The DJMax series has been around for around 14 years, but for the most part, the games have gone unnoticed thanks in part to many releases being exclusive to the PSP in Korea or tucked away in arcades. Thankfully, DJMax Respect finally brings this hardcore music game to the home console (in this case the PS4), and it has an impressive number of songs to boot. Just be warned, DJMax Respect is by far the hardest game in its genre that I’ve ever played.
DJMax‘s formula isn’t much different from your Guitar Heroes and Rock Bands in that you select a song, notes come from the top of the screen down, and then time button presses as the notes hit a bar on the screen, with better timing giving you a better score. Where it differs from those games is that not only are there different difficulties, but songs can be played in four, five, six, and eight button modes.
I was warned beforehand that DJMax Respect would be difficult and of course I poopooed at the idea that I, a veteran player of music games who has finished nearly every other similar title on the market on expert difficulty, would have any issues. Turns out I was wrong—dead wrong. Not only could I not even barely begin a song on the eight button mode, but after spending a good deal of time with the game I still can’t even complete some songs on the four button mode, even on the easiest difficulty setting!
I don’t view this difficulty as a bad thing, at least for myself. It only meant I had a lot to work towards instead of just coming in and flying through every song and being done with the game until DLC eventually launches. Less dedicated or casual players, however, may find the difficulty a bit overwhelming. While there are ways to slow down note speed, it doesn’t feel like it makes the game any easier, but instead just squishes more notes on the screen at a time and did little but make me panic a bit more.
Difficulty aside, DJMax Respect is an amazing package all around. With 107 songs from the PSP-exclusive DJMax Portable and its sequel, along with 40 brand new songs, suffice to say you’ll be able to find at least a few songs you enjoy. That said, a majority of what’s on offer is K-pop over anime-like music videos, so it might not be for everyone, but there’s a smattering of other genres and styles. There is also a ton of DLC planned that brings over songs from all the other games in the series, which in a way makes Respect the definitive edition of the series.
Not only are there a ton of songs to unlock, there are also unlockable cosmetics that change the way the charts and notes look and function, including some optional difficulty tweaks like notes fading in and out or the screen pixellating randomly as a couple examples. Some are more practical than others, as I found out when attempting to play with my notes represented by cute kittens instead of bars, which made perfect timing practically impossible yet still adorable.
There are several different modes to play, including an arcade mode that has you playing three songs in a row from a random selection of songs and a freestyle mode that lets you play any song in the game as you see fit as well as the ability to play with two players locally. There’s also an online battle mode to play against other players, but so far every time I’ve gone into the mode the servers are—sadly—empty.
Lastly, mission mode requires playing specific songs under specific conditions to advance and is the closest thing to a progression-based single player mode. Missions start simple enough with four button songs before quickly ramping up to things like five button songs with the note chart repeatedly sliding from left to right and back on the screen, which requires you to miss less than 15 notes across three songs. Thankfully, it seems like most everything in the game can be unlocked just by playing and completing songs in any mode, as that continues to level up your profile and unlock new content.
DJMax Respect is easily the hardest music game I’ve ever played but it also comes jam-packed with songs with plenty of extra content to unlock. While it doesn’t feature household names like Aerosmith or other lesser rock bands, it has a little something for everyone. The loading times are nearly instantaneous, the menu designs are slick, colourful and run at a smooth 60 FPS just like the rest of the game, and there just isn’t a lot to hold against it. If you can deal with its difficulty, and don’t mind a lot of K-pop, you’ll be more than happy. For those unsure, or more casual players, you may want to try out the free demo on PSN before purchase.