Friday, November 16, 2012

You don't go to jail for these beats: Jubeat Plus and Reflec Beat Plus.

This pic doesn't do the cabinet itself justice:
it's an impressive machine. 
Has that expensive new iPad kept you from traveling the world and seeking out new experiences? Well, if one of those desired experiences is playing a few select Japanese arcade games, YOUR WAIT IS OVER. Nearly two years ago, Konami released two of its most popular push-button and touch-screen music arcade games in near perfect ports for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch on the Japanese App Store: Jubeat Plus and Reflec Beat Plus. Better yet, Konami has also released them in the U.S. App Store as Jukebeat and Reflec Beat +. All four versions are free to play with three included songs, each with three difficulties, and have in-App stores where you can purchase four-song packs for ¥450 and $3.99 each, respectively.

Jubeat Plus (ユビートプラス, pronounced yu-bee-toh pu-ra-su) is my favorite, easily. In the game, you touch the virtual buttons in time with the music and, as the difficulty rises, the more frantic your fingers get. But, the sense of satisfaction you feel when you finally clear a song that had been driving you nuts rivals finishing off a boss in Dark Souls or, way back in the days of the original Guitar Hero, finally, finally beating "Bark at the Moon" on Expert. If you have friends who also have the game, you can play a hosted game where you compete against each other for the best score, exactly like the original arcade game.

Not pictured: a teddy bear with an afro
disco dancing to an electro-pop version
of the William Tell Overture.
The starting music is pure J-Pop / Anamanaguchi-like electronic and the Japanese store offers a lot of good packs with a good mix of pop, electronic, alternative, and even an "orchestral" track or two, which suit the medium perfectly. A piece of advice for after you play the game for a track or two: make sure you go into the settings and check out the different themes/buttons that are available because I found that some of them actually make the game easier with more intuitive timing. My personal button of choice is the dancer who looks like a Disco Teddy Bear, but there are modern art inspired buttons, animated fireworks displays, anime characters, electro-pop visualizations, LED-looking text-based buttons, and many others.

Jukebeat, its American counterpart, is the exact same game, but with a somewhat... disappointing initial track listing. If you like and want three remixes of "classic" Konami video game soundtracks, then perhaps you'll love it, but, compared to the Japanese initial offerings, it's lacking. Nearly half of the Jukebeat in-App store offers collections featuring Lady Gaga, Earth Wind and Fire, TLC, and other once-popular American music while the other half appears to be anime and video game soundtracks, remixed to suit the game. I am a fan of lots of music, and of Lady Gaga in particular, but I have to admit that none of the collections have yet inspired me to drop $3.99 on any of them. You should certainly look around the store and listen to the song previews for yourself. You may find something you love, but I believe that the Japanese store has far better selections for the money.

Damn right I'll start touching.
Reflec Beat Plus (Japan) and Reflec Beat + (USA) are again the exact same game with different initial song selections. The best way I can describe the game without you actually playing it is like playing touch-screen air hockey with multiple pucks and really catchy music. Better yet, you can play local multiplayer with each player on opposite sides of the iPad. It'a lot of fun, but definitely easier than Jubeat Plus, as a music game. I prefer the upped difficulty level of Jubeat Plus, but don't let that keep you from playing this excellent game.

The initial song selections are better across both games as compared to the great Jubeat Plus and the somewhat unfortunate (in my opinion) Jukebeat, but the American in-App store is woefully, inexcusably inadequate. There are two song packs - two - neither of which are remotely interesting. The Japanese store, on the other hand, is similar to the Jubeat Plus store in that there are tons of choices in lots of genres, so there will likely be something for everyone. 

I managed to both take the picture AND get
those two reds at the bottom... before
missing the next three. 
Frankly, I recommend the Japanese versions of both games on the iPad. The iPhone/iPod Touch version plays perfectly, but the screen is simply too small to play well. This is not a game that you will be able to play very well with only thumbs, and you will need to put the iPhone down on a surface to play with any amount of skill. You might think the same with the iPad, but, surprisingly, it's not as necessary. Most likely, you will use the iPad on your lap with both hands free to play, but, if you don't, the game is large enough to play with all five fingers on whichever free hand you have.

"But John!" you shriek. "If you don't live in Japan, you won't be able to download them from the Japanese App Store, right?"

Wrong! Quick Google searches will help you find instructions on how to create a Japanese Apple ID and help you find App Store gift card codes for sale if you find yourself wanting to explore the rich innards of the extensive in-App stores. 

These games are like sampling fine foreign cuisine for the first time at a nice restaurant. Reflec Beat is the first delectable piece of calamari or fried cheese at an Italian restaurant. But it's a small piece of what is sure to be a fabulous meal, where I feel that Jubeat Plus is a true entree to be savored and enjoyed repeatedly with many different garnishes. Its gameplay is better suited to mastery and has aged well over the time it has spent in both the arcades and on the iPad. If these are just the beginning of the feast, just imagine what else you might find when you finally explore the rest of the menu!


  1. Play Vallis-Neria, Deadlock, Red Goose or Quaver on Reflec Beat plus and you'll see difficult! Both games are great and difficult in their own ways. I do prefer jubeat in arcades because of the buttons over virtual ones, it is also easier in the arcades IMO. Great review!

  2. great article! ^_-