Feature: Taipei Game Show

February 25, 2003 4:00 AM PST


Rock Fever EX Solo (Arcade/IGS)
by joshua hsieh
02252003

The Rock Fever EX Solo cabinet I reviewed at TGS 2003 is only 70% complete. The game still rocks.

At the time I played this game, my face had become recognizable to the IGS staff at the show. I had only to walk towards a Rock Fever EX Solo cabinet to be kindly met by a IGS floor representative who stepped me through the gameís versus mode.

As we got to the cabinet, another IGS person reset the machine, either to avoid bugs, or more likely, to select the easy mode so I wouldnít hate the game, feel embarrassed and review it poorly. How sweet.

As we waited for it to boot up, he explained to me the controls in the following 457 wordsÖ.

GAMEPLAY - THEORY

There are five slots on your game screen in which yin and yang musical notes fall towards the bottom line.

When those notes hit the bottom line of your game screen, you must hit the appropriate button for the appropriate slot, and create a brief blast of light at the bottom of the line that destroys those yin and yang symbols. A bit like Tetris meets space invaders cum Taiwanese pop music.

Now, about those buttons I just mentioned.

There is one blue button for four of the slots, except the middle one, which is reserved for bass notes. If a blue yin and yang note falls in a slot, then you must hit that slotís blue button when it hits the bottom line. There are a total of four blue buttons which are paired in twos, with one red arrow button above them. Together they form two neat triads of buttons. One for each hand. Quite sensible donít you think?.

Two red arrow buttons, left and right, are for the two slots surrounding the middle slot. If a red yin and yang icon hits the bottom line, you best hit it up.

In between the two triads of buttons is a white trackball that is the Rockfever button, and you spin it to prolong the flash or blast of light that occurs when you press a button. So as long as the RF trackball spins, the blast of light will last a longer time. This gives you room to fudge: you donít have to hit the button exactly when the icon hits the bottom line, but rather a little bit before it hits the bottom. Then you can go on to the next note and so forth. This definitely can work to your advantage.

It can also work to your disadvantage, as the RF button is above the two triads of buttons. This will present a particular difficulty to those gamers with less than three hands. Some use the RF button and some donít. I did. It captures some of the action the Robotech ladies got when they waved the trackball shields on that big ship. Youíll feel similar mayhem on the higher levels. Donít blink.

There is a bass foot pedal for the base notes that fall in the middle slot. Itís not quite the full body workout of say, Dance Dance Revolution, but it gets the blood flowing.

The layout of both the buttons and their functions are simple, but they are also ingenious. The two triads of buttons corresponding with both your hands, and the RF button that can help you and hurt you, allow for great depth of gameplay.

The whole point of all this is to consecutive hit the falling notes, and create chain combos, which give you points. Enough points and you win.

Before I knew it, the game was loaded, and we hit our start buttons.

GAMEPLAY Ė EMPIRICAL RESEARCH

First there was the Select Game Mode screen, which includes difficulty options. Not that it mattered, I was getting easy mode whether I liked it or not.

Next was the Select Song screen. All eyes were upon me, as the Taiwanese crowd that surrounded me waited with bated breath to see which of their songs the American was about to label cool with his selection. I juked up, then down, up again, and then down to finally pick one song, the name of which I forget. A memorable moment.

Next I played. Letís just say I rock a little know how. Thanks for all the Motown mom.

I must say the music is cool. I remembered the words of IGS arcade producer, Lover Lin, that Rock Feverís music is modeled after the pop music of Taiwan. In truth, the gameís music incorporates many styles, such as 50ís style rock. There is one song that sounds much like Bill Haley and the Cometís Rock Around the Clock. As for the sound effects, they are very clear..

As I reflected upon the Loverís wisdom, I synched up with the beat and edged out my opponent. My opponent was surprised. Little did he know Iíd Inserted a few Credits in my day. I won by two percent. The tempo increases as it draws to a close. Score one for Insert Credit.

The iconography of this game is familiar upon first glance. The sound reminds me of a good Capcom arcade game, and the graphic layout reminds me of something SNKish. Very bright but tasteful, attractive and accessible.

GAMEPLAY - CONCLUSION

It is not without good reason that IGS is known as the SNK of Chinese society. Listen folks, this game is really good from the top down, and the bottom up.

The cabinet is beautiful, stylish, well laid out and very inviting. A good arcade game isnít the same without its cabinet. So it is with Rock Fever EX Solo.

Like Othello, the game is easy to learn, but harder to master. Itís got that tenacious challenge that keeps you coming back for more. Itís musical, so it connects our body, mind and spirit immersing you in gameplay in a way that is rare nowadays. This is especially true in the versus mode.

It shows once more the oft-unnoticed truth that IGS has long since arrived in the elite echelon of gaming. They have associated Taiwan homegrown with quality videogames, of the caliber found in cream of Japan and Americaís rich crop of videogames. Having come of age in Taiwan IGS is destined to set sail across the Pacific with its full flotilla of its games to do the same in America.

IGS truly is the senior elder of Chinese arcade gaming.

Joshua Hsieh has the fever.


 

[Main]

[IGS Interview]

[Rock Fever EX Solo floor review]

[Fighting Club impressions]

[Supplemental info and pics]