konami, 2008

jubeat (pronounced "you"-beat in the european fashion) is based around a 4x4 grid of 16 big square "buttons". button is in quotes because i'm not really sure if they fully count as buttons, since there's barely any tactile feedback from them. when you press them, it really feels like they just wiggle or move side-to-side in their frame rather than move backwards like proper buttons. apparently this is because they are all mounted on a sort of membrane, like they use for cheap keyboards.

the other unique aspect of jubeat is that the actual buttons light up to indicate when to press them, which is achieved by placing a big screen beneath the transparent buttons. this means that you don't need to spend a lot of time learning associations between lanes/notes on a screen and the physical buttons on the controller, you just see the buttons light up and press them. it’s basically a variation on whack-a-mole. they've even made an ipad version where you just tap the touchscreen instead of pressing buttons.

as a result, it’s one of the most accessible arcade rhythm games, and i dabbled a bit with it when i was first getting into them. it didn’t really hold much lasting appeal for me, though, because the membrane “buttons” just aren’t very satisfying to press for me. it's like a membrane keyboard vs. a mechanical keyboard, i just want to PRESS some real BUTTONS. i also had a lot of problems navigating the menus and finding the harder songs (this was back when i wasn’t very good at japanese). one thing i will say, though, is that jubeat has somehow managed to yield some of the most legendary bangers ever to have graced arcade button games, like "flower" and "evans". however, for the most part i've only played them outside of jubeat, because they've gotten crossed over into almost every other bemani game (and even some non-bemani).

the game itself seems to enjoy very modest but enduring popularity, similar to pop’n but on a lesser scale since it’s not quite as old and established. it still has official network support although updates are getting sporadic, i thought for sure they were going to sunset it but then last year they suddenly dropped the first major (named) version update in five years (jubeat Ave.). it was also pretty rare to find it in arcades in japan, though, and it seems like a lot of cabs have made their way overseas on the cheap although i find it hard to believe there's anyone who really badly wants a jubeat cab, people are just picking them up to have a cab since they were cheap. to the best of my knowledge, however, they still can’t be found in any US round 1's, a common dumping ground for old (often offline) cabs, so jubeat may still have some life in it yet...

the very last stop for old cabs, if you're curious, is the loading dock of US round 1s, where the mechanics are forced to smash them to smithereens in order to prevent them from making it out of round 1 onto the streets and into local arcades or people's garages. this is what happened to my round 1's old (but still perfectly serviceable) sound voltex cabs, according to one of the mechanics. they were even required to send pictures to verify that the cabs had been destroyed.