS. After that, there were doubts on whether or not there would ever be any future tests, and with none happening for quite some time, that idea seemed like reality.

Thankfully, Konami knows that players want new versions, and over the course of just a few days, new versions and location tests were announced for NOSTALGIA, then jubeat, and finally GITADORA!

The first up was NOSTALGIA Op.2, held on the 4-day weekend of July 13-16 in two familiar arcades, GAME SILK HAT DICE Kawasaki near Tokyo, and ROUND 1 Umeda in Osaka.

While Osaka players were treated to an earlier opening time (8:00 am), at randomly-numbered tickets were handed out to people in line outside SILK HAT DICE at 8:30 am, as usual. There were under 20 people in line, and my ticket was 18…

When the arcade opened at 9:00 am, players were led inside to the location testing area, where unfortunately no poster existed, but there was the usual signboard, location test notebook, new-feature printouts, and survey sheets.

Tokyo players could enjoy this hand-written message from the series director, and longtime BEMANI composer wac: “Piano is just like this. The answer is Nostalgia Op.2!” (Osaka players got a Kansai-ben’d version, of course.)

Now, lets talk about the new features:

The most important change in Op.2 is the addition of the new “Recital” Mode, which can be selected as an alternative to the Standard game mode, which has been labeled “Practice” for now.

“GOLD” has been added as the in-game currency. For now, GOLD can be earned only in Recital Mode.

Upon choosing Recital Mode, you must also choose a “Hall” or venue. Smaller ones can be rented for less GOLD, but larger halls can give more GOLD as a reward.

Your performance in Recital Mode is evaluated, and GOLD is earned based on 3 factors. First, the JudgeCats. Upon joining a hall, a panel of 5 cats (random? fixed? unknown now) will carefully watch you and hand down a rating based on 5 separate sub-factors:

  • Tempo: This is simply based only on your score. Lower score, lower rating.
  • Accuracy: While Nostalgia normally allows for pressing multiple keys to hit one note easily, this is frowned upon by the JudgeCats. If you press 3 or more keys for one note, your rating will fall.
  • Theme: Each hall or performance has its’ own theme, which is comprised of a few different keywords. Selecting songs that don’t fit the theme will lower this rating.
  • Elegance: New mechanic! During a song, certain phrases will be highlighted in either Yellow and Blue. If the notes are in a Blue section, this indicates “quieter” notes, and pressing the keys hard here is NOT Elegant. In Yellow sections, the notes should be played “louder” so light touches will lower the rating here.
  • Mistouches: Trying to freestyle? Don’t. Pressing keys when there are no notes will lower this rating.

Other than the JudgeCats’ ratings, there are two more features that will affect your earned GOLD: Audience and Fame.

The number of cats in the Audience will boost your earned GOLD, and also appears to affect your Fame. Fame is essentially your pianist rank, and completing more performances, and playing in larger halls will increase this, as will your your score. Fame also seems to be tied to your ability to play in certain venues, and may bring in a better crowd.

After snapping the above pictures, I headed back to the office for a day of work and wondering how the test was going. While I don’t consider myself a “Nostalgia player” I did enjoy playing when the game was released, and the new features really intrigued me.

I had to go back.

Arriving at about 7:00 pm, I was of course informed that I was too late to take my position of #18, and had that ticket replaced with #102 instead:

After a quick couple rounds of DANCERUSH STARDOM (whatup SPARKFES!!) and Arena Mode in beatmania IIDX, it was finally my turn. Photography was not restricted, except when other people were playing.

The theme this time around is absolutely gorgeous, and you can tell how much work the design team put into it.

There are a few design elements that seem to have been revived from the game’s very first test build at JAEPO 2016, along with the “Elegant” judgement rating. Personally, I love the new pop design and artwork, which features (what appears to be) the main character “Noah” and possibly a new character, along with the companion cat “Croit”:

Starting the game, you’re greeted with the standard Location Test pricing, with the PASELI-only FORTE more providing a boost in rewards, plus the ability to play both Expert and Real charts without unlocking them first.

Yes, “Real” charts. As a throwback to KeyboardMania, the highest difficulty, past Expert, has been named Real. Charts are generally harder, with smaller note sizes (exact key only on some songs!) and the conversion of glissandos into single notes:

Not all songs have a “Real” chart, but this may change in the final version. Real charts can be played once by spending a certain amount of GOLD, or permanently purchased for a higher amount:

On starting the game, a possibly familiar pair appears, on the way to some kind of floating city:

Mode selection is limited to the normal “Practice” Mode and “Recital” Mode, with two options being unavailable (not ready) in the Location Test build:

One interesting note is that the song count is shown for a Recital. While Nostalgia has no Extra Stage feature, and there are only 3 songs per game, this could indicate that some Recitals might have more (or fewer) songs. Looking forward to that Endless Recital, Konami!

As mentioned before, each venue has different halls with a different Capacity and Rental Fee. Currently, only the “Nostalgia Op.2 Location Test Memorial” venue is available, with two halls, Small and Large.

Since it was impossible to choose the Large Hall on the first play, I entered the Small Hall, and my JudgeCats appeared, all with adorable sweets-based names. Each one also appears to have their own preference and weighting that affects their judgement of you after a song:

Upon entering the hall, the “Theme” keywords such as “dark”, “light”, “strange”, etc. are shown:

Then, you are presented with the familiar songlist book. 9 new Nostalgia originals were available to play, along with 6 Classic/Jazz pieces, and one Anime license:

The full list of new songs was compiled at BEMANIwiki:

Choosing a song, you’re presented with the same old interface, although the Options menu now shows up as a checkbox that you can toggle to enter before the song begins:

The menu transitions all look amazing, especially this one, which NEEDS to be on an eAMUSEMENT Pass sometime in the future:

On to the Options screen, you’ll be able to choose from four categories: SOUND, VISUAL, NOTES, and JUDGE TIMING.

Under SOUND (sorry, no image) you can adjust the Volume of Headphone, Keysounds, Backing Track, Rhythm Guide (Metronome) all independently, as well as the Metronome’s Sound Effect, which, amazingly, includes a “Cow Bell” choice…

The Metronome itself can be toggled On/Off in-game, as usual.

In the VISUAL menu, you can adjust your Hi-Speed settings, as well as change how the notes scroll down under “Orbit”. The default (original) mode has the notes curve upwards, then down, in a convex arc, before hitting the judgement line, while the opposite “Slider” setting will curve down, then up, in a concave arc. There is also a “Liner” setting that has no curve:

In this menu, you can also enable the display or Fast/Slow feature, including the in-song display. The numbers will not appear on the Results Screen unless this is On, unlike IIDX. Finally, you can can also increase the Key Beam up to 5x higher than usual:

The NOTES menu has some neat tricks up its’ sleeve too. As with the current version, you can choose to Auto-play the Left or Right hands. New options include the height and width of notes. And interestingly enough, the On/Off below that will shrink the judgement window if you decrease the note width. This might be useful for practicing Real charts. Also, there are two noteskins, one is the default, and the newer one adds a small arrow indicator to differentiate between left and right hand notes:

Last up, the JUDGE TIMING menu, which is the new home to the “NEAR” toggle, as well as a new and very smart Timing line slider:

When your first Recital begins, a few basic tutorial screens are shown to introduce the new points. The 8th screen mentions that by playing various songs, you can unlock more songs, and travel to new worlds:

One of my favorite small details is here in-game. Each of the small spotlights at the top of the screen corresponds to each of the individual keys on the keyboard. During gameplay, the effect is excellent.

Not only does it look neat, it also serves as a visual reminder of where you’re hitting the keys, for players who look towards the upper part of the playfield:

After your performance, the JudgeCats will each present their scores, ranging from 0.0 to 10.0, for a total score of 50.0 per song. The standard judgement information is also available if you tap the “MORE” marker under the score:

Each of the JudgeCats will also show the degree of their emphasis for each of the 5 points that they evaluate. For example, “Caramel” focused on Elegance and Accuracy, but wasn’t concerned with the Theme too much:

Although I had both the options for Near timing and Fast/Slow turned off, they did still show up as “0” on the results, which was a little confusing:

Finally, at the end of your Performance, you’re treated with this extremely unique and cute “DAILY CAT’S” newsletter-styled total result screen, which is basically the best thing ever. The Head JudgeCat even signs his name:

And that’s about it.

My general impression from reading through the location test notebook was that players were really happy with Op.2 so far. The first 2 gameplay rounds were watched very carefully by players, and the comments were very positive overall. I was really impressed by how much hard work went into Op.2, and I’m excited to play it on release.

Some of you may or may not know, but I haven’t been -too- active with Bemanistyle recently. But I felt I had to break down exactly how this location test went and how this new version will change the series.

There are too many details in the game that just make it feel like something done by hand. We already know that a lot of the elements ARE hand-written and totally unique to this game, but Op.2 brings a lot more. The stage lights? The tails of each JudgeCat holding up their signs? The amazing art and theme? I can go on and on about how many parts of this version completely blow away the original, and even surpass some other BEMANI games.

It almost feels like a completely different game.

One thing that I need to point out is that while Nostalgia (original) had some interesting, mystical story elements to it, it still felt like a kind of rushed game, as something that would “do for now” as a replacement to the unpopular BeatStream. There was no real goal, and although the theme was “piano”, it felt like something was missing. It was vague and a little too open-ended. For example, there’s a literally “Endless Road” path selection with 9999 steps, and so far, someone (somehow) has gotten into Chapter 4, after reaching 9999 THREE TIMES. But the rewards are named after 3 of the constellations in the zodiac, which means there could possibly be 12 or 13 chapters to this path, or more. Calculated assuming a maximum possible of (9+1) steps *3 songs, that would equal 4,000 FULL CREDITS. For anyone who has a completionist side, this became a slap in the face.

That’s when it hit me. Having the gameplay modes separated between Practice and Recital makes total sense. The goal for many actual pianists is either to compose songs, or be a great performer. Op.2 will make the latter a reality, in the game world.

Remember PARTY/Story mode in beatmania IIDX? No? Exactly. That had a slight story of you trying to become a real DJ, but it was just a gimmick and didn’t really help the game.

However, with Nostalgia, Op.2’s Recital Mode, and all the grading, new mechanics, and work that went into making it happen, are a huge motivation to play. A Skill Analyzer Course, IIDX Dan/DJ Rank, Pianist Rank, etc. can only go so far. But now, Nostalgia is focusing on actual piano techniquies, and I think this needs to be pointed out. Other BEMANI games (aside from DrumMania and DANCERUSH) will basically have no effect on your ability to play a real instrument, dance, or DJ, but Nostalgia’s new elements in Op.2 can actually help you with Pitch/Accuracy/Tempo and more.

I want this game to succeed. Also, I REALLY want this game to go global, so more players can enjoy it outside of Japan and Korea. This could be huge, if Konami keeps putting in the effort that they put in to bring us this release. I’m already expecting big things from Op.3. Do you want to play? If so, let your arcade owners/management know. This especially applies to players near ROUND 1 locations in the USA, since they have an easy (and legal) way of getting the game.

Anyway, if you’re in Japan this weekend, GO PLAY. If not, I hope you can have as much fun as I did playing this game soon.

See you~

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