In the current line-up for the Nintendo Switch, there’s a less-than-stellar Bomberman available, ports of other games you can play elsewhere, an experimental party game that arguably should have been just packaged in with the console instead of sold separately, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game that is also available on the Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii U. To say that the Switch’s library is barren is an understatement, and that’s even including the variety of retro games on the Japanese eShop (region free, baby!). But recently, another game has glimmered onto the Nintendo eShop, breathing additional life into the console: a rhythm game called Voez that resides as portable only. And it’s actually pretty great.
Rhythm games are my kryptonite. They're the genre I'll drift to when I have a moment or two to spare. I’ll play nearly any that crosses my path. When I flutter into an arcade, I make a beeline to the Project Diva Arcade machine. The 3DS (and DS, technically) and Playstation Vita were the two great systems for rhythm games. Between the Project Diva series straddling both systems (counting Mirai on the 3DS), Vita titles like Superbeat: Xonic and Persona 4: Dancing All Night, among 3DS games like Final Fantasy Theatrhythm and Rhythm Heaven, both systems shined in their breadth of available rhythm games. When the Switch was announced as a console that could go portable, I had hopes that it would carry on as a rhythm game haven. With Voez, it just might.
Voez originally came out last year for mobile devices. It was developed by the Taiwanese developers Rayark Games, and found itself to be a wide success for smartphones as a free-to-play game. The Switch port of the game is slightly different though: it comes instantly unlocked with over a hundred songs from varying genres (from piano ballads to something you'd hear within a rave), in lieu of the mobile title’s in-app purchases for additional songs. It plays essentially the same way: you tap the screen as notes come down. The songs can be switched between difficulties: easy, hard, and special; all three for every type of player (I alternate between hard and special, depending on the song).
Voez also doesn’t utilize much of the Switch, though. It’s only playable in portable mode—so no tv play will work. It doesn’t need the controllers at all for play, only the touch screen. Technically, Voez really could work on any tablet in this way. But for the Switch’s empty library, it’s ushering in the future for rhythm games on the console. Imagine a Rhythm Heaven that utilized the touch screen and the Joycons’ HD rumble in some interesting, creative way? Imagine a Project Diva game that gave you flexibility in both the Joycons and the touch screen, as the Vita and Playstation 4 often did with its swipeable notes? The possibilities for rhythm games on the Switch are great, and it was Voez that made me dream about it.
The strength of any rhythm game is in its music. With Project Diva, the breadth of independent vocaloid producers get to flex their diverse sounds. With Final Fantasy Theatrhythm, nostalgic tunes were peddled through by adorable chibi-fied heroes from the series’ past. In Voez, independent music producers from all across East Asia are on full display, ranging in a multifaceted collection of melodies. In one song, you might tap along with an indie pop track from Taiwan. In the next, your finger frantically drags along the screen as an industrial electronic track from Japan plays. Voez has various genres for all types of players, and with over a hundred tracks, there’s bound to be something for everyone (personally, I lean towards the vocaloid-esque pop).
As a lifelong purveyor of music-centric games, I’m hopeful for the future of the Switch as the ultimate rhythm game platform. With its sizable tablet screen and the peculiar quirks of the Joycons, I believe it’s only a matter of time until an established, or even wholly original, rhythm game sneaks up, grabs our attention, and doesn't let us go until we tap the night away.