Today (9/9) I played a new Bemani game by Konami called UBeat. It’s being location tested here in Irvine, CA at a Boomers. According to Wikipedia, it was released last month in Japan. Irvine gets the only two UBeat cabinets outside of Asia!

Ubeat, originally uploaded by theuser.

The first thing I noticed about it was, of course, the aesthetics of the unit. Being a music game, it had to have a light of glowing parts and lights, but it really did look pretty cool. It had a crisp, nice quality LCD screen to show your score and other information, and it had 16 LCD buttons arranged in a grid. As songs play, the LCD buttons play little ~1 second animations to the rhythm. You have to press the button at a particular point in the animation. You can choose from a few animations. I chose fireworks; When the firework reached the top of the button, you press it to see the firework explode. It’s a lot like DDR meets Whac-A-Mole, and it was a lot of fun!
The song list was pretty interesting. It had a good mix of songs that were already known in America and Japanese songs that I assume were from the Japanese version of the game. I played “Take on Me” by a-ha, “Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)” by Scatman John, and “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People (because what heterosexual guy playing a Bemani game with his girlfriend watching can resist the Village People?). I was surprised and pleased to find Scatman John in the game; He’s an artist I really like.
The game displayed the name of the arcade and a player name although it was set to defaults. It looked like there was a way to store accounts or something similar but that the feature was not implemented. Like other Bemani games, each song had a different difficulty rating between one and ten, and the difficulty could be raised. In more complex songs, multiple panels lit up at the same time, requiring players to press multiple buttons with a single hand, often in rapid succession. The machine itself was very narrow and elegant looking. This is a plus because it means arcades can fit them in easier. From the interface, I think it supports up to four cabinets in local play. The small form factor means it’s more likely to see arcades actually buy four cabinets.
There were two cabinets here so multiplayer was an option although I didn’t try it. It looked like the cabinets were plugged into a router/hub, and when I checked online, I found out that you can play online as well. I’m not sure how that works though. Boomers was also location testing Dance Dance Revolution X, which I haven’t had a chance to try yet. I’m definitely going back this week to play UBeat some more and possibly try the new DDR. Here’s hoping UBeat catches on here in the states!