Symphonica review: iNiS’s return to proper rhythm-action continues. But it still can’t match the high notes of Ouendan or Gitaroo Man
After a few dark years spent toiling away the Lips series and The Black Eyed Peas Experience, Gitaroo Man and Ouendan developer is back with the sort of ‘proper’ rhythm-action games that endeared us to the studio in the first place. Following Demon’s Score, a weird blend of Ouendan and House Of The Dead, comes iNiS’s second iOS screen tapper, Symphonica.
Less like Ouendan and more like publisher Square Enix’s Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Symphonica plays out with a series of notes that moves across the screen from right to left rather than appearing at random points on screen. As such, it’s a relatively easy rhythm-action game aimed at newcomers, which may explain why it takes so long to get going.
Due to the multitouch nature of iOS, Symphonica sports a wide variety of inputs, including taps, holds, swipes, arcs and swift repetitive taps – each of which is given more variety either by adding two-finger variations or by combining two inputs together, like a long hold finished with a swiping flourish.
All of which, on the later levels at least, makes for some pretty complex gameplay requiring fast reactions and/or lots of practice. But it does take a long time to get to that point, especially when each chapter is padded out with small practice tunes before you get to the big centrepiece at the end.
Symphonica’s track listing is troublesome too. The classical music theme means that you’re obviously getting top-quality tunes throughout, with big names like Tchaikovsky or Mozart typically used, but these are orchestrations that have appeared in a thousand low-budget rhythm-action games before – from Mad Maestro to Boom Boom Rocket – and, as such, Symphonica lacks a clear identity.
This isn’t helped at all by the story, which uses generic anime character designs in a traditional talking-heads narrative that’s about as far away as you can get from the brilliant interactive comic strips of Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents. Before too long, you’ll realise that the story has zero importance or relevance to the game and will find yourself skipping through the dialogue to get to the gameplay. Which is fine enough in theory, but this is iNiS we’re talking about. With stages like Gitaroo Man’s Legendary Theme and Ouendan’s Over The Distance, the developer has proved to be one of the most adept at making you care about story and characters in a genre not typically associated with such traits.
On a mechanical level at least, Symphonica is a decent rhythm-action game, with lots to keep your fingers busy across a variety of proven tunes, but the overall presentation and attention to detail lacks the x factor that iNiS is best known for. Yes, it’s a comeback, but it’s not quite the comeback we hoped for.