Sequence mixes the rhythm and RPG genres

Review of Sequence on XBLIG: Buy
Polished art, professional voice acting, and excellent dance pad and guitar support make this rhythm/RPG hybrid

Sequence—an unassuming name for a complex game—is primarily a rhythm game in the vein of Rock Band or Dance Dance Revolution. Rather than isolated challenges, each song represents a battle against a monster, with well-executed RPG elements tying them all together. Instead of one set of scrolling arrows there are three panels of arrows used for spellcasting, defense, and mana regeneration. In between battles, there’s a complex leveling and crafting system as well as an engaging storyline.

The storyline is standard fighting-anime fare. Ky, an ordinary college student, is knocked unconscious and awakens in a tower where he must battle through seven floors to escape. The Shepherd Naia, guiding him from a control room somewhere else in the Tower, is his only ally. The writing is lighthearted, and the subtle use of internet memes and real-world details drew me into the dialogue. It’s not a particularly complex story, but I was curious as to what was really going on in the Tower.

The most noticeable thing about the game is the presentation. Every screen features a detailed background and characters are professionally illustrated in a cartoon style. Cutscenes are mostly static with simple animations, but they are fully voiced by a fairly large cast of actors. The result is a high quality experience that could easily beat some XBLA games.

Sequence’s strength is the use of peripherals. While it’s possible to play the game with a normal controller, use of a guitar controller or a dance pad is also supported. Dance pads work just as they do in DDR, but require a controller to select spells and flip between the spellcasting, defense, and mana panels.

Of the three controller options, the inclusion of guitar support impressed me the most. The control scheme is fundamentally different, not just an option slapped on top of the existing game. The fret buttons correspond to the four arrows, and the strum bar must be used just like in Rock Band. The orange fret button and the strum bar are used to flip between panels, and the whammy bar is used with the fret buttons to cast spells.

I’ve played both DDR and Rock Band for years, and the dance pad felt the most natural. Using the controller and the pad is awkward at first, but it quickly becomes natural, and I found it was easiest to change panels and adapt. The guitar control scheme is a clever use of a limited set of buttons, but it takes some time before it feels natural. It would have been nice if the guitar replaced the four arrows in each panel with colored gems as in Rock Band—it still feels natural to play because of the order of the buttons, but it takes slightly longer to process which button corresponds to which arrow. The controller is a good choice if you don’t have (or aren’t comfortable with) a dance pad or guitar, but button mashing just didn’t have the same appeal as the other controller options.

RPG elements are the main difference between Sequence and other rhythm games. Ky can equip weapons and armor, select a set of 6 spells to carry into battle, level up (and down) with experience points, and craft new items using drops from enemies. Ky progresses from floor to floor by repeatedly fighting one of three different enemies (selectable before the battle), crafting a key, then fighting a boss battle. The game sucked me in, although I realized around the 6th floor or so that I was really just playing a series of WoW-style grind quests—”kill enemy name to collect X number of quest item.” Still, the rhythm game mechanics were so entertaining that I didn’t care.

Like many rhythm games, Sequence offers four difficulty levels, which can be changed at will until the third floor of the Tower. I played on the lowest level and didn’t find it overly challenging, but it was still enjoyable. This is a good thing—Sequence’s mechanics focus more on perfect combos than either DDR or Rock Band. The third floor limitation is generous while still requiring a certain amount of discipline. However, I felt the third floor limitation also locked me into using one controller since I was much better with the DDR mat or controller than with the guitar.

I give Sequence a Buy. For Rock Band or DDR fans, this is a must buy—it puts a new spin on the game. But even novices can find something to like in the story or the presentation, and shouldn’t feel too overwhelmed on Easy—grinding for experience and gear can make up for a lack of skill.


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