Review: KickBeat: Special Edition

Super Smash Hero.

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 09/18/2014 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Unique mix of fighting and rhythm genres; Solid gameplay mechanics; Beautiful cutscenes.
Poison Mushroom for...
Lackluster soundtrack; Audio issues during cutscenes.

Even with the death of major music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, the genre is still alive and well. These types of games may not be the popular behemoths that they used to be, but there are still plenty of interesting ideas being implemented by the developers making them. KickBeat: Special Edition is a perfect example of this, as the game crosses fighting and rhythm genres together to make something truly special.

Your character stands in the middle of a swarm of enemies that are ready to attack you, but they don’t come at you all at once. Instead, they step out of the surrounding mob one at a time and circle around you before attacking. Once an enemy starts to attack, they will be in one of four directions: up, down, left, or right. By pressing the corresponding directional or face button, you’ll attack them with the beat of the music to score points. While this effectively makes KickBeat: Special Edition more of a rhythm game than a fighting game, countering enemy attacks after they circle around you adds a unique spin to the genre. The gameplay is very solid as a whole and it feels great to successfully hit a string of enemies perfectly.

Enemies attack in different ways, but you’ll be able to predict their movements based on their color. The standard enemies are yellow, who attack on single beats. When two yellow enemies are connected together, you’ll have to hold the button down to attack the first one and let go when the next one is in range. Next, blue enemies can attack on half beats and require quicker thinking as a result. Finally, groups of red enemies attack at the same time, so you’ll have to press multiple buttons at once to counter them. The colors help to distinguish enemy attack patterns in the heat of a hectic battle, giving you a fighting chance during every song.

Certain enemies also have power-ups that can be collected with a button press once they’ve been attacked. The power-ups are pretty standard, ranging from points, multipliers, health, a shield to protect yourself, and a shock wave to attack close enemies. There’s another multiplier called chi, which builds up by attacking enemies and collecting it as an item. Chi works the same way as Guitar Hero’s star power, as you can activate it manually during challenging sections to rack up extra points. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but the mechanics still work quite well.

Unfortunately, KickBeat: Special Edition is held back by its lackluster soundtrack. The game’s 24-song soundtrack only caters to three different styles of music: metal, rap, and house. There are also not many songs to get excited about overall. The biggest names on this list are Rob Zombie, P.O.D., Marilyn Manson, and Papa Roach, all of whom are pretty irrelevant these days. There are also a few other underground artists, but I was generally left unimpressed with these offerings as well. If you have any interest in KickBeat: Special Edition, then I highly suggest that you look up a tracklist to see if it’s for you.

Another particular problem I had with the game is the audio within the cutscenes. At random times, cackling noises would sporadically come out of nowhere and make it hard to listen to the game’s dialog. This is a shame because everything else about the cutscenes is fantastic. The story, which features a man who wants to steal music from the world, is delightfully silly and conveyed well through beautiful hand drawn animations. But unfortunately, the random sound issues constantly occurred during every single cutscene within the game. Thankfully, this never happens during actual gameplay, but it’s still something that’s hard to overlook and needs to be patched.

Rhythm games are practically non-existent on Wii U, so it’s great to see something like KickBeat: Special Edition fill that void. The generally disappointing soundtrack makes the game hard to recommend to those who are looking for more variety, but the gameplay is still great and helps make rhythm games feel fresh once again. If you like the soundtrack or are willing to look past it, you’ll have a lot of fun punching and kicking to the beat of the music in KickBeat: Special Edition.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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