Review: DJMAX RESPECT (PS4)

It’s pretty miraculous that, of all games, DJMAX managed a comeback. The game was mired in something of a giant rights battle, since a number of former DJMAX staff splintered off to create SUPERBEAT: XONiC. This left fans wondering if DJMAX was going to wind up gone forever, or worse, a shadow of its former self.

Thankfully, neither has happened.

DJMAX RESPECT is a massive love letter to the series, compiling practically every song from the classic PSP titles: Portable 1 & 2. This alone would have gathered the title a lot of attention, but the team behind Respect thankfully didn’t stop there.

With 106 songs from the original games, that alone might have justified the purchase for a lot of fans just wanting a compilation of Portable 1 & 2, especially since many Portable 1 songs have never been available outside of the first game.

Respect also added 40 brand new songs, several of which are from DJMAX veterans such as NieN, Croove, Bexter, Tsukasa, and even Sampling Masters MEGA making a surprise return. Most impressively of all, the classic backgrounds from the original DJMAX have gotten a much-needed HD facelift, making them look better than ever.

Some of the videos are practically unrecognizable compared to their original counterparts.

Memory of Beach, from Portable 1:

And from DJMAX RESPECT:

This makes DJMAX RESPECT the best way to experience forgotten classics from the older games, almost to the point of making the original releases obsolete. Thankfully, even the handful of new songs clearly had a lot of care put into their backgrounds. While some are on the generic side, others are utterly brimming with personality.

The designers behind DJMAX RESPECT also had put a great deal of effort into giving Respect its own personality, and it shows through the UI and interface, which is polished to a fine shine. The game has a colorful interface that’s easy to navigate, pops with distinct graphics, and maintains a personality all its own. The background presentation of a respective song’s BGA while selecting music, likely inspired by the presentation in Andamiro’s Pump It Up series, is also an inspired touch.

 

In addition to the expected arcade mode, DJMAX RESPECT has all the trademark series modes such as freestyle, gallery(consisting of backgrounds and concept art), and of course, missions.

Still, DJMAX RESPECT isn’t without other flaws that have become series tradition. Many songs have to be unlocked to get the full game’s experience, though this requirement has been massively streamlined compared to the unpleasant grind from earlier games. Unlocking tracks usually takes a matter of minutes, often as soon as clearing one or two songs.

The need to unlock would be a negative, but the fact that the Respect creators acknowledge the tedium by streamlining it is at least a sign of progress.

However, for all of DJMAX RESPECT‘s polish, some aspects of the UI feel slap dash. The combo ticker and note display in particular feels plain. The monotone grey color is a drastic shift in tone from the bright graphics that fill every other aspect of the game’s presentation. It’s a tiny nitpick, but since this is what a player will be experiencing most of the time, it’s something that should have jumped out during development.

It needs to be reiterated: these are minor flaws in a beautiful game that is clearly a labor of love from DJMAX fans to DJMAX fans.  For those new to the series, there is no better place to start, and for those fellow veterans, there’s no better time to come back. With Clazziquai and Black Square DLC on the horizon, and hopefully even more new releases in the future, the outlook for DJMAX is bright indeed.

* Review copy provided by the development team or publisher

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