Ask any Vita owner what genre dominates the device, and they’re sure to point to a rather robust RPG collection. In Japan, the system is known for other things. People in search of the best music games can take comfort in the handheld, which offers an assortment of solid and satisfying games. Now, thanks to Marvelous, IA/VT Colorful is among them.
IA/VT Colorful should be rather reassuring, despite starring an icon most won’t recognize. IA is 1st Place Co.’s VOCALOID3 engine character with a voice provided by the Japanese singer Lia. If you’ve played Air or watched Gunslinger Girl or Angel Beats!, you’ve heard her. (I mean the singer, not the Vocaloid.) Sixty of her songs are included in the game, which probably doesn’t mean much because again, IA hasn’t achieved Hatsune Miku levels of fame. Still, it’s a robust track list for a rhythm game and such an assortment guarantees a player will eventually find at least 10 to 20 favorites. It helps if you enjoy rock or trance tracks, since there’s less variety in terms of genre than its contemporaries.
The gameplay is familiar as well, and quite enjoyable. Each song has three different difficulty levels available, with varying note patterns for each one. After an Easy, Normal or Hard challenge is picked, the song begins. Two indicators appear on the screen, atop a video that plays in the background. tracks lead to both of them, with icons showing action buttons, arrows or swirls of color on them. The swirled notes are Colorful Notes, and any button can be pressed at that time. (If you hit it at the right time to get a Cool, you increase the Colorful gauge most.) Once the Colorful gauge is filled, the action zooms on the circle, the tracks disappear, and a player has to watch and wait for the icons to line up with the edge of the circle instead.
The Colorful Notes are an interesting idea, but more so in IA/VT Colorful‘s Step Up mode than Free Play. This mode sends people on a musical journey, telling a player what song they’ll play and assigning certain goals for each “mission.” Again, there are three difficulty levels, and the further you get in a route, the more demanding the goals get. It could start by asking you to obtain a certain rank during a performance, but may also eventually ask you to only hit Red Colorful Notes, meaning you’d have to always hit the right or circle buttons when one comes up.
It feels like IA/VT Colorful is a title that wants to help you become better at music games in general.
It feels like IA/VT Colorful is a title that wants to help you become better at music games in general. The Step Up mode with its various challenges, like tasking people to reach combos of certain lengths, is one. The game wants you to improve your own skills. The idea of Player Level in Free Play is another. You play songs to unlock them in the other mode, but it isn’t as simple as automatically unlocking one when another is cleared. Instead, players are essentially earning experience points to increase their level.
The first time you get a certain Rank score on a song, you get a certain number of points. To get enough points to level up and earn more songs, you have to continually reach higher Ranks in songs and play them on other difficulties. It’s interesting in theory, but not very effective in practice. IA/VT Colorful is forcing you into musical servitude to improve your library, and not even opening up the vault for good performances in Step Up Play.
IA/VT Colorful is also a fantastic pick for importers. All of the game’s menus are in English, making it easy to jump in and enjoy. Step Up Play can prove challenging, since the objectives for each song are entirely in Japanese, but there’s a fairly decent and welcoming community online of people willing to help if someone gets stuck.
IA/VT Colorful is an odd game, but an enjoyable one. The track list is amazing, but most of it is locked away. It’ll be hours before a player gets to enjoy it. Costumes are available for IA, but so many songs have set videos that you get very few opportunities to even see her in them. The online leaderboards offer a chance to immediately see how good you are, but there’s not much a player can do with that information. It’s definitely a game for Vita importers to consider collecting, though be ready to seek assistance for some Step Up goals if you have trouble reading Japanese.