Since videogames are sports now, I will tell an important story here, that a couple of years ago, the Olympics looked at the declining ratings and decided that they needed a new event. The President of the Olympics suggested they should invent a new sport, and the President’s associates decided it would be based on the decathlon, the event where you participate in several separate track-and-field events, and then you combine the scores to find out who is the greatest athlete in the world who could not make a salary playing an actual sport.
But in their infinite genius, the Internal Olympic Committee decided that you would do all the decathlon events SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Needless to say, the Super Decathlon was a very unusual sport, but it attracted some level of curiosity from the viewers, who appreciated the skill of the participants, as they ran the dead sprint in order to perform the pole-valuting motion, and as they hit their maximum apex off of the ground, the athlete would have to throw the discus and the javelin at the same time. The participants were usually very tired when they got to the bonus round, where their score would be multiplied, so long as they could secure all four pendants and activate the multiball.
If I remember correctly, they cancelled the sport last year, but the point I’m making is that Chrono Circle is kind of like the Super Decathlon of rhythm videogames, where the President of Andamiro asked his employees to make a new rhythm game, and when one of the slaves asked what the game should be based on, the President shouted back: “All of them!” This is the only explanation for how this became a mass-produced arcade cabinet, the game where you play a whole bunch of rhythm videogames at the exact same time – Pop ‘N Music, Ouendan, Chunithm – and you combine them all with Tempest. Yes, the 1981 arcade game. Did they have arcades in 1981? Are the games that I just listed even the names of real games?
All I know is that the arcades of the Current Year™ are a weird and uncertain place, and on the path to Chrono Circle, it is not hard to imagine that one of the people in the Andamiro meeting was playing with a “Bop It!”, the classic children’s toy where you must “bop”, “pull”, and “twist” the buttons. It was in this particular moment that Chrono Circle became one part of a strategy to maximize the operating revenues of a corporation. The game reminds me of the internet meme where the adult male is not even mad, but rather, he is impressed. It is impossible to be upset at something this insane.
So you press the buttons on a circular game controller, which reminds me a little too much of the door on a washing machine, and then you spin the washer door like a wheel, and then you tap the touchscreen in the center of the washer door, you do it to the beat of the music, and you do it while you are watching the music video for some Korean pop song that Andamiro licensed for Pump It Up, and damned if they’re going to let that license go to waste. All of this is done with the help of Japanese anime characters from my favorite stock art packages, though I have not determined whether this game has anime characters because rhythm games now only appeal to humans who like Japanese cartoons, or because real people don’t go to arcades anymore, and they are now appealing to hand-drawn consumers in order to pay real-world bills.
But enough about graphics, we are talking about rhythm videogames, and we all know a big part of the genre’s appeal is the physical spectacle that comes with pressing the plastic buttons, the kind of visual spectacle which attracts curious audiences, who shout “I could never do that!” before moving on with their life. And make no mistake about it, this game is a goddamn freak show, where no one part of this game matches the other, the rhythm game Frankenstein has come alive, not unlike that cartoon where the cat and the dog are joined together in a depressing display of nature’s ugly side.
In all honesty, Chrono Circle reminds me of those people from the 1960s who tried to guess what the future would look like, where they would guess that in a half-century, we will finally get flying cars, along with the television dinner that is taken as a pill. Go back in time and tell someone from the 1960s that this is the future of videogames, and after you explain that a “videogame” is like pinball, but played on a television screen, they would probably believe you, though I am not sure that they would hug you.
Back to the Current Year™, though, where it’s not hard for me to speculate that all the good rhythm videogames have already been invented, the ones based on both dance and actual instruments. So unless someone invents a new cutting-edge instrument like a wonkenclapper or a baritzoo, all of the cutting-edge rhythm games have already been done, and they already have identifiable brands attached to them. But the die-hards do not care about this, they don’t really give a fuck whether the plastic buttons model a guitar or a dance routine, they are the hamsters that want to press the plastic buttons, but instead of getting food pellets, they get HUGE COMBOS.
So then I guess the goal is that you can design all KINDS of crazy plastic buttons, on the path to a tiny and niche audience that will drop huge sums of money in order to press those plastic buttons in the correct order, to SSSmash the buttons by AAAny means necessary, on the path to the prettiest letter grades and the most outrageous displays of clinical depression. And in the case of a Chrono Circle, you then take each of those individual rhythm games, designed around their own crazy buttons, and you combine them into a SINGLE game.
And because of this, I guess I will at least extend the compliment that if you are the kind of person who plays rhythm videogames for the thrill of skill, and in steadily increasing your skill levels on the path to the highest scores, then this is the game to do it, the rhythm game where you play several rhythm games simultaneously. It will have to hold you over until Hasbro releases the new Bop It!, which I believe will be the most advanced Bop It! yet, one of the hottest toys of the summer, right up there with Kinder Eggs and LOL Surprise Dolls and whatever else passes for the real-world equivalent of a lootbox.
If life is a rollercoaster, then Chrono Circle is the rhythm game equivalent of going off the rails. From here, I want to ask what those crazy Japanese will come up with next, but then I remember Andamiro is a French-Korean company.
What will those crazy French-Koreans come up with next?