Review – Arcaea

It’s been a while since the rise and fall of rhythm-based games. From the untouchable legacy of Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, to something a little bit different with the introduction of full bands in Rock Band, or being a DJ in DJ Hero. The genre even went on to be far more popular with the likes of Tap Tap on mobile phones, tablets, and even the iPod Touch. Well, what Arcaea – New Dimension Rhythm Game does is take all of these games into account while building something new in its own right. 

Arcaea Gameplay

The track can change from light to dark, doesn’t tend to change much more than that.

Arcaea does feature character stories, which means even though it may not feel like it exactly, there is a start and end to the game. That is to say, to the same extent there’s a start and end to Guitar Hero 3. Just a side note for anyone picking this up, make sure you play as much as you can through world mode as opposed to quick play. After a few hours of not really unlocking things, I realised where I went wrong. World Mode gives the player a variety of options as to where to start, each world features different unlocks from different characters, to new music. Some of the music earned through World Mode is actually used to progress through the story, which also features unlocks of its own, so be sure to prioritise what it is you’re looking for.

Arcaea Art

Loading screens are pretty bare, but only last a couple seconds at most.

Now, for the gameplay. Being originally developed with mobile hardware in mind, Arcaea is mainly played with touch controls. However, there is an option to play with the joycons or any other controller. Touch controls are pretty simple to grasp, Arcaea features track notes, similar to most rhythm based games, as well as sky notes. Track notes are very similar to any other game you have played before: hit the track or button on the controller that corresponds with where the note is as it crosses the line to get points.

If you play Arcaea with a controller, you’ll need to get used to the button layour: LB, left, and down on the D-Pad all hit the two lanes on the left, while RB, A, and B all hit the two lanes on the right. One thing that will not be covered in-game, which is good to get used to early on, is that if the two left lanes have a note at the same time, only hitting LB will not hit them at once, so it’s helpful to get used to alternating using the buttons for those cases.

Arcaea Playlist

With a huge variety of songs sectioned into different playlists.

Things get real fun when we start talking about the sky notes. There are a few different kinds of those notes. There’s the regular bar, which looks just like the track notes, coming in blue, pink, or blue and pink. Each colour specifies which button needs to be used, either left or right, while you can use either for the dual colored one. That sounds simple enough, but things get tricky when sustained sky notes come into play.

While sustained notes on the track are simple, as you just need to press and hold the corresponding button, the sky notes work much differently. No button is needed for the note to register as being hit; instead the joysticks are used to follow the path of the note: if it trails to the left, you hold the joystick left, and so on. This becomes even more fun on higher difficulty songs, when notes go down and left and up and right.

Just like before, the sustain notes can be either blue or pink, corresponding to the joystick that needs to be used, which means you’ll have to get ready to multitask when one goes down, one goes up, when a note moves in different directions, and when it doesn’t. Arcaea will test your brain. The touch controls for the sky notes work similarly, where you will need to drag your finger along to keep up with the sustained notes, while you can touch anywhere in the top half of the screen to hit the bars.

Some of that anime girl goodness.

The music in Arcaea is pretty damn solid, as it should be, being a rhythm game and all. While on the surface Arcaea may look like it would be all anime themes, the music is actually much more of an EDM style. Dance music for the folks less musically inclined. For anyone who may be an avid fan of the mobile version, the Switch version does actually come with a new set of songs and a new character. One of the songs, “Blocked Library”, has actually already made it into my playlists. There’s a huge variety of around 150 songs, and each song has a number assigned to it for its difficulty.

Arcaea Sustain

It was much easier to screen grab with my right hand..

How difficulty works is pretty similar to most games, having Past, Present, and Future difficulties. These basically equate to easy, medium, and hard. Usually, in each section, songs will have a different number assigned to them. Once in the future difficulty, some may have something similar to 9+ instead of 9 or 10. Honestly, I never really figured out why, maybe it was just too hard to be classed as a 9, but not hard enough to be a 10. Similar to that of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, when going into higher difficulties new notes and gimmicks are added. For example, sky sustain notes won’t typically go down or up on Past difficulties.

Arcaea has been a huge amount of fun, especially as someone who is a big fan of rhythm-based games. It feels great to pick up and play for a few songs, and plenty easy to do so. Personally, I found myself playing for at least an hour whenever I went to only play a song or two. It is certainly not easy to master, so if you’re looking for a new challenge, and since Guitar Hero is a dead franchise once again, you might be inclined to pick up Arcaea.


Graphics: 8.0

There’s not a huge amount to talk about for graphics. Each song has its own custom made cover, most of which are fitting to the song. The character designs are nice as well, and the different notes are easy to identify. The backgrounds maybe could have used a bit more variety, but that’s the only real complaint.

Gameplay: 10

One of the more challenging rhythm games I’ve played. There is so much to master and learn, and being able to learn every song two ways (touch and controller) adds even more variety.

Sound: 10

It’s a music game with outstanding music. I haven’t come across a single song yet that feels like a slog, unlike a lot of early songs in Guitar Hero and such.

Fun Factor: 10

I’ve had a blast, and plan to keep playing on the daily. There’s a ton to learn for any rhythm based fan.

Final Verdict: 9.5

Arcaea is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Arcaea was provided by the publisher.