Game Music

The World is Square: DJMAX Portable BLACK SQUARE (Review + Unboxing)

March 23, 2012 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook The World is Square: DJMAX Portable BLACK SQUARE (Review + Unboxing)on Twitter

We’ve covered a lot of DJMAX over the years, enjoying its unique blend of Korean-infused electronic and pop music. While we’ve been on top of releases as they’ve come along, we thought with the re-release of DJMAX Portable BLACK SQUARE in Japan this month (it was released in 2008 in Korea), it’d be a good time to dig into this collection of music that we never previously covered.

With some of the most amazing packaging of all time and a whopping four discs of music, is BLACK SQUARE worth visiting?

Find out in our review after the jump.

To start with some background on the release, it came out on the PSP around the same time DJMAX Technika hit arcades. These followed 2006’s DJMAX Portable and 2007’s DJMAX Portable 2. Why this is important is because rather than rehashing a lot of material from past titles, BLACK SQUARE and Technika both introduced fresh song lists, with lots of cross-over between the two. Since we’ve previously covered the Technika series, I’ll instead delve into the new tracks presented here, discuss some of the cross-overs with links to our past reviews, and then look at the extended and special remix discs.

Starting with the new tracks, there is, as usual, a pretty eclectic mix of styles. There’s everything from hot dance floor tunes with “Get Down” by BBJ, shred metal with “In My Dream” by ND Lee and “Real Over Drive” by NieN, and tons of pop, electronic, and hip-hop. “Lovely Hands” by Planetboom is a dreamy pop track sounding like a gentle breeze across a warm, sunny beach, while “Fermion” by Makou is a high-tension electronic track sounding like something out of F-Zero, making it one of my favorites. I dig the groovy female vocals in “Beat U Down” by Makou, the Asian-influenced happy hardcore “Super Lovely” by EarBreaker, and the clean and almost-cheesy Sonic the Hedgehog-flavored rock track, “River Flow” by Planetboom. Finally, “Relation Again” by Tsukasa once against shows off this artist’s versatility, this time by highlighting an ultra-poppy tune that I swore was ESTi on first listen.

Some of my favorite contributions come courtesy of artist Rex. He effectively combines orchestral strings and piano with electronic sounds, similar in style to Granado Espada, starting with the playful “Heart of Witch” and moving into the spooky “Proposed, Flower, Wolf Part 2” with rolling orchestral percussion.

One of our favorite contributors, 3rd Coast is featured extensively not only through returning tracks from other games, but also through their vocal work on other’s compositions. “Ruti’n” by Bexter for example brings a funky fresh sound with guitar and vocals by 3rd Coast while “Fever Pitch Girl” by Nikacha offers super catchy synth pop, again with vocals by 3rd Coast. They make a third guest appearance on Croove’s “Get Up,” a deep, dreamy funk track.

There are a lot of great tracks from other DJMAX titles as well, mainly from the aforementioned DJMAX Technika. These include “STOP” by 3rd Coast, “Remember” and “I Want You” by Ling, “Melody” by bermei.inazawa, “Voyage” by Lin, and “SON OF SUN” by Shinji Hosoe. Interestingly, “Honeymoon” by Humming Urban Stereo is actually the hidden track from the DJMAX Technika soundtrack. There is also “Jealousy” by 3rd Coast and “Ask to Wind Live Mix,” both from DJMAX Trilogy.

The third disc features extended versions of a number of tracks, mostly from the cross-overs, but also from the exclusive tracks as well. The standouts include “Fever Pitch Girl,” “Lovely Hands,” “Secret World,” and “Lover (BS Style).”

The fourth disc is dedicated to alternate versions and remixes of songs. While I was most excited by this disc, I have to say that most of the alternate versions and remixes don’t stray too far from their original source (STi’s English version of “Fate” is downright bad), so I’ll just refrain from mentioning those. Tracks that do stand out, however, are “Proposed, Flower, Wolf” by Rex with both an acoustic and classical version featured. This is really a great ballad, and the classic version features a choir and is quite epic. 3rd Coast gets a remix with “Jealousy (2Step Mix)” which is super funky and very nice, while “PDM (Original Version)” is much more spacious and emphasizes the vocals more than the BLACK SQUARE version. Rex continues to delight with “Airwave (DJMAX Portable CE PV Music),” which is five minutes in length and awesome and “LOVE Clazzico (DJMAX Portable CE Title Music,” which comes as electronic jazz funk. Rounding out the album are seven “RD Remixes,” which are pretty hit or miss, but I do appreciate Lin’s “I Want You” which is slowed down and more funky and “Y” by ND Lee that’s chopped up and features some cool synth additions. The closing track, “Taekwonburi,” will leave you scratching your head with its weird pig and squirting sounds. It’s… very strange.

Well, that’s it regarding the music. It’s a pretty solid collection, and is one of the best next to DJMAX Technika, which makes sense given the heavy degree of cross-over between the two releases. The packaging on BLACK SQUARE ~QUATTR4~ Limited Edition box set, however, is ridiculously amazing (see the above video). True to its name, it comes in a huge textured black cube that houses the game, the four-disc soundtrack, a lengthy and gorgeous art book, portable speakers, a handkerchief, a platinum membership card, a SON OF SUN potted plant, and a nice card from the DJMAX team. It will blow your mind.

This set is quite impressive both in terms of music and packaging. While the Korean release may be difficult to find given that it was released in 2008, the 2012 Japanese re-release should be within reach, although I’d imagine some of the special items inside may be different for the Japanese release. Still, the Japanese version is available for 7,560 Yen if you’re interested (if you’re a fan, you should be!).

Let us know what you think of BLACK SQUARE and Pentavision’s crazy attention to packaging.

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