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Audition

Developer: T3 Entertainment | Publisher: Nexon America
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 04/02/07 | Genre: Music

Developed by T3 Entertainment and originally published in Korea by Yedang Online, Audition is a multiplayer online casual game that uses the Virtual Asset Sales (VAS) model rather than the traditional retail method. This means the game is free to play, but various in-game items can be purchased with a credit card. Due to its success in Korea, Audition has been localised for several countries (Japan, Philippines, and South East Asia to name a few) from various publishers, and thanks to Nexon America, North America will get to experience this rhythm dance game designed for the online environment (that's multiplayer for those of you who were wondering).

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Audition uses a hierarchy for their servers, which consists of Beginner, Intermediate, and Free channels currently. The Beginner channels are for newcomers as it is only available to players who are in Levels 1 through 5, whereas the Free channels are for players of all levels (which means players will go up against high-level opponents here). In the Beginner channels, songs are limited to low BPMs (less than 110) and arrow sets only go up to 7 levels, while the Intermediate channels provides arrow sets going up to 9 levels along with the option to use modifiers, although songs are still restricted to lower BPMs (less than 120). The Free channels have no restrictions whatsoever. Read on to understand what this all means.

Like Dance Dance Revolution or Bust A Groove, arrows are involved as part of Audition's core gameplay, although how they are involved depend on the game mode chosen by the player hosting a game (also known as the DJ). In general, up to six players follow the arrows displayed on the screen, while watching a dot move towards an indicator. How fast the dot moves towards the indicator depends on the BPM of the song selected by the DJ. Higher BPMs (~120 BPM) means a fast-moving dot while lower BPMs (~90 BPM) means a slow-moving dot; this is how players determine the difficulty of the game. When the dot reaches the center of the indicator, players hit spacebar or ctrl on the keyboard, achieving a rating of MISS, BAD, COOL, GREAT or PERFECT depending on how close the dot is to the center of the indicator (a MISS also occurs if the player does nothing while the dot passes the indicator). The player's score will then increase and his or her character will dance on the screen for any ratings above MISS, where each dance move and score increase is based on the level of the arrow set, which itself is based on the number of arrows required to complete the move (the level 9 arrow set consists of 9 arrows). The score increase is also affected by the rating the player achieved when hitting spacebar, where PERFECT and GREAT will provide more points compared to COOL and BAD. If the player gets a MISS on any arrow set beyond level 5, then he or she will have to wait for two arrow sets to pass before being allowed to continue as a penalty. When the arrow set for the final level passes (level 7 in Intermediate and level 9 in Free), players will have a chance to do a “Finish Move”; the “Finish Move” involves the same number of arrows as the arrow set for the final level, except one arrow will be red. This red arrow indicates the opposite direction players need to press. If the move is successfully completed, players will be rewarded with a nice breakdance move as well as a massive score increase before the arrow set goes back to level 6. This process basically repeats itself until the song ends.

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The person who currently has the highest score will be moved to the front in the center of the group, while the opponents will be dancing in the back row. It is not uncommon to see several players swapping positions constantly as they fight for the top score, and I actually find it a bit disorienting at times when trying to focus on the arrows while watching people switching their locations repeatedly. Players can also chain PERFECT by getting more than one PERFECT consecutively, as well as use "Chance" and "8-Key" modifiers for massive score increases. "Chance" is activated when players hit the Delete (or period on the numpad) button on their keyboards, where arrow sets will have three "normal" arrows (blue) changed to red; these arrows are treated the same way as the single red arrow in the “Finish Move”, and indicate the opposite of what the player should press. "8-Key" is activated when players hit the Insert (or 0 on their numpad) button on their keyboards, where arrow sets are converted to have arrows pointing in all directions, including diagonals (the numpad would be used instead of the arrow keys in this case). It is important to note that either modifer can only be used in certain gameplay modes, however there are modes where both modifiers can be used together for the ultimate boost in scoring as it is the most difficult to play with. It should also be noted that the “Finish Move” and arrow sets for levels 1 to 5 are unaffected by the modifiers.

At the end of the song players will receive experience points and BEATS, where the amount for each depends on what place they resulted in. In the “Team” mode, the combination of all players’ scores from each team determines who wins more experience points and BEATS, although the distribution is still based on what place the individual resulted in. Experience points are used for levelling up the player's character, and BEATS are the in-game currency used to purchase in-game items, such as clothing and hairstyles for your character. If a game (excluding the Battle Party mode) is full with six players, a random mission may occur for all players to participate in, where extra BEATS are given at the end of the song if players accomplish a certain objective. Examples are getting GREATs and PERFECTs only, performing at least 14 PERFECTs, or getting double the amount of BEATS one would normally gain regardless of what place they're in (this is one of the more confusing missions that actually exist, as players will automatically complete it when the song ends).

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At the time of this writing there are around 70 songs and 18 gameplay modes, however periodic updates using a patcher built into the game will change this and provide more songs, gameplay modes, and in-game items. The song selection in this version is different from the Korean original as Nexon America partnered up with MTV to feature music from artists like Hillary Duff, Dred & I, Chucho Merchan, Macintosh & Charles, and Kully B/Gussy G to name a few; unfortunately my experience with some of their music seemed to consist of either a simple midi-like tune, a constantly looped chorus, an N'Sync rip-off, or a muffled car alarm. However the game still has most (if not all) of the in-house mixes from the Korean developers where the songs are listed under Audition and consist of pop, hip-hop, electronica (think clubbing music), and various other forms of dance music. Since I have played the South East Asia version in the past, these songs were more suitable for my tastes as they were more familiar to me. Keep in mind I have seen players enjoying the MTV selection of music (after all, those songs ARE on MTV for a reason), so your experience with them will likely be different from mine.

The gameplay modes are seperated between “Single” and “Team” mode and are at the time of this writing, as follows:

Practice Mode
Available only in the Intermediate channel, this is for newcomers to practice their skills as it contains arrow sets for levels 1 to 5 involving 4-key arrows.

Normal Individual
Involves three arrow sets (pick one to do) for levels 1 to 7 before going into “Freestyle 1”, which involves players choosing valid arrow sets for levels 6 to 7. From there, players will do arrow sets for levels 8 to 9 before doing “Freestyle 2”, which is the same as “Freestyle 1” except it involves levels 8 to 9, and then the “Finish Move”. Players can do up to three “Finish Moves” in a row by achieving a PERFECT rating when doing the move. If the player gets anything besides a PERFECT, he or she will be sent back to the level 6 arrow set after the first “Finish Move” and level 7 after the second. Completing the third “Finish Move” with any rating will send the player back to “Freestyle 1”.

Choreography/Expert Choreography
This is the general gameplay mode explained earlier. All players follow the same dance moves, including the “Finish Move” at the end. Expert Choreography puts a twist after level 6, where 8-key arrow sets have a chance of occurring up until the final level (the “Finish Move” is guaranteed to be an 8-key arrow set).

SYNC-8
Same as Choreography, except it starts off at level 6 and as the name implies, consists entirely of 8-key arrow sets.

Dynamic-4/Dynamic-8
Similar to Normal Individual, players will be doing “Freestyle” moves with their usual arrow sets except there’s only one arrow set instead of three, and players get moved to the front to show off their “Freestyle” moves, which are done in sequential order based on the player’s location in regards to his or her opponents from left to right. For example, if the player B’s character is to the right of player A’s character, then player B will do his or her “Freestyle” move after player A completes it. In this case, only those who are doing “Freestyle” moves are moved to the front, rather than the player with the top score. Also, “Freestyle” moves are done in between the usual arrow sets, meaning level 6 “Freestyle” moves are done during the level 6 arrow set, etc.

License Mode
When the player can no longer gain experience at the end of any song (starting at the end of level 5), that player is then qualified to take the “License” exam. This mode involves the player meeting or exceeding certain requirements while playing in the predetermined gameplay mode (“Single” mode only) and song. The criteria for the exam depends on the player’s level and involves a score, a number of perfects, and a number of perfects that need to be chained; these requirements need to be completed before the song ends. The “License” mode requires the player to pay a certain amount of BEATS as a fee, but passing the exam will reward the player with a set amount of den along with the ascending in level.

Freestyle Battle
Involves three arrow sets and as the name suggests, players will be doing “Freestyle” moves for all levels until the “Finish Move”. Players progress through the levels faster by performing high rating moves (especially PERFECT), while BAD ratings will prevent the player from progressing at all. This causes players to reach their “Finish Moves” at different times if they reach it at all. A MISS will bring the level back to 6 or 7 depending on the player’s progress. The “Finish Moves” are similar to Normal Individual, except the second also brings the player back to level 6 upon failing to achieve a PERFECT rating, and the third brings you back to level 7.

Normal Group
Available in the “Team” mode, players on each team (two teams of up to three players each) take turns performing dance moves to increase the level of the arrow sets. If anybody on that team gets a MISS, the team will then be brought back to the earlier levels as a punishment. Similar to Freestyle Battle, players are racing to reach the “Finish Move” in order to achieve the highest scores. It is recommended for newcomers to not play this mode, because it tends to aggravate teammates when players get a MISS often, keeping the entire team stuck in the lower arrow set levels.

Choreography (Team)
Oddly enough, this has nothing to do with Choreography from the “Single” mode, but rather resembles more closely to Freestyle Battle (including the three arrow sets). The interesting part is that all players on each team are required to do the same dance move (arrow set) in order to avoid the two arrow set skip punishment (although all successful dance moves will increase the player’s and team’s score regardless). Teammates can communicate with one another quickly by pressing a number on the keyboard, which the number will show up above the character’s head in the form of a purple icon to refer to which arrow should be pressed (4 refers to left for example). This is useful as players can inform their teammates to follow the top arrow set only, and then flash two numbers to indicate which two arrows should be pressed first (upon completion of that arrow set, all players should theoretically be performing the same dance move).

Battle Party
This mode does not provide experience points and involves a team of five players wagering a certain amount of BEATS and competing against one non-playable character in Choreography. The DJ choosing the NPC not only determines the amount of BEATS being wagered, but it also determines what song the team will play. The team’s total score needs to be higher than the score of the NPC for the players to win BEATS; this is easier said than done, because all the dance moves the NPC does is worth far more points than any of the players (it is considered virtually impossible for an individual player to achieve a score that is higher than the NPC). There is also a bar where it starts half-blue and half-yellow. The bar fills up with one of the two colours depending on who performed a PERFECT chain (unlike the NPC, the team needs to have a minimum of three people chaining together to fill the bar). Nothing happens if the bar is completely blue, but if the bar is completely yellow the NPC automatically wins (defeated your team by chaining PERFECTs). Players are required to be at least level 6 to participate in this mode.

B-Boy Battle (4)/ B-Boy Battle (8)
Involving two teams of up to three players each, a player on one team will perform a “Freestyle” move where it will appear for the opposing team for a brief moment; the opposing team then memorizes the arrow set used in order to counter the move (the game randomly chooses which team goes first). Players that successfully memorize and counter moves will fill a bar at the top corners of the screen. Filling the bar completely will increase a counter by one. Provided the team has at least one full counter a team member can do a “Team Move” by pressing delete (0 on the numpad) instead of spacebar or ctrl when completing a “Freestyle” move on their turn. The “Team Move” involves the entire team dancing in unison and converts three arrows from the “Freestyle” move into red arrows, giving the other team a lot of grief to counter. Since using the “Team Move” decreases the counter by one, there will be scenarios where it shouldn’t be used, as saving at least 5 bars will steal the BEATS earned by the other team if the player’s team wins. The 8-Key version consists of 4-Key arrow sets from levels 6 to 7 and 8-Key arrow sets from level 8 onwards.

Couples Mode/ Expert Couples Mode
As the name suggests, this mode involves two male and female pairs where the gameplay is similar to Choreography, except there are grey arrows combined into the usual arrow set to show the partner’s arrow set (read: ignore the grey arrows). If a couple achieves a PERFECT rating together, they get a heart. The couple with the highest score wins, regardless of the number of hearts earned. However, getting 3 more hearts than the opposing couple will allow the winning characters to hug, while getting 5 more will allow them to kiss (to me it looks like the girl is kissing the guy’s forehead though) at the end of the song. If a couple gets at least 5 hearts, the option known as “Couple Proposal” to officially become a couple in-game will be available. Currently, the “Couple Proposal” option has not been properly implemented and so using this option will cause a game crash. I have not actually tried this, and have only heard about this through word-of-mouth. Expert Couples Mode is basically the 8-Key version of Couples Mode.

Dynamic-4/Dynamic-4
Basically this is the same as the “Single” mode version, where two teams of up to six players compete by performing the combination of “Freestyle” moves and the dance moves from the usual arrow sets (one person from each team will move to the front to show off their “Freestyle” move). Since this is the “Team” version, the team with the higher score wins. It should be noted that a player getting a MISS gives no penalty to the team (other than the obvious lack of increase in the individual and team scores).

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Aside from the gameplay modes, players can also go to the Ranking scoreboard and see their ranking, level, and amount of experience points earned. Players can also visit the Shopping Mall where the Music Gallery and Fashion Shop take place. The Music Gallery allows players to listen to the songs of Audition for those who want to enjoy the music and not be focusing on arrows. The Fashion Shop is for players to spend their BEATS to purchase in-game items, like the aforementioned clothing and hairstyles for the player’s character. Because the game uses the Virtual Asset Sales (VAS) model, Nexon Cash is also used in the Fashion Shop for purchasing in-game items (ones that aren’t priced under BEATS); to obtain Nexon Cash, players will need to log into their accounts and select the “Charge” option from the official Audition website. Players have the option of either using money from Paypal (Internet Explorer only) or Cash Cards purchased from any Target stores in America to redeem Nexon Cash.

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In terms of graphics the game is below average as the screenshots show, simply because this is an online casual game and as such, the requirements are rather low:

Windows 98/Me/2000/XP
Pentium III 1 GHz or better
256 MB RAM
~700 MB Hard Disk Space*
ATI Radeon 7000 or NVIDIA Geforce2 32 MB
Direct X 9.0c
56 kbit/s Internet Connection (Broadband recommended)

*Will increase as updates are installed on a periodic basis.

My experiences with the game so far had its ups and downs; occasionally I was unable to copy the opponent’s moves (the bar kept resetting or the bar stayed blank) despite hitting the correct keys in B-Boy Battle. “Couple Proposal” has not been implemented (and crashes the game when the option is selected), and several songs from MTV do not even have a long enough duration for the players to finish the level 9 arrow sets, let alone perform the “Finish Move”. However, there were also things I appreciated. The camera view can be fixed by pressing F2 on the keyboard, which is nice as the camera tends to disorient me with all the panning and zooming. Players can also adjust the in-game volume (does not affect the Windows volume mixer), which I use to voice chat with my friends using a third-party VOIP program. I hope they implement a buddy list in a near future update, since it’s hard to know if any friends are online and in-game currently.

To play Audition, players need to register for a free Nexon Passport which can be done at the official Audition website (click on the “Sign Up” button and follow the instructions).

By Will Chiu - 04/30/07
ESRB Details: No Descriptors
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Screenshots for Audition

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