chrono circle

andamiro, 2021

another relatively new game, this is korean company andamiro’s second arcade rhythm game and finally gives am.pass holders something else to use their card on. it’s about time, i suppose, since andamiro’s first game, my beloved pump it up, debuted 25 years ago. in the same way that pump it up followed dance dance revolution, in this case they seem to have taken a lot of, er, “inspiration” from maimai, forerunner of the now-fruitful “circle game” genre.

to their credit, besides multiplying the number of buttons and making them a nice shiny chrome color, they have managed to put an outrageous spin on it by literally making the ring of buttons spinnable. i have said before that i believe the biggest current trend in rhythm game design is making games that are difficult to replicate with home controllers, which is why there’s so many circle games recently (they are scientifically the hardest shape to create). thanks to the additional unprecedented technical innovation of making the circle spinnable, it may be decades before the boys in shenzhen are able recreate this one for home use (if there is even enough demand for them to do so, that is).

the gameplay itself feels like a “kitchen sink” of different note types, combining button games and touchscreen games like maimai did while also adding spinning. official chart videos posted on the youtube channel distinguish 9 different types of notes (on the touchscreen: pop, hold, knock, slash; on the button ring: tick, tock, drive, spin, tack) which has to be among the most in any rhythm game. hard rhythm game charts always look insane (especially to the uninitiated), but the amount of note types and the way they’re color-coded in chrono circle makes the most difficult charts look particularly intense, like a psychedelic swirl or a bullet hell game. even in easy charts it can be a little overwhelming at times. in fact, after hearing some initial player feedback, the devs decided it was TOO complicated and removed a couple types of notes, only to backtrack a couple months later and re-add them when i guess players got good enough to handle them.

i’ve played chrono circle a few times, enough that i got so used to the spinning that i once made a fool of myself trying to idly spin the buttons on a maimai cab while passing by. overall my impression is that it lacks cohesion, and a lot of the note types just don’t feel great to execute. it feels like two separate games, a touchscreen game and a spinning button ring game (not a lot of entries in that latter genre, though). i’m not a huge fan of touchscreen games, and the spinning button ring may have been ok if it didn’t feel somewhat janky, i feel like i’m missing a lot of notes that i definitely hit correctly. many easier charts have fairly distinct touchscreen portions and ring portions, and when they start to come together later on it just didn’t really work for me.

i suppose i’m also a little bit bitter that andamiro neglected pump for a year or two in order to focus on getting chrono circle off the ground, their team is pretty small and i saw a lot of familiar names in the artist and chart maker credits. i will admit, however, that chrono circle’s song list is stacked with bangers, both classics and new originals from top bms artists as well as several legendary ex-konami ones. i DESPERATELY need them to cross over some of those songs into pump it up, which they still haven’t done even though there’s been plenty of cross overs going the other way.

from the start it didn’t seem like chrono circle was doing too well – it seemed to have been some kind of japan round 1 exclusive, another attempt by andamiro to woo the japanese market that's been firmly controlled by japanese companies like konami and sega. despite the efforts licensing music they thought would be popular in japan, within only a few months round 1 was already packing them up and sending them overseas to US locations. it attracted a modest amount of attention in my arcade, though never seemed to acquire many dedicated players. after hanging on for a year or two it seems that it’s coming to an end, i checked on the website after hearing some rumors about its demise and it seems that the final content update was in december, and they announced that the online service will be shut down in january 2025. even though i wasn’t a big fan of it, i can’t help but feel a little melancholic reading the slightly-garbled announcement on the website thanking the players for enjoying the game. it feels more real, i suppose, because the game was an actual physical thing that i passed by in the arcade every time i stopped by.