beatmania iidx

konami, 1999

beatmania iidx is the granddaddy of them all, the sequel to the game that started the whole genre of arcade rhythm games, the original beatmania. all they did was add two buttons to beatmania’s original five, and that was somehow enough to create a game that has now been going steady for over two decades and thirty versions, which even killed its own sequel (beatmania III made the mistake of going back to five buttons, although they did add a foot pedal). it’s the stalwart bedrock of arcade rhythm games, and practically ubiquitous: any arcade carrying arcade rhythm games is pretty much legally required to have at least one cab (not a tall order considering that older iidx cabs are cheap and plentiful). it may not necessarily be the most popular anymore, but it has unmatched staying power, and will certainly be the last to go.

the long history and dedicated playerbase also mean that iidx is probably by far one of the most intimidating rhythm games. over two decades of continuous updates has pushed the track list, difficulty, and skill ceiling into the stratosphere, and it’s not uncommon to meet players who have been playing regularly for ten or even twenty years to whom the unparalleled selection of difficult charts is catered. without a doubt i would say it’s the most hardcore rhythm game.

personally, i only dabble a little bit in iidx, playing when i spot a free credit or when my other games are all occupied. i guess this is because i sense a kind of dangerous, obsessive, abyssal potential in it for myself. i can easily see myself getting sucked in and consumed, a path down which i’ve seen many others go. this is despite the fact that currently, the game isn’t entirely to my taste: the miniscule timing windows are a bit too punishing for me, the buttons are too small, and of course there’s the whole turntable situation. overcoming the gap between the buttons and the turntable is probably the biggest source of difficulty in iidx charts, the defining struggle of the game. this is because many difficult charts will demand that you rapidly cover all seven buttons while also turning the turntable, which some unsuspecting (or perhaps genius) konami designer twenty years ago put tantalizingly out of reach, necessitating all sorts of strange hand contortions while playing that seem certain to lead to some flavor of carpal tunnel or arthritis years down the line.

however, i’ve gotten over quibbles like that before, specifically when i started playing sound voltex. i started playing it as just something to do while resting between sets of pump it up or dance dance revolution. i didn’t particularly enjoy playing it but felt it was marginally better than the other options, plus the sound voltex cabs were extremely close to both pump and ddr. then, as time went on, i either got good enough to start playing harder, more enjoyable charts, or i simply fell victim to stockholm syndrome, and now i actually enjoy playing sound voltex. but sound voltex is barely a puddle compared to the marianas trench that is iidx, which is why i try to steer clear... i play iidx only occasionally, playing a couple favorite bangers (the iidx song catalog is extremely strong thanks to its long history. my favorite bemani song of all time, 3y3s, is from iidx and regrettably quite difficult to find outside of it) and pretending like i’m playing pop’n music by leaving auto-scratch ON (which all the online guides unequivocally warn against) ...