WARNING: This blog contains censored profanity and negative opinions on the most recent Cytus update. If you feel that either of these will offend you in anyway, don't read this.
Oh, and this is also my first time attempting to conduct a full-scale critical review, so...be gentle. :<
It seems like the self-proclaimed "greatest mobile rhythm game", as well as the very game that united us misfits in a community like this in the first place, has finally reached the end of its lifespan. Yeah, the sequel title is going to be released not too long from now, and the legacy of the original title won't be forgotten, but it still brings a small, poignant pang to my heart that Cytus, this game I've played avidly for the past two and a half years, has now seen its last update. Was this last update worth it, though? Were the fans able to receive proper closure on this title, that has captivated such a dedicated audience?
Erhem...sorry about that. The lazy, irritable teenager still present inside of me has the strong urge to bash this update for all it's worth, just as I've done with the past three major updates (8.0, 9.0, 9.1). But I won't. Beyond not wanting to start yet another flame war, I really want to give this update a chance. I feel it deserves a fair analysis and criticism on what made it bad, but also what is, and what could've been good.
So, unlike every review I (and most other people on this Wiki) have conducted before, in which I assign a score and mini-review to every song in the update, I'll be focusing on individual aspects of the updates, and offering suggestions as to why each aspect contributed to the update's failure, both personally and in a community perspective. Kinda like how Leafy and iDubbbz conduct their criticisms. Y'know, because that's what popular now, right? YouTube drama is just so enthrall--*zzzzzzzzz*
"Why are you bothering to do this?", you may be thinking to me. Yeah, I can read your mind, the one person who was thinking that. I have two reasons.
- 1) To provide comedy (as I usually try to do) and informative criticism to the common viewers here. I shouldn't really have to use the word "informative" in that phrase, but I know many of you will take this the wrong way and think I'm trying to attack Cytus and Rayark. I'm not. I'm trying to provide suggestions for the future success of these two entities. Which leads me to the second reason, a reason that's admittedly naïve, but is a reason regardless.
- 2) On the Hailey's Comet chance that a Rayark member manages to find and read this blog, they will take my words into suggestion in developing Cytus II. Though Rayark botching the final update of their first successful game was bad, it would be injurious to their fanbase if their sequel title followed in those same footsteps.
So, without further ado, let's get into this mess...
Yes, for this review to start, we have to go back to these two updates. AGAIN. Yeah, I'm completely aware that I've already expressed my disapproval of Chapter M, D, and L (which only served to ignite the riot torches of many other community members), but I'm not here to bash anything specific about them this time. I've already blathered on enough about the specific negatives of these chapters, but what I want to focus on this time are the two bad habits that Rayark formed in the making of these updates.
The first is the lack of originality. If you want the true origin of Rayark's cash-ins on their own property, it started all the way back in 6.0, with Chapter K and Cytus Alive. These, however, were both excusable in my book. Chapter K was the very first occurrence a "song-based chapter" in the game, and the chapter still managed to produce quality charts and a diverse song list. As for Cytus Alive, the album had been made specifically for the game in the first place. It was only natural that the songs would be added for playability, and having them be added in the update proceeding the main story's conclusion was only fitting.
7.0 doesn't deserve an inch of criticism. Actually, I'd argue that this is the greatest update released in Cytus' history. Rayark was clearly at the top of their game while working on this update, with a stellar chapter packed with well-made charts, and most (*glares angrily at The Riddle Story*) of its old, shoddy charts being given well-received remakes. The only inkling of unoriginality here lied within the addition of a chiptune remix of Dream in Chapter R, which comes off as more of a charming Deemo cameo than an unoriginal idea.
But then 8.0 was released. Now, I do realize that most people think this was a great update (actually, most people find it better than 7.0), but I believe this is where Rayark began to go downhill in the quality of its updates. Chapter M not only started the trend of Rayark profusely cashing in on its own property for convenience and extra profits, but it also started the whole "difficulty over quality" belief (which I'll get into later). However, I will admit, despite it having a phenomenal layout of charts and songs, Chapter T is not completely innocent either, as it started the now commonly repeated trend of a single artist governing an entire chapter.
I think we can all agree, however, that Rayark's first true mistake was in the release of 9.0. Let's see, shall we? An entire chapter governed by a single artist? Check. A chapter relying on nostalgia and reused patterns instead of providing new charts? Check. BOTH chapters being based off of completely unoriginal ideas? Check. But 9.0, and more specifically, Chapter L, birthed a new bad habit: their obsession with difficulty.
In my opinion, Cytus should never have been focused on making itself a demonic game. L2B and Freedom Dive were even pushing it a little in my opinion, but with the release of Chapter L, Rayark's new statement was clear: we now care more about pleasing the few famous "Cyliens" (I've honestly come to hate this term now) that play this game than providing a challenging, yet fun experience for a wider audience. No, I'm not being too casual. Do you think anything along the lines of Conflict, First Gate Overdrive and The Ricochet are f*cking casual? No, they aren't. Not in the god damn slightest, and you're delusional if you believe that people who are happy with these types of songs aren't hardcore enough. These songs are NOT easy, yet they still manage to provide a semblance of entertainment for any and all players. Chapter L utterly fails in that regard in comparison.
Now, I'm not calling you a piece of sh*t if you like Chapter L, but the sad truth is that many of us do not. If Rayark was really hell-bent on making an impossible rhythm game, they should've just deviated from the original title and made a separate game that prided itself on obtuse difficulty, like Dynamix or Overrapid. Cytus was not meant for that purpose, and suddenly shoving it in and expecting everyone to "take it like a man" is simply unfair.
But that's not all the difficulty obsession changed. With such a primary focus on Chapter L's ridiculous Hard charts, everything else in 9.0 suffered. The Easy charts of Chapter L, burdened with the responsibility of all being Level 9s on top of playing second fiddle to the Hard charts, all turned out poorly made, with awkward, off-sync patterns that often made no sense. The same went for Chapter D, except this was crowned by the tempting barrel of cheap and reused patterns from a different game being placed right next to the chart developers, which they ended up fishing out of SEVERAL times (I mean, for f*ck's sake, Fable is hardly different from what it was in Deemo).
Now, with all this said and done, 9.0 was not a complete disaster. Many of the charts were still playable, if not awkward and unoriginal, and Rayark ended up sending us a patch in the form of 9.1. Of course, they still kept in the impossible charts, for absolutely no reason other than to continue appeasing the Cyliens, but the new charts for Chapter L were actually rather well-made (though not up to the standard that 7.0 and 8.0 set, in my opinion). We were shown that Rayark still had it in them to provide quality to its fanbase...though habits are hard to break, as we all know.
Would you like to hear a surprising fact? I was actually somewhat hyped for 10.0. I know, right? After seeing the introduction of Chapter Night Keepers, which seemed like a completely novel idea to me at the time, I was feeling a little more confident in Rayark.
My vision was that we would get a completely new, Chapter T-ish chapter, and hopefully a pairing Epilogue chapter that would tie up the game, and provide the god-tier players with one last challenge, seeing as there's not really a way to turn back once you've started riding the difficulty train. That idea seemed forgivable, and with my hopes being that they would do a similar job with this that they did with 8.0 (except without all the songs in a chapter being a Level 9), I was actually excited.
The first piece of bad news came when I realized that Chapter N would have all of its songs done by one artist. I was on edge, but I maintained my hype. After all, it was a VGO-like artist, who had been yet to be introduced to Cytus - oh...it was actually a group composed of artists who had already done several songs for Rayark's games. Well...at least the songs are in an alternate style to the other titles in the game! And we still have that Epilogue chapter coming, right?
Then I was introduced to Infinite Fields. Alright...a random remake in a random chapter! Epilogue now, right?
Two more hiddens. By now I had dropped my hopes of an Epilogue chapter, instead hoping they would do something like create a new hidden song for every chapter. That's another way of concluding the game...not as good as a chapter filled with original ideas...but still forgivable...I thought.
You see, hype is a difficult thing to discard once you have it. Unlike 9.0, which I knew would be bad from the moment Chapter L was announced, and hit me like a self-fulfilling prophecy when it was indeed a trainwreck, I didn't want 10.0 to be bad. But all the signs from the previous update were reoccurring...and the coffin had been nailed shut when I saw this poster.
There it was. All of my hopes dropped pretty much the instant I saw this. The unoriginality, obsession with difficulty and cash-grubbing tactics were all visible from this one poster. It was 9.0 all over again, except they tried even less this time.
I wasn't surprised in the slightest when the update was released with only the three mentioned hiddens and a low-scale IAP chapter. And honestly, I'm pretty sure most of the fans weren't surprised, either. However, allow me to put it in perspective for you, just in case you don't understand how much time Rayark threw away here.
First, let's look at the time it took for Rayark to develop 9.1. Though we can assume that the developers used the old Easy charts as a template, they still made 20 new, mostly good charts - all for songs between 5 and 7 minutes, too. This update took them around two months to create, less if you consider that they only would've decided to recreate Chapter L after receiving enough negative feedback on the original.
Do you know how long the gap between 9.1 and 10.0 was?
SEVEN AND A HALF MONTHS.
So, in this update, we only got two more charts than we got in 9.1, and to boot, the charts for this update were much shorter and simpler (excluding the hidden songs), so they should've actually taken LESS time to create. That's almost six months that should've gone towards a potential Epilogue chapter, but didn't.
But was the content we got any good? Well, let's see.
If you remember my difficulty deviation list, I mentioned earlier that I would assign this chapter's songs deviation numbers when I reviewed it. Well, seeing as I'm conducting the review in a completely different way now, and this chapter has so much squandered potential, I won't bother.
Now, let me go out of the way by saying that there's nothing wrong with the songs in this chapter. They're all really good, with The Secret of Nightland and Times Difference War easily landing in my Top 20, music-wise. Very nice work, Night Keepers.
The problem here, of course, is in the charting. It's easy to see that many of these charts have the potential to be fantastic, and I honestly still like Times Difference War, even with its problems. Perhaps they put a little more effort into that one just because it's a Level 9.
However, with pretty much all of the other charts, it's obvious that Rayark hardly even bothered. None of the charts are as bad as The Riddle Story (you actually have to try to do that), but they ALL still have horrendously off-sync moments. Yeah, I realize that I was actually defending this chapter before, arguing that it's only because the songs are awkward that the charts are. Then I fixed my calibration. They really are off-sync.
Not just off-sync, either, but many things just don't work. Let's add several note rushes in Night Festival! ...Even though it'll have awkward pauses and timing that makes no sense. Let's add a triple note to Fantasy Hotel! ...Even though it hardly fits with the song, and it's a f*cking Level 6. Let's make Choice a lot like Rebirth! ...Even though Rebirth took a lot more effort than we're allotted outside of dedicating everything to the new Freedom Dive.
As mentioned before, the saddest thing about this chapter is that you can really see that each chart has the potential to be fun and memorable. Perhaps the charters really were trying to make this chapter good, and in some places, they succeeded. However, either due to a drop in motivation or Rayark's higher staff cutting the cord on the chapter's efforts, it's clear that it just didn't make it that far.
In this sense, I'm not directly blaming Rayark for the failure of Chapter N. Hell, they might even swoop back in with a final patch and deliver us the awesome charts these songs could've supplied. But as it stands now, this chapter only serves to be Exhibit A for Rayark's lack of ambition in this update.
Aside from Chapter N, the only other songs we got in the entire update were a trio of hidden pieces. Now, though my knowledge may be limited in regards to this specific trio (I haven't even played one of them, and likely never will), I'll try to evaluate them to the best of my ability.
Now, before we delve into the quality of these charts, I'd quickly like to point out the absurdity of the songs chosen. What we got here was a hidden in Chapter R, Chapter D, and Chapter X. What this means, along with Chapter N's introduction as an IAP chapter, is that players that haven't made a single in-app purchase in the game have only gotten one new song in this entire update (which is f*cking unplayable for most people). Now, I realize 9.0 did this as well (in fact, that update gave NO new free songs), but it's just an extra detail that piles onto the disappointment of this update.
Now, following the cliche sequence I outlined in the subtitles of these tabs, I'll start with what is easily the most well-made piece in the entire update: Infinite Fields.
In all honesty, if Rayark had put this much effort into every piece in the update, it wouldn't have mattered that we only got 11 new songs. It does everything a good chart should do, including:
- Being in-sync and non-awkward
- Providing fun as well as a fair challenge
- Introducing new patterns and fresh variations of old patterns
- Forcing the player to divert from a pre-established "flow of gameplay" (this is rare even many of Rayark's older charts!)
To be blunt, I find Infinite Fields to be one of the worst songs in the whole update, but even I can't deny profusely playing it purely for the chart. Why couldn't we have gotten more charts like this in the update?!
Oh. I know why. Because it was ICE who created the song. ICE was probably the developer of the chart, or at least one of the higher minds behind its development. And ICE is evidently one of the few remaining Rayark staff members with a sense of drive, seeing as he professionally orchestrated 10 full-length songs for the game one major update before. That sh*t ain't cheap, y'know.
Well, the sunshine and rainbows ends there, as now we come to the next hidden, which is nowhere near as well made as either Infinite Fields, or even its non-hidden sister...which is saying something.
Just in case you don't know, I'll try to explain what makes Myosotis so bad, though as previously mentioned, I don't have much knowledge on the specifics of the matter.
To put it simply: this song cheats. Though we saw some pieces that ripped off their Deemo predecessors before (Wings of Piano, Fable), none have gone nearly as far as what Myosotis did. Myosotis isn't just similar to its predecessor. It IS its predecessor.
Now, I haven't played Deemo in a very long time, and I hardly even touched Myosotis when I did play it, but even somebody who has never even touched either game would be able to tell that the two hardly differ. Aside from a few arbitrary differences (a triple hold note before the dubstep, a click note inside of a drag note that was clearly accidental), there really aren't many discernible differences.
Oh, wait. There is a big difference. That sh*t actually worked in Deemo, and doesn't in Cytus.
It's clear that some narrow-minded thinker at the company believed that reusing the revolutionary patterns in Deemo would have the same revolutionary effect in Cytus. Well, guess what? It didn't. It comes off as horrendously cheap, and it's nowhere near as fun as the Deemo version.
And you know what else Myosotis isn't? Hard. It really isn't. I'm sure that the charters thought that by replicating the patterns, they'd be replicating the difficulty, but Cytus is not hard in the same way that Deemo is. Deemo is hard due to you being forced to play along a stationary horizontal plane, thus making the patterns in that game a lot more dynamic and therefore challenging. Because Cytus plays on a board with an extra dimension, that allows the player to hit the notes with a lot more ease than what Deemo would've allowed.
I'm not saying that a song has to bust your balls to be difficult (actually, I'm constantly arguing against that statement), but when a chart is both simple and uninspired, that leads it to become a term I believe we're all very familiar with. BORING.
And now, we've arrived at the bottom of the barrel. This chart is many things, most of them bad. Uninspired, unfair, insulting, and a perfect compilation of every other problem I've listed about Rayark in this blog. Ladies and gentlemen, it's the chart that made this song my least favourite in the entire game. It's the Freedom Dive alternate.
From the moment this was teased in that dream-killing promotional poster, I knew nothing good would come from this. Let's start this with how utterly pathetic of a cop-out this move was. Before 10.0, Rayark had confirmed a countless number of times that Freedom Dive would not be remade. It was clear that they had higher goals for Cytus at the time, and it was honestly admirable how they ignored this cheap appeasement to the Cyliens and osu! fanboys no matter what the cost.
But then they were confronted with the concluding update to the game. It's clear that this update was put off for a horrendously long time, probably due to the work they were putting into games like VOEZ and Deemo, so when it came time to get this update finished, it's very likely that they had no time to gather a sufficient lineup of songs for a concluding chapter. They only had access to one willing artist for a solo chapter, a couple of additional pieces...and Freedom Dive. The other 10 songs on their own wouldn't have been enough to suffice for the game's conclusion, and they were out of time. So they gave in.
If you've heard the story of Pandora's Box, I think that's a sufficient metaphor for how devastating of a choice this was. ...Okay, so maybe the release of this chart didn't give birth to every negative emotion known to man, but it was still a pretty sh*tty move.
Now, out of the many things that this chart does wrong, I won't say that it's not well-made, because from what I've seen, it is. It's quite the well-made chart. For a Dynamix-level game, that is. I've already stressed in this blog: that is NOT what Cytus was meant for.
It's how the saying goes: different strokes for different folks. Dynamix is a game meant to appeal to a hardcore audience. Up until 9.0, Cytus was a game meant for a mellower audience. An audience that appreciated tough challenges, but none of which approached the realm of "insurmountable".
I won't pull up the exact quote, but I remember reading this one response from Rayark regarding a complaint towards the new Freedom Dive chart. This response, obviously aiming to defend the chart, made a point along the lines of: "We aim to provide an experience in which every player enjoys at least 80% of the songs in the game."
80%. This number outlines the flaw in Rayark's current vision better than anything else. They're trying to appeal an audience FAR too broad. A rhythm game filled with 80% enjoyable (or at least playable) songs means that there's 20% that players will never touch. In comparison, imagine a game like Super Mario Bros.. Imagine if the developers of that game aimed to make 80% of the levels enjoyable. That would mean that one out of every five levels, placed randomly throughout the game, would be brutal, unfair, and a displeasure to play, for no reason other than to appeal to the minuscule audience that plays platformers professionally, and want absurd challenges scattered throughout their game. THAT IS NOT THE AUDIENCE THIS GAME WAS MEANT TO APPEAL TO.
Again, this does not mean that Cytus houses a primarily "casual" audience. You want a casual rhythm gaming audience? Look towards Tap Tap.
The point I'm trying to make is that Cytus should never have been used as Rayark's guinea pig for implementing absurdly difficult songs into rhythm games, ESPECIALLY considering that it was the very game that caused them to be successful. If it was ever going to present such gargantuan challenges, it should've done so by presenting a gradual learning curve throughout each update, thus building up their audience to the point in which these challenges would only be one further step higher. To present the same level of difficulty up until you decide to throw utter hell at your fanbase out of left field is appalling to me.
And don't bother to bring up the whole "L2B was this game's difficulty curve" argument to me. Forgetting for a moment that this song is nowhere near as hard as what Chapter L has to offer, it pulled the exact same type of bullsh*t that Chapter L did when it was released. You didn't stop to consider that, did you? That this song had more than twice the amount of notes than the song with the highest note count before 4.0 did? Most of us have come to ignore this, as the majority of Cytus' audience (myself included) started playing post-4.0. But Cytus' audience is much bigger now...meaning that is has A LOT more people to disappoint. And boy, did this final chart do just that.
So, aside from this blog being overwhelmingly verbose, my thoughts jumped around a lot while making this review. It was an adventure for me too, guys. So, here's your TL;DR:
- Throughout 8.0 and 9.0, Rayark built up the bad habits of reusing their own content for notoriety and obsessing over difficulty in order to appeal to the small, yet influential faction of Cyliens in their audience.
- Instead of taking the time to make 10.0 something special, they left it to the last minute, causing them to fall upon these two simple to execute habits.
- Even while taking the easy route to success, they didn't care to even provide standard quality for the majority of songs in the game, causing most of them to be a displeasure to play.
- This update was by no means a complete waste. With a little more effort, this could have been (and still could be, depending on Rayark's willingness to accept their mistakes) a success.
To conclude, I'll provide the most helpful piece of advice I can possibly muster for Rayark's future success. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES.
You'll be taking an extra month to develop Cytus II? Good! Take an extra year for all I care; you CANNOT afford to screw this up. Take your time. Recognize your audience. And give your fans a product in which they can enjoy 100% of the songs.
...Or at least 95%. :3