While niche, the DJ Max series of rhythm games, developed by Pentavision, have been sort of a staple of the genre for those familiar with it since its release on the PlayStation Portable in 2006. Built on the familiar rhythm game idea of hitting notes as they come down a highway, not too dissimilar from the Rock Band series, players are judged on their timing, accuracy, and note hitting streaks. Difficulty and a change of pace come in when you choose to add more button commands to the highway or pick up the pace in which they are served to you. This may sound familiar, but what makes the four main DJ Max games stand out is its unconventional collection of music and original art, made in majority by talented Korean artists, that gives the series a certain energy and swagger.
Serving as a celebration of the series and a new platform, DJ Max Respect is a collection of music and art from past entries in the series with a remastering of sorts to fit in well on the PlayStation 4, and developer Rocky Studio has done a fine job in repackaging the work of the series’ original developer.
Respect has 147 tracks, 100 from the first two entries in the series and 40 brand new songs, that vary in genre and sound. While it’s a bit of a shame that the other half of the series’ library is missing, as it will be added later as paid DLC, there’s an extensive catalog of songs to work with here. At the same time, it was a personal disappointment to not see music from the one entry in the series I had played prior, the fourth game, not present. Perhaps a better approach would’ve been to pick and choose songs from all four games to include in the core game, but again, there’s no shortage of songs here.
The wrapping around this content is just as slick as its music, as the collection has really snappy menus that get you in and out quickly while also evoking the alternative and experimental spirit of the series with its art and design. Having a framework that responds quickly with the player that also fits right at home with the actual game makes DJ Max Respect feel like a cohesive whole.
A small unexpected detail in Respect that didn’t go without notice is also how the game honors the legacy of the platform the series called home for much of its run, the PSP. Tasteful references and iconography to the old handheld can be found throughout the game and it really adds to the feeling of this being a complete tribute to the series. So shout out to the PSP.
Playing Respect is an exciting rush as you frantically hit notes in tune with the rhythm as the colorful art flashes in the background, without getting in the way. It’s an engrossing and fun experience. It’s of course worth mentioning that if you know that this specific type of music isn’t for you, which is to say, experimental Korean dance tracks, then it’s likely you will have a hard time enjoying Respect, but Rocky Studio hasn’t fixed what isn’t broken here so if you’re familiar with the series it will feel like a homecoming.
For those who are new, there is certainly a learning curve and you’re going to fail out of a few songs before you start to feel comfortable. Unfortunately the game doesn’t really have a tutorial or beginners guide to get you into the game quicker, apart from the first few tasks in the game’s Mission mode, and such a mode is sorely missed here. Even so, the core of Respect is strong and there’s good variety in its Arcade, Freestyle, Online, and Mission modes. The game also has a massive and impressive collection of unlockables, and a statistic keeper with built in achievements that can have you playing Respect for a good long while.
DJ Max Respect is successful in both being a tribute to the series and its fans while also paving a path for its future. With an enormous selection of music and a great framework, Respect feels like the definitive entry in the series. Still, it could be more welcoming to newcomers and have more of a variety in tracks from the series’ history. Regardless, it’s an impressive rhythm game on the platform as well as a modern stand out in the genre as a whole.
This was reviewed with a digital code provided by the developer on a retail PlayStation 4 Pro.