Game Review: Cytus Alpha (Nintendo Switch)

Rayark’s rhythm based game Cytus Alpha has been available on the Nintendo Switch since April 2019 but courtesy of Numskull Games and PM Studios it has now received a physical release with a soundtrack CD.

Those interesting in taking a look at this physical release can do so with our unboxing; but what can one expect to receive from the game itself? Well’s let’s have a go and find out.

Title: Cytus Alpha
Publisher: Numskull Games / PM Studios
Developer: Rayark Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Audio: Japanese
Subtitles: English (White)
Local Players: 1
Online Players: 2 – 3
Install: 2.6GB

Our View:

Based upon the original iOS and Android game, known simply as Cytus, Cytus Alpha is a rhythm game for the Nintendo Switch featuring an extensive selection of songs from past variations of the original experiences but expanded upon with a robust menu design and controller support. Truth be told Rayark Games, who are also responsible for VOEZ and DEEMO, are great at creating inspired rhythm game experiences but sadly my experience with Cytus Alpha left me feeling uneasy and unsatisfied.

Whether this is due to the simplistic nature of how the game is presented, the poor incorporation of competitive online multiplayer or the lacklustre tutorial that confuses the player rather than informs them remains to be decided. Regardless Cytus Alpha will offer something to fans of rhythm games, and even more so to fans of past Rayark Games.

Cytus Alpha, unlike VOEZ, features a story but unlike DEEMO, which saw a story unfold between a mysterious creature and a little girl, the story in Ctyus Alpha is a little bit over complicated and potentially not existent at the same. This story sees human memories stored digitally resulting in memories to live beyond the normal lifespan of a human, and over time these memories are incorporated in a digital music system known as the Cytus system whereby they can be accessed by users (or something like that at least).

To be brutally honest I paid little attention to story, partly because this is a rhythm based experience with no need for a story, but mostly because the story is presented through long-winded-paragraphs that are unlocked as part of natural progression through the main game. Basically completing songs, as well as achieving a high-score, will award points and eventually unlock ‘data’ that can be accessed outside of the song selection menus and those eager to learn more about the world of Cytus can do so by visiting these portions of the game and reading them.

These story elements are not directly presented to the player and as such have to be located through the menu systems. Understanding this world of Cytus is not necessary to enjoying the game but for those looking for a more ‘informative’ experience then it does provide some back story and merit. As mentioned I did not care for this narrative but it does offers something different to other rhythm games available on the market. In hindsight it is a double edged sword, an unnecessary complicated back story to a game that should be about enjoying the music.

Story aspects aside Cytus Alpha features a singular gameplay mode, the story (listed on the main as CHAPTERS), of which is separated into different chapters with these offering different songs. Surprisingly there doesn’t seem to be a free play or practice mode and as such those wishing to replay songs have to go through the different menu options which is both slow and tedious. Each chapter also contains around ten different songs with each varying in difficulty (in terms of number of button prompts, speed of music and such) in addition to EASY and HARD difficulty options that further decrease or increase the overall difficulty of that song.

The songs within this mode can also be played online with other players and each song will automatically try to connect you with other players playing the song. Unfortunately with a ‘very limited’ player pool it can take some time to be connected to other players but fortunately this option can be turned off. Those wishing to compete against other players can do so in the separate play section found on the main menu. This competitive nature simply puts three players into a match with each competing for a high-score with highest-score being crowned the winner of that match.

Unlike general rhythm games the story does not seem to have a natural progression system of difficulty and as such these chapters will feature a mixture of both overly simple and confusingly difficult songs. This difficulty difference isn’t helped by the incorporation of a disappointing tutorial that almost feels non-existent combined with controller inputs that can easily be confused by yourself or the game.

Upon first loading Cytus Alpha players will be required to watch a tutorial video demonstrating the basics of the game, however this tutorial video is vague at best and can even confuse a veteran rhythm game player such as myself. This seems to be the standard of Rayark Games, by providing a video tutorial instead of an actual tutorial like in Hatsune Miku titles, but starting any song will replay the tutorial video, and will continue to do so, but fortunately this can be skipped after watching it for the first time.

In terms of playing the rhythm game then players will follow a line that moves up and down in time with the rhythm of the song and within this line the beats / input prompts will appear. Most rhythm games, with the exception of Hatsune Miku styled games, have the prompts appear from a distance with the timing being required at the bottom of the screen – but here you have to carefully watch the cursor moving up and down and the arrival of the button prompt as they appear at different points of the screen.

At first it is overwhelmingly confusing, even more so than I originally imagined, but after replaying a selection of songs a number of times (as no practice mode exists) you will understand how the game is played. Input wise differs depending on the control input being used but both styles offer enjoyable experiences if you are aware of what needs to be done at the correct moment. On a controller any D-Pad or Button Input can be pressed for single inputs but when two inputs appear at once then any two buttons can be pressed. For chain beats then you simply press and hold the buttons down while for swiping beats the ZR and ZL buttons are used.

Simple indeed; but not always responsive. During my experience I found notes being missed when trying to hit swipe beats or double beats. Cytus Alpha is also compatible with touch-screen inputs and as one would imagine simply touching, holding and swiping, the beat on screen is acknowledged as hitting the correct beat. The touch-screen implementation is, as with past RayArk Games, impressive but as with any touch-screen based rhythm game you cannot always see the screen. Regardless these two play styles offer different ways of experiencing Cytus Alpha and both are as fun to play as each other.

Of course Cytus Alpha’s true praise is with the extensive selection of songs on offer and while no notable songs can be found within its track list it does feature some unique and entertaining songs within its extensive selection. Although the track list is extensive and entertaining the songs are locked behind the games story mode; additionally as the game does not feature a free play or training mode you cannot easily replay these songs without going through all the different menus.

Cytus Alpha remains consistent with RayArk’s past releases of delivering an expansive selection of songs within a single game but its unique nature of playing the game, as well as its limited game modes, left me feeling unsatisfied and slightly disappointed. Personally I expected a similar experience to other rhythm games that sees songs unlocked as part of progression then available to play in free play modes; but sadly that is not the case here. Additionally the way the game is played does not feel organic and fun, unlike other RayArk games which seem to resemble the traditional style of playing rhythm games.

Cytus Alpha delivers an alternate rhythm based experience that provides the extensive soundtrack selection of songs you would expect to receive; but unlike DEEMO or VOEZ it does not feel as approachable or as fun to play. For rhythm game fans it is a worthy addition to your Nintendo Switch collection, but I cannot help but feel it could have presented better.

Score: review-stars-3

Ctyus Alpha is available digitally on the Nintendo Switch within Europe and thanks to Numskull Games we also have the game available in physical form.

Gameplay:

You can experience more than twenty-minutes worth of gameplay from CYTUS ALPHA in our gameplay video.

Unboxing:

This physical edition (of which you can see in our unboxing) contains the base game alongside a soundtrack CD selection that mimics the North American release by PM Studios. It is a positive release but (as with the game) it could have been better. The Soundtrack CD is presented inside a plastic sleeve that slides into a carded sleeve that proves difficult to remove, while the outer packaging is also flimsy and easily damaged.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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