Sep
18
2009

Jubeat: the most awesome game ever.

It was about one year ago that I first discovered this beautiful machine at a local ゲーセン (“game center” or arcade), and I fell in love at first sight. Those big, beautiful buttons, the soothing cyber-techno atmosphere… I felt like I was dancing in the future, with my hands. This was it. This was the music game to rule all music games, it was perfect.

What is Jubeat?

Jubeat ( [ユビート] pronounced “you + beet” and spelled “UBeat” outside of Asia, by the way), is a music/rhythm game from Konami. Music games in Japan are hugely popular, consuming up to a third of total game center space and frequently requiring players to wait in line for their favorite game. Many around the world have heard of and perhaps even seen one of these games, Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), at your local game center (even though most game centers outside of Japan are decidedly dull in comparison). In addition to DDR, in Japan there are also music games that utilize a guitar, drums, a Japanese taiko, and a DJ pad. Jubeat’s closest relative is “pop’n music“, and it’s no coincidence that the elite players of both games are basically the same people.

Jubeat machines, photo from Wikipedia (JP)

Jubeat machines, photo from Wikipedia (JP)

The idea of all Konami’s music games before Jubeat centered around watching notes fall from the top to the bottom of a screen like a waterfall, and timing your button pushes to the instant the notes hit the bottom. The better your timing and the fewer missed notes, the higher your score. Thus the most defining feature of Jubeat is that the waterfall is gone. Now the buttons themselves tell you when to press. As you play through a song, the screen behind the button will animate so that you know the note is coming, and it’s your job to touch them in time with the music. Think of “whack-a-mole”. It takes a couple plays to get used to, but it’s much more intuitive than the waterfall style games so the learning curve is very easy.

How do you play?

The best way to explain is by example, so here is a video of me playing Shining Star, the difficulty is 8/10 (but this is a relatively easy L8 song)

The rating system (based on points) are as follows, so you have some idea how well I did… (= very good, but not super)

  • E :  less than 500,000
  • D :  500,000-699,999
  • C : 700,000-799,999
  • B : 800,000-849,999
  • A : 850,000-899,999
  • S : 900,000-949,999
  • SS : 950,000-979,999
  • SSS : 980,000-999,999
  • EXC : 1,000,000 points

And another video of me playing a Level 10 song, just for kicks.

Why should I play?

Other than the fact that this game is the most awesome game in existence? Well, there are a number of reasons. First of all, it’s really good for your left-right brain coordination, your reflexes, your perception and your concentration ability.

It’s also not that expensive. Well, actually it depends where you are… around Nagoya, where I live, all the machines are 100 yen (= about $1 US) for a credit, which lets you play either 3 or 4 songs, which is 10 minutes about. So you would basically have to spend all day at this game to go over $30. And for most people your brain and fingers will be tired by around $20. However, depending on the game center, one credit might cost 200 yen (machines in the Tokyo area especially are this way). Personally, I’m usually pretty satisfied after 5 credits, unless I’m on fire and then I want to keep playing. But even if you go all out, it’s a lot cheaper than a night on the town.

There’s an element of exercise involved too. Not quite like DDR where you’re moving your whole body, but on faster songs that require lots of arm motion, you will find your blood pumping faster at the end. I’ve even broken into a light sweat on some of the harder songs (usually when I play two in a row).

And there’s always ego. If you take the time to get really good at this game, you can impress a lot of people. Take a look at these videos by the Japanese jubeat masters and tell me they’re not superhuman…

* : Evans is the hardest song in Jubeat, and the stealth marker means you can’t see the notes coming (you have to have the song memorized)… I have had the personal honor of being beaten by YS-Y in random online matchings on two separate occasions. :-D

How do you get really, really good?

Basically, you just have to play a lot. A whole lot. Think 1500 credits or more. If you grew up playing the piano or are very good at other music games, that will speed your learning up substantially, but you still need to play play play. Unfortunately I am neither a piano player or music game veteran, so I’m currently stalling in the “very good” skill area, trying my best to cross over into excellency…

Learn multiple markers (marker = the design/pattern of the buttons that shows you when to touch). I personally started out playing with the shutters marker (see KYOUSUKE’s video above) because they were easy to see, but for the last 8 months or so I’ve been using the flower marker, because it’s easier to isolate the sequence. The bars marker is another favorite among top players (very good for timing), but personally I just don’t like the upward motion inherent in the marker. Each marker puts different requirements on your brain, so while you’ll definitely find that you have a particular favorite marker that you do better with, be sure to round out your training.

Finally, learn to use your thumbs. It’s important to train your thumbs as much as you can. For beginners, it’s easy to forget or ignore them because they give you the least tactile feedback and are being used in a much less natural way than your other fingers. However, you really need super thumb skills on harder songs: they let you simultaneously hit non-adjacent notes, they save you time and arm power on faster sequences (you don’t have to move your arms as much as if you re-use your index finger), and using your thumb to hit a button keeps more of your hand further from the center of the board and therefore keeps your hands and arms from obstructing your field of vision somewhat.

Okay, that’s enough rambling about Jubeat for today… time for me to go to the game center!

Here are some relevant links for anyone interested:

Let me know if you’re in Nagoya and want to try a local play (one-on-one match)!

Posted under Living & Enjoying Japan by Nihonshock.

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