Dance Your Life Away in this E3 2017 Hands-on with The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor

Blending the rhythm and RPG genres has never been an easy endeavor. I recall playing a little game called Before the Echo, formerly known as Sequence, a few years back; it was a novel idea that grew stale as the hours piled on. Still, it left me hoping that others would take a stab at the concept.

I met with indie publisher Akupara Games to check out developer Puuba's take on rhythmic role playing through The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor.

The Metronomicon base game released on PCs last year; Slay the Dance Floor is an expansion to it that will also come to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One alongside the original release. Its biggest core feature is the addition of local multiplayer with up to one other person for all its modes - campaign, free play, and more.

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Set in the world of Koras, The Metronomicon’s bizarre tale has magic powered through music. Dance parties have been a source of worry for decades because monsters keep crashing them. In order to stop this madness, a “rhythm combat-based” academy, The Neon Shield, sends out its groovy graduates to rectify the matter once and for all.

Metronomicon’s heart lies in its combat system. With Guitar Hero controllers in-hand, another player and I were met with a standard party of four against waves of enemies. Musical notes traveled down toward the characters and landing attacks depended on our ability to hit them.

Unlike Rock Band and Guitar Hero, pressing the button itself would hit the beats rather than holding and strumming them. Instead, strumming would switch between characters - both you and the other player can freely switch between the heroes at any time. Working in tune with your partner will be key since both of you share the same health bar. Competitive duos can choose to stay on the same character to cooperatively compete in points though.

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Skills in The Metronomicon caught my eye; it’s unconventionally executed in a smart way that encourages party management over individual bravado. Each party member can equip up to 3 primary abilities. Unlocking them to use in battle is akin to gathering Star Power in Guitar Hero; successfully hit a consecutive number of specially marked notes. Think of it as gathering mana to cast your spell.

Now in order to fire it off, you either have to change to another character or miss a note on that character once it’s charged up. It’s certainly an odd implementation of a familiar RPG element, but makes a lot of sense in practice due to how the second and third abilities are accessed.

Spells are fired off in linear sequence in Metronomicon. Once the first ability is charged up, it has to be withheld to accumulate power for the other two skills. Once those are fired off, previously stored spells are fired off in rapid succession. Therefore, activating a character’s third ability will initiate a chain reaction.

Akupara Games emphasized that they also wanted to satisfy players who only like one genre or the other. For instance, music fans can get by playing more straightforward Warrior-type characters, while those with RPGs under their belt can start thinking about buffs, debuffs, and status ailments as they construct their party.

They also thought about people’s tastes in music as well. Metronomicon is packed with around 50 songs including one from Shinji Hosoe of the Zero Escape series and a few by Christopher Hoag who composed the well-known TV show, House. Other talented indie artists are included in the mix that cover many musical genres.

While Akupara Games would love for everyone to hear all the music in The Metronomicon, they didn’t want to force it onto players to progress.

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Every region in The Metronomicon has a stage list tied to several songs, but players don’t need to complete every single one to progress. Completing the majority will suffice to ensure that people have the option to only play songs they want to listen to - for the most part. Player levels and difficulty balance will account for that. An apt comparison would be skipping or running from random encounters in a RPG.

That’s really only scratching the surface of The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor. It’ll have 9 playable characters all with their own unique skillset and specialized roles in combat. New abilities will be learned through leveling and upgradeable via crystals from monster drops.

I see a lot of great ideas flourishing from The Metronomicon. There’s a peculiar laidback vibe that I enjoy about it. Battles have quirky animations that have both your allies and enemies rock back and forth to the beat of the song - it feels lively without being corny.

Its battle interface does feel overwhelming. My eyes primarily occupied the music lanes without being given a chance to see what was exactly happening in combat. I also felt that hitting notes successfully didn’t provide enough visual feedback or impact indicating it. There were points at which I thought I missed a note, yet somehow still got it - I wasn’t able to clearly tell right off the bat.

If you’ve been meaning to use that old Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution dance pad rotting away in your closet, The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor will be supporting them. Akupara Games and Puuba have been hard at work making sure that unconventional controllers can be used with it, including drums!

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The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor will be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC sometime at the end of summer 2017. PC owners of the base Metronomicon game will receive the Slay the Dance Floor expansion for free, while the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version will be priced at $19.99 USD.

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