In hindsight, we should have reviewed DJMAX RESPECT V at the same time as MUSYNX. Both are rhythm action games that make use of the gamepad rather than chonky peripherals. Both originate from the East, giving J-pop the focus. Both have titles that look like they’re being shouted. And both – in a bizarre turn of events – have adopted the same Guitar Hero-like presentation, and the exact same button mapping. It’s incredibly hard to review one without invoking the other.
If these two games are so determined to plagiarise each other, we’re going to have them scoring goals against each other, like a football match. It’s juvenile, but it might prove to be fun.
Straight after kickoff, in the opening few minutes, DJMAX RESPECT V takes the score to 1-0. It is on Game Pass day one, with the entirety of the song library available. MUSYNX, although cheap for the sheer number of songs you get, and with DLC packs that are equally well-priced and expansive, cannot compete. First blood to DJMAX.
But the scores get levelled pretty quickly. DJMAX RESPECT V scores an own goal with its onboarding. Quite how it passed Microsoft certification, we don’t know: the tutorials are all PC tutorials, with mentions of pressing F keys and numbers. The sheer laziness of not updating the controls to Xbox controls borders on the mind boggling.
DJMAX RESPECT V goes a goal up with its presentation. While MUSYNX isn’t bad, with some slick menus and neat audio design, it’s clear that DJMAX knows its way around a UI. It wouldn’t be out of place in a Persona game, and that is high praise. This is one of the most over-the-top but glossy shopfronts in gaming.
There’s a goal to either side with the game modes. MUSYNX has the edge, ever so slightly, on the sheer number of ways that you can personalise a game, handing you multiple sliders for things like difficulty. But there are more ways to play DJMAX RESPECT V, as it comes with multiple game modes for different kinds of players. There’s Air, which is possibly the most impressive: here, you are watching one of three different MTV-like channels with other players (before MTV became nothing about music, of course). In real-time, you are playing with or against hundreds of others, and taking time out to make comments about the song that has been randomly chosen for the community. Be social or play: the choice is yours.
(Although, we are going to give a goal to MUSYNX for the sheer unfriendliness of the format in Air. You can’t reply to specific conversations, so comments just get tossed into the aether for everyone to see. And there’s very little moderation here, so the comments are nasty. Perhaps we played at the wrong time, but it’s mostly full of people who should know better, trying to get round the lackadaisical word filters. 3-3)
Other modes include Free Style, which is the simplest of them all, allowing you to pick the song you want – as long as you’ve unlocked it. Which sucks. The need to unlock songs before jamming on them is as archaic as it gets, so we’re tossing another goal MUSYNX’s way. It lets you play whatever you own. It’s 3-4 to MUSYNX, if you’re paying attention.
There’s Online, which is brilliant (goal to DJMAX). You can choose to play Ranked, scoring valuable points against similarly positioned players to slowly nudge up the global highscores. Or you can play slightly less competitively, in an Open Match which just displays the other players, so you can see how they’re doing without feeling like you have to beat them. 4-4.
Finally, there’s Mission, which is DJMAX RESPECT V’s campaign. It’s nothing more than some objectives and playlists strung together, so you should definitely not consider it as a story mode or anything substantial. But it’s nice to be guided through the game by the hand; it’s not always easy to understand what your path is through a rhythm action game, and DJMAX RESPECT V does this better than MUSYNX. 5-4. See, told you this would be fun.
What about playlists? This is a tough one. DJMAX RESPECT V is definitely the more populist, coming with tracks from Marshmello and ESTi, as well as soundtracks you might have actually heard of, like Guilty Gear. But having exhausted the songs on both games, we can say unequivocally that MUSYNX has the more consistent tracklist. We found ourselves reaching for Spotify multiple times with MUSYNX, saving songs for later. It only happened a couple of times with DJMAX RESPECT V. 5-5.
We should probably mention how DJMAX RESPECT V is to play. As noted, this is a pure rhythm action game, looking for you to replicate the song on the humble Xbox controller. You can choose how many buttons this entails: on the lowest settings, you are using Left, Up, X and Y to meet the corresponding four lanes of musical notes. On higher difficulty settings, virtually every button gets a look-in.
It’s dirt-simple, particularly as there is no peripheral to master. You’re tapping away in time to the music, and it’s capable of being clumsy (a pad was never meant to be an instrument), as well as being surprisingly intuitive. As with most things, it’s possible for it to become second nature.
DJMAX RESPECT V isn’t anywhere near as good as MUSYNX in terms of the button patterns. There’s something bizarrely off about where the beats have been placed. In MUSYNX, we found that the patterns had done half the work for us, as their flow was so immediate and intuitive that we just had to follow the rhythm of the music. It’s not the case here. We found ourselves having to check ourselves regularly, artificially matching the beats to the silver bar across the frets, rather than letting the music guide us. 5-6.
So many of the songs are dissonant and jazz-like, too. A lack of harmony in DJMAX RESPECT V’s playlist means that we were button-mashing so much more than in MUSYNX. We consider ourselves to be reasonably smug rhythm action players, playing at higher difficulties whenever we can, but doing so here just wasn’t as much fun. 5-7.
And the kicker? DJMAX RESPECT V has a hardline approach to failure. Get a few beats wrong and it kicks you out of the song, forcing you to replay. When you’re trying to introduce a friend to DJMAX RESPECT V, to show them the slick presentation and some of its absolute tunes, it can be a scowling, unfriendly presence in the room. Why it has to boot you out for the slightest mistakes, we don’t know. It just doesn’t seem newbie friendly. 5-8.
We reach the final whistle, and MUSYNX has it. A win at a canter. While DJMAX RESPECT V is glossy and fully featured, it doesn’t have it where it counts: in its playlist of songs, and how well those songs are mapped to the beats. It’s not a duffer by any means – it’s still capable of blowing your socks off with a banger – but, in times when MUSYNX is also available, it can’t help but feel like the supporting act.
You can buy DJMAX RESPECT V from the Xbox Store