One of the wonderful things about being isolated in a military camp in the middle of nowhere is that I get a lot of free time to just, well, do absolutely nothing. Of course that's just being inefficient, which is why I always keep my PSP close at hand. Doing so allows me to enjoy a myriad of portable wonders five days a week and one of those wonders includes a humble rhythm game known as DJ Max Portable 2.
DJ Max Portable 2 is by no means a new game, having been released about three years ago in March of 2007. The game was developed by Korean developer Pentavision for the PlayStation Portable and boasts roughly 60 original songs, addicting gameplay, plenty of unlockable items and even a soundtrack mode that I actually use when I get the urge to just enjoy the tunes on the go.
I'm not much of a music gamer, I suck at Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, so I was a bit skeptical about trying out DJ Max at first. However, since my buddies were all playing it, I decided to hop on the bandwagon. Much like other music games out there, DJ Max requires that I hit the notes at the right time and with the correct rhythm. Doing so builds up a "Fever" bar which, once activated, doubles the points earned. Fevers can also be stacked up, meaning that if another Fever is activated while the previous is still running, the points earned get multiplied again. So far I've only ever gotten a x4 multiplier and doing so increased the speed of the notes, thus resulting in temporary blindness. It is, of course, incredibly satisfying to complete a song at high speeds with plenty of Fevers to boot. There are also a number of modifiers that provide some extra challenge like fading notes, quaking screens and even mirrored keys.
Surprisingly, DJ Max has a number of RPG elements thrown into the mix and they all work quite well. Playing through songs and completing challenges nets you experience points and gold. Levelling up usually unlocks something, be it a new character, gear, notes or more music. Once unlocked, these items can be bought with gold, except for music, and they serve to improve player stats like defence or the amount of experience or gold earned. Items can also be unlocked by achieving a high accuracy rate, max combos or just by playing a song a certain number of times.
The game offers quite a few modes, Button, FreeStyle and Xtreme Challenge. There are four different Button modes, 4B which uses four buttons, 5B, 6B and 8B which use five, six and eight buttons respectively. These modes are essentially the Arcade mode of DJ Max and there are 4 stages to clear, with each stage having a different set of songs with increasing difficulty. Xtreme Challenge offers a list of different challenges ranging from high scores to accuracy and break challenges. Freestyle and 4B are probably the most accessible modes and the ones that I play extensively. The other Button modes are simply too outrageously mind numbing for me to handle and usually end up with me suffering from locked thumbs and a migraine.
DJ Max also sports a competitive multiplayer mode, letting two players hook up locally via Ad-hoc. There's a certain edge to the multiplayer, playing side by side and trying to best your buddy can get pretty intense.
Additionally, there are several non-gaming features. OST mode acts as a portable music player that lets me listen to any of the tracks I've unlocked from the game. MV Edition is a collection of music videos and Collection is, well, a collection of media I've unlocked. Media like Images unlocked from playing the game can even be saved and used as wallpapers.
With solid and addicting gameplay akin to many popular music games, DJ Max offers fans of the music genre plenty to enjoy. Portable 2, however, has not been released outside of Asia. Fret not though as North America and Europe did get a revised version of the game under the title of DJ Max Fever, which released in January of 2009 and is a compilation of the first DJ Max and Portable 2, albeit with a few changes. As of today, Fever has been re-released on the PlayStation Network as a downloadable game. If you don't already have it, Sony has presented a great and easy opportunity to obtain this gem as it is quite hard to find outside of import stores.
Here's a video of me playing one of my favourite tracks, do enjoy. Coincidentally, I managed to score a Max Combo for the first time on this track while recording it.