Game Review #266: Cytus α (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Allan Jenks
Developer: Rayark / ESQUADRA
Publisher: PM Studios / acttil
Category: Rhythm, Music
Digital Release Date: 4.25.2019
Physical Release Date: 5.17.2019
Price (at time of review): $49.99
Buy Cytus α from the Nintendo eShop here.
Buy Cytus α (physical) from Amazon here.
Feel The Rhythm… Literally
I love rhythm games as a general rule. They’re not all amazing, and they’re not all bad, but not all are cut from the same cloth either. Cytus α is not your typical formula. Instead of the classic style of button-pressing to match corresponding notes scrolling down your screen like I’ve grown to love, it uses a touchscreen method of play, which I have to say, is amazing!
A Brief History
Cytus was originally released on the iOS platform in January 2012, and on Android later that year, which explains the touchscreen aspect of the gameplay. In 2013, a port was released on PS Vita and PS Mobile under the name Cytus: Lambda, which was essentially the same game, but with some additional songs and a new title screen. Additionally, there was a sequel released in 2018 on iOS and Android, titled Cytus II. Given the available touchscreen capabilities, it is very fitting that the original Cytus has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch under the name Cytus α, but with an updated UI to make the story easier to follow. The Switch version also includes additional songs that were originally intended for the highly anticipated follow-up release, Cytus Ω, which appear as “Chapter Cytus Ω”.
Try Not To Think About It Too Much
As I mentioned, the gameplay is touchscreen—though you do have the option of using a controller for a more classic style of rhythm gameplay—and is absolutely amazing! There were times where I couldn’t believe I was actually hitting all of the notes. For the most part, during the more difficult sections at least, I had to stop thinking altogether and just shift into instinct mode. There are two difficulty levels—Easy and Hard—and you can select the difficulty setting before starting each song. What I found funny is that. in some songs, the easy setting was actually more difficult than other songs on hard.
Obviously, this type of gameplay means that you will be spending the majority of your time in handheld mode, likely hooked up to some headphones as well, as is recommended at the opening screen of the game. Make sure you have a non-slip surface on which to place your Switch, as it will get intense, and the last thing you need to do is chase after your Switch in the middle of a dub-step solo—trust me, it’s hard enough when the Switch is stationary!
There are three main types of notes to play: clicks, drags, and holds. Click notes are just regular circular notes that you tap and release. Drag notes are a continuous chain of notes that go in zig-zag patterns, and you have to drag your finger across to match the zig-zags. Hold notes are just click notes that you hold until the hold line is done. You have to execute these moves in time with the scan line that moves up and down the screen to the beat. You can get either a bad, good, or perfect rating for each note you play—or a miss, which will happen often if we’re being honest—and the better the rating for each note, the more points you will get.
There are two modes from which you can choose that each display the notes in a different way as you play. The Default Mode—by far my preference—brings the notes up one by one, starting smaller and growing to larger and more opaque notes as it nears the time to play each of them. The other mode, Grouped Mode, pops the notes up together in groups, which are grouped into smaller runs of the songs. Grouped Mode really threw me off though, as I was never quite sure when it was time to actually hit the notes, so I just stuck with the default mode.
There is also an option to have “Click FX” on or off, but after playing the same song back to back with it on and then off, I really couldn’t tell what exactly it did. I’m probably just missing something obvious, but it didn’t really seem to make much of a difference to me.
There are three gameplay modes to choose from the main screen: Matching Encounter, which is online play; Chapters Origin, which is the offline playthrough mode; and Story Debris, which is where you go to read the data files of the story that you unlock throughout the chapters.
Online matchmaking was a bit confusing for me. I had trouble actually finding any matches online, but after searching for a minute for matches, it would just start me with a song and no matches. Now, the songs were random, and there were songs that I had not yet unlocked, so it was a cool way to experience them before unlocking everything, but I don’t really know exactly how it’s supposed to work with actual online opponents, as I have yet to find even a single match when I have tried. I am hoping that this will change once the physical version releases and there are more players in the online community.
What’s The Story?
I always appreciate a good story, though I don’t really need one for a music game. Cytus α has one though, and it’s not a bad one. Basically, in the 22nd century, humans all died off in their physical form, and live on in the form of robots with human memories. These robots have memories, but no emotions, but these missing human emotions can be accessed through music.
More of the story opens up the further into the game you get. I found it interesting that, rather than making you sit through a storyline as you go, you just unlock data files as you complete more songs with passing grades, with each file containing more pieces of the story to read through. That being said, I will not spoil too much of the story, and will let you unlock it yourself as you progress.
The Sights & The Sounds
The sights and the sounds… so basically the meat and potatoes of this game. One word: AWESOME! The music is amazing, and while not necessarily my regular cup of tea, the songs—over 200 of them—are all very well-composed and catchy. There’s a lot of poppy songs, a lot of dub-step—even some dub-step remixes of classical arrangements, which were spectacular—and many more unique and beautiful songs.
The imagery is equally well-done and gorgeous. Each song has its own beautiful image for the background, and the graphics of each note that appears are smooth and pleasing to the eye. Admittedly, sometimes my own hands got in the way of some of the notes, which caused me to miss a few notes here and there, but I eventually developed a stance and positioning over the Switch that minimized this.
Cytus α is an amazingly fun and rush-inducing rhythm game that I absolutely love to death. If you are a fan of this genre of game—or hell, even if you’re not—you should 100% pick this up for your Switch library. This game is a must-own! I would give it an 11/10, but one of our other reviewers already did that with a different game, so it would look like I was just copying him… so I am giving it a 12/10—take that, Brad! Can I do that? I’m pretty sure I can… After all, I’m the one writing the review, so I’ll do what I want! Okay, I actually can't... so it's a 10/10. Darn review industry standards...
Buy Cytus α from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Buy Cytus α (physical) from Amazon here.
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*Review Code Provided by acttil