Back in 2013 the original DEEMO was released on iOS and Android. It became a pretty big hit on mobile platforms. The game was eventually ported to the PlayStation Vita adding some additional features and receiving a new name DEEMO: Last Recital. This game was then eventually ported to the Nintendo Switch. This brings us to today where DEEMO has been ported once again to PlayStation 4 and has received another new name DEEMO -Reborn- featuring some new content, fully remastered visuals, as well as support for VR. I normally wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of rhythm games because outside of the music most games from the genre are pretty much exactly the same. While the rhythm mechanics reminded me a lot of other games from the genre, DEEMO -Reborn- had two unique ideas that differentiated it from many other games from the genre. I have never really seen a rhythm game with an actual detailed story or puzzle mechanics. Both are featured in DEEMO -Reborn-. I found these to be interesting additions to your typical rhythm game so I wanted to try out DEEMO -Reborn-. DEEMO -Reborn- has some interesting ideas for a rhythm game leading to a unique experience that sometimes is too difficult and relies on too much repetition of songs.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Rayark Inc, Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. and Unties for the review copy of DEEMO -Reborn- used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In DEEMO -Reborn- you play as a young girl who has fallen from the sky. This girl has no memory of her past. She meets a tall black figure known as DEEMO who begins playing the piano. By playing this piano it stimulates a tree to begin growing in the room. This tree seems to be the best opportunity for the girl to reach the door in the sky to return to where she came from. Therefore the girl and DEEMO must work together in order to play the piano to help the tree grow. To find more sheet music to play on the piano the pair must explore the rooms of the structure. As she begins exploring the rooms the girl starts to realize things might not be exactly as they appear. While exploring she also meets another character referred to as the “masked lady”. Can the girl figure out the secrets of the structure and grow the tree large enough to be able to finally return home?
DEEMO -Reborn- is at its core a rhythm/music game. Most of the gameplay revolves around playing the piano in order to grow the tree. For the most part this aspect of the game plays like your typical rhythm game. Musical notes will begin at the top of the screen and will move towards a bar at the bottom of the screen. When a note reaches the bar you have to press the corresponding button in order to play the appropriate note. There are also notes that are strung together which you play by moving the analog stick in the direction that the notes are moving. Depending on how well you time the note you will either get credit for a Charming note or a normal completed note. You will receive credit for all of your correct notes which is reflected in your percentage score for the song. The better you do at playing the song the more the tree will grow.
Outside of playing a piano and the notes being handled a little differently than your typical rhythm game, this aspect of DEEMO -Reborn- should be familiar to fans of rhythm games. While I am not the biggest fan of rhythm games I had fun with this aspect of DEEMO -Reborn-. The game features a range of different types of music from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. I am far from a music expert, but a lot of the music has a J-Pop type feel to them. The game also has some songs that are more classical and other genres are represented as well. I liked the music for the most part which keeps the rhythm aspect of the game interesting. The rhythm mechanics may not revolutionize the genre, but they are well implemented. If you enjoy rhythm games you should enjoy this aspect of the game.
DEEMO -Reborn- may mostly be a rhythm game but I was kind of surprised that there are puzzle mechanics as well. The puzzle mechanics mostly involve exploring the various rooms of the structure and solving the puzzles presented in each room. These puzzles are used to reveal different parts of the story as well as offer various collectibles. The main reason to solve the puzzles though is that they unlock more sheet music that you can play on the piano. I would say that the puzzles are a mixture of a bunch of different types of puzzles as the game doesn’t focus on just one type of puzzle. I have to say that I was a little surprised by this aspect of DEEMO -Reborn- as most rhythm games focus solely on the rhythm mechanics.
I was a little skeptical about the puzzles as I thought they could have just been afterthought in order to add some variety to the game. While the puzzles can be a little hit or miss at times it is clear that effort was put into them. Some of the puzzles are on the easy side where you can solve them pretty quickly. Others can be quite clever and challenging though. Some of the puzzles require some real thought to solve and you may have to come back to some of them as you acquire more items or information. The puzzles could have been an afterthought for the game, but they are actually quite good. They are an interesting enough addition that they might convince someone that otherwise wouldn’t be interested in a rhythm game to give DEEMO -Reborn- a chance.
In addition to the puzzle mechanics DEEMO -Reborn- also features a pretty comprehensive story for a rhythm game. Most rhythm games don’t even include a story. When they do they are pasted on and have no real substance to them. I haven’t finished the game so I don’t know where the story ends up, but I am finding the story to be pretty interesting. The story relies pretty heavily on mystery as you arrive at a mysterious structure and have none of your previous memories. As you proceed through the game you begin to piece things together. So far I have found the story to be pretty interesting where I want to see how it ends. The story may be a little too weird for some people, but I think most people should find it to be pretty interesting.
With the translation to the PlayStation 4 DEEMO -Reborn- has received a graphical overhaul. I don’t really know what the previous games looked like so I can’t really compare the new version to previous versions. The visuals might not be up to the level of AAA games but I thought they were good for the most part. I really liked the game’s style as the world and characters create a world that you want to explore. Another addition to this version of DEEMO -Reborn- is that the game allows you to play the whole game in VR. As I don’t have a VR headset I wasn’t able to test this aspect of the game.
I have enjoyed playing DEEMO -Reborn- but the game does have a few issues.
I would probably say that the biggest problem that I had with the game regards its difficulty. I am far from an expert at rhythm games but DEEMO -Reborn- is not an easy game. On the positive side there appears to be no way of failing a song which I can attest to as I did quite poorly on some of the harder songs. You will receive some tree growth for each song you play even if you do a poor job. Unless you are really good at rhythm games you need to be prepared to do pretty poorly on some songs even outside of playing the song on hard. I attribute this to a couple factors.
First I would like to say that the controls can be a little confusing when you first start playing the game. In total there are six different notes along with a mechanic to play linked notes. The game gives you two options for the six notes. You can either use the top or bottom set of buttons on the d-pad and the symbol buttons. This is kind of clever as it actually kind of feels like you are playing a piano when you are pushing the buttons to the music. Unlike most rhythm games though the notes are not color coded based on the color of their corresponding buttons. For the first couple seconds of a song it will display what buttons correspond to particular notes. After this guide disappears you are left to remember which button corresponds to each note. I found this to be kind of frustrating at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. I kind of wish the game either color coded the notes or kept the guide up for the entire song so you could reference it when determining which button to press. After playing the game for a while I adjusted to the controls where they weren’t much of a problem except when I became flustered after missing a few notes.
The other reason why DEEMO -Reborn- can be kind of difficult is that the game doesn’t pull any punches. Each song in the game has a numerical rating which indicates how difficult the song will be on easy, medium, and hard difficulty. For the most part the easy difficulty is usually pretty easy where most people should score well on most if not all of the songs. The difficulty ramps up pretty quickly though as the medium difficulty is usually considerably more difficult. The songs become difficult because they give you a lot of different notes in quick succession where it is sometimes hard to keep up with them. People who are experts at rhythm games shouldn’t have any issues, but players who are average or worse at rhythm games are going to have some issues.
Normally you could just stick with playing all of the songs on the easy difficulty to avoid playing the harder songs. The problem is that in DEEMO -Reborn- you need to score a certain number of points in order to grow the tree to progress through the story. Playing all of the songs on easy difficulty will only get you so far. After a while you will have to start playing some of the more difficult songs as you get more points for each time you try a new difficulty level for a song. You might do horribly on the song but you need to try the songs just to get the points. This illustrates a problem that I have with some rhythm games. I have never been a huge fan of rhythm games where you have to keep repeating songs just to get enough points in order to unlock the next set of songs. I would rather have players have to do well enough on a song to unlock the next song. This makes the game feel a little repetitive especially when you are forced to play a song that is difficult for you.
For the most part I wouldn’t really say that I have strong feelings either way about the rhythm genre. The genre can be fun at times but outside of the music most games in the genre just feel like more of the same. I was intrigued by DEEMO -Reborn- though as it looked like it was actually trying to do something new. At its core it is your typical rhythm game as it doesn’t drastically change the main gameplay. You just press buttons to match the notes and rhythm. I thought the music was good for the most part which made the rhythm aspects of the game pretty enjoyable. The addition of puzzle mechanics was quite interesting though and a good addition in my opinion. You basically have to solve puzzles in order to unlock more songs to play. The puzzles can be a little hit or miss but some are pretty clever. DEEMO -Reborn- also adds a pretty substantial story for a rhythm game which is pretty good. DEEMO -Reborn- can be pretty difficult at times though where you will do pretty poorly on some of the songs unless you are quite good at rhythm games. The game also relies too often on replaying songs over again just to score enough points to progress the story.
As the rhythm mechanics are the main mechanic in DEEMO -Reborn- people who hate the genre probably won’t like the game. People who have mixed feelings about the genre though may enjoy DEEMO -Reborn- more than they would expect due to it adding some unique mechanics to the formula. Meanwhile fans of rhythm games should really enjoy the game. Basically if the concept interests you and you don’t mind rhythm games I would recommend that you look into picking up DEEMO -Reborn-.