Five-Star Review: Exceptional Game Content Deserves Ten Stars, but the Insane Chapter Challenge Pulls It Down by Five Stars. (Now I can genuinely give it ten stars.)
The game itself is flawless, but the chapter challenge, to put it mildly, is demanding; to put it bluntly, it's a design failure. I'm talking about you, inverted world.
To summarize briefly, the chart is difficult, the life bar is short, the damage taken is high, the health recovery is minimal, it consumes resources, and replaying is not allowed, with no progress unlocked even if you fail.
Ignoring the difficulty of the level 4 purple chart, the challenge of a short life bar, high damage, and low health recovery is already present in the first three difficulties. Although the chart difficulty is not high and has some leniency, it is still possible to recover lost health.
However, the purple chart at level 13 is not that simple. Let's start with the chart difficulty. Being the only level 13 chart in the game, its difficulty is undoubtedly the highest, with the highest key density and most complex key combinations, showcasing the difficulty of the demon king song. Even the most skilled players are prone to mistakes under such intense pressure, not to mention the multitude of intermediate and slightly above-average players. This is where the issue with the life bar arises. When players are not familiar with the chart, it's common to miss several notes and have the life bar emptied, resulting in instant failure. It's inevitable since it's the most challenging song in the entire game.
If that's not challenging enough, there's an additional difficulty when it comes to "good" ratings, as they also cause health deduction. When you miss a note, you lose all the points provided by hitting "perfect." According to calculations by experienced players, hitting a "good" note only provides 1/4 of the points given by a "perfect" note. The developers have cleverly applied this point mechanism to the life bar as well. Missing a note causes a loss of health, while hitting a "good" note results in losing 3/4 of the health deducted for a "miss." Yes, you heard it right, it's a loss of health, and it's 3/4 of the deduction. How much health is deducted? Based on my own recorded gameplay, missing four notes and hitting two "good" notes completely empties the life bar. In a given period, you can only afford to miss 5-6 notes or have 7-8 "good" ratings at most.
However, "perfect" ratings do recover health, but how much? Compared to "good" ratings, hitting a "good" note requires hitting seven or eight "perfect" notes, or even up to ten. The significant difference between health deduction and recovery leads to a strange phenomenon. While playing the chapter challenge, during a difficult section, I play my best, not missing a single note, and my combo is increasing. Just when I think I'm in a good state, suddenly a big "failed" message appears on my screen. Yes, I played perfectly, not missing a single note, my combo was rising, and yet you tell me I failed. This mechanism creates a high level of frustration.
Even if the judgment in Rotaeno is lenient and "good" ratings are possible, combined with the intense chart environment, players experience a psychological tension of seeing their combo increase while the life bar drops. The unintended consequence of a wider judgment range is that it increases the likelihood of accidental touches. These factors combined make the aforementioned situation not only possible but rather common.
Next, let's discuss the issues of not being able to replay and the lack of progress unlocking. Completing a chapter challenge requires spending 250 resources, and based on my own performance, each completed song rewards a little over 100 resources. So, each challenge requires playing two to three songs. However, the current song library is limited, with only a few songs that offer high resources. Additionally, the high difficulty of chapter challenges requires multiple attempts and replaying the same song. It becomes tedious to repeatedly play a few songs, especially when not aiming for a high score. After investing those 250 resources, you walk away empty-handed, not even unlocking 5% progress. Coupled with the previously mentioned frustration, it easily leads to questioning the purpose of playing the chapter challenge. This kind of thinking significantly reduces the motivation to play the game.
For difficult songs in rhythm games, the most common method to improve is practice. There are two types of practice: focusing on improving one specific song's chart familiarity or practicing other songs to enhance overall skills in the game. However, the chapter challenge mechanics make it nearly impossible to practice a specific song, and on the other hand, a skilled player who has cleared level 13 advised me not to attempt it without achieving a score of 990 on a level 12 chart. The gap between level 12 and level 13 is just one level, but to gain access to level 13 songs, you would need to achieve nearly a full combo on a level 12 chart. This is unimaginable in any other rhythm game.
As the most challenging song in a rhythm game, the chart quality, performance, song quality, and artwork of the demon king song should all be top-notch. It can be said that the demon king song is the flagship of the rhythm game, and when people discuss rhythm games, they generally talk about the demon king song rather than the level one or two songs. This flagship experience should be accessible to the majority of players in the game. In discussions with fellow players, they often question whether I'm "qualified" to play it. However, "qualification" should refer to being skilled enough to play it well, not whether I can manage to play it at all. If my ability to play a certain song requires me to have the skill to fully combo that song, it seems like a case of misplaced priorities.
Currently, my rating is 12, and I can fully combo most level 11 charts. I also have the ability to achieve a score of around 960 on level 12 charts. I consider my skill level to be in the middle or upper-middle range of the player community, representing the gaming experience of a significant portion of players. It speaks volumes when a player of my skill level struggles with the chapter challenge. If you think I'm not qualified, there's someone in my group with a rating of 12+ who can achieve a score of 990 but still can't beat the chapter challenge. Doesn't that emphasize the issue?
To the developers, if by any chance you come across my message, I sincerely hope you consider this. In my opinion, the difficulty of the purple chart in the chapter challenge is excessively high, surpassing what an average skilled player can overcome. Please loosen the unlocking conditions for the purple chart in the demon king song. Even if players can't pass the chapter challenge, we should still have the opportunity to experience the complete inverted world level 13 difficulty. Please trust me; I'm not a delusional person or a spoiled child. I'm just frustrated by the insane difficulty of the chapter challenge.