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Getting into Voltex, part 1: Basics and Menus

SOUND VOLTEX is one of the most known BEMANI games nowadays. It’s a fairly recent game released in January 2012. It became very popular due to its modern futuristic inspired graphics, playlist and original design.

SOUND VOLTEX focuses on remixes of BEMANI songs, doujinshi (amateur) and Vocaloid songs. Through a contest called SOUND VOLTEX FLOOR, Japanese artists can submit their musics or drawings for a chance to get included in the game.

SOUND VOLTEX IV main logo

It is an action rhythm game. Notes fall on the screen and you hit the matching buttons on the arcade machine when they hit the bottom of the screen. Each level corresponds to a music and hitting the notes correctly will feel like playing the music.

The original additions in SOUND VOLTEX compared to other modern scroll-based rhythm games are the two knobs on the arcade cabinet. They look similar to the knobs you may find on an Hi-Fi System to adjust the volume.

You have to use the two knobs and the 6 push buttons to play songs.

SOUND VOLTEX arcade buttons

Tutorial

When nobody is playing, the game will loop on what is called an attract screen. It’s a demo of a game, which goal is to make newcomers want to pay to try the game. This screen shows several informations about how to play the game, so you can understand how it works before paying for it. This is different but similar to the tutorial that will be presented to any player who isn’t playing using an eAMUSEMENT account (GUEST). Let’s examinate some guides shown during the attract screen.

SOUND VOLTEX attract screen tutorial: lasers

First, an example of how the “lasers” work. Lasers are either in blue or pink, if playing with the default configuration. Blue lasers are to be played using the left knob, called VOL-L. Pink lasers are to be played using the right knob, called VOL-R. When a laser is moving to a direction, you have to turn the corresponding knob to the same direction. In the example above, a blue laser is going right, you have to turn the left knob clockwise.

Hitting the lasers correctly will result in distortions of the currently playing audio. It is a simulation of effecting songs.

The two lasers can appear at the same time, you will have to use both of your hands, one on each knob.

SOUND VOLTEX attract screen tutorial: chip buttons

Simple notes are called chip BTs. BT (short for button) is the name given to the top row of buttons on the controller. They are the 4 white square buttons, respectively called BT-A, BT-B, BT-C and BT-D, or simply A, B, C and D.

They appear as simple white thin rectangles on the screen.

Like any of the other notes, you will have to hit the corresponding button at the moment they cross the horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen.

SOUND VOLTEX attract screen tutorial: long fx

Long effect notes are called long FXs. FX (short for effect) is the name given to the two rectangular shaped buttons on the bottom row. They are exactly the same as beatmania IIDX push buttons but placed horizontally. They are respectively called FX-L for effect left, and FX-R for effect right.

They appear as long orange rectangles on the screen. When hit correctly, they will modify the tone of the song. For example, by applying a Wah Wah effect or distortion to the audio.

Prior to SOUND VOLTEX II -infinite infection-, these were the only types of note!

This means levels from the first opus of the game, SOUND VOLTEX BOOTH, won’t have the next notes described below. Even if you play them in more recent versions of the game.

In SOUND VOLTEX II -infinite infection-, released in June 2013, long BTs and chip FX were added. Those are respectively long notes on the white square buttons, and short simple notes on the rectangular bottom buttons.

SOUND VOLTEX attract screen tutorial: long bt

SOUND VOLTEX attract screen tutorial: chip fx

The next versions of the game, III and IV also added major additions to the content of the game, but no new notes.

In SOUND VOLTEX IV HEAVENLY HEAVEN released in December 2016, chip FX that carries an actual sound effect were added. They play sound effects like “clap” sounds when hit correctly. They are the only notes that carry a sound effect, there is no audio feedback when hitting chip BTs or long BTs.

Clearing a stage

When playing a song in the regular mode, a life bar is displayed on the right of the screen. By hitting notes correctly, the bar will fill up. When notes are missed, the bar will decrease. It goes from 0% to 100%. To clear a song, the player has to get the bar above 70% before the end of the song to clear a level.

In regular mode, the player is able to keep playing and try to score 70% even if the bar hits 0% by failing to hit notes. The song will play entirely no matter of the performance of the player.

There are other modes that makes the bar starts at 100% and the goal is to avoid the bar from hitting 0% instead. In this case, hitting 0% will result in a forced termination of the current song and will mean the end of the current credit.

Logging in

When you insert the corresponding amount of Yens in the cabinet, you can start playing by pressing the START button. It is the smallest button, located at the top of the controller, above BT ones. If you don’t use an eAMUSEMENT account, either by using a pass or a compatible phone, you will enter as a guest. Playing as a guest means your score won’t be saved and you won’t be able to unlock songs.

eAMUSEMENT accounts are free and you can get a pass for cheap in most amusement arcades. The price is usually 500 Yens. When using your pass or a phone linked to an account on a compatible arcade cabinet, you will be logged into your personal account. See this pass the same as your ID in a PC game.

eAMUSEMENT accounts work for every arcade games released by KONAMI.

After connecting to your account, the game will ask for your PIN. If this is the first ime you are using this account, accept the terms and create a new PIN by entering the same 4-digits code twice. Arcade cabinets come with a 12 buttons panel, presenting digits from 0 to 9 for you to enter your PIN.

SOUND VOLTEX login prompt

SOUND VOLTEX PIN login verification

From this point, you operate in the menus using VOL-R to pick an option and START to confirm your choice.

You will be presented with a screen asking you which mode you want to play. LIGHT is the default mode. It allows you to play up to 4 songs, usually 3. But if you fail a song, your credit will be instantly terminated, even if you only played 1 or 2 songs yet.

You should only play songs you are sure to clear on your 1st and 2nd pick. So you are guaranteed to play 3 songs for this credit. You can risk to play a more difficult song on your final (3rd) pick, since it won’t shorten the amount of songs you play if you fail it, being the last one.

SOUND VOLTEX start mode select

Prices may vary depending on your location. Prices are independently decided by the amusement centers operators.

APPEAL CARD

After selecting a START mode, the player will have to select their APPEAL CARD for the current credit. APPEAL CARDs are your avatar in the game. In Japanese, they are often called “appeca” (アピカ), short for appeal card.

SOUND VOLTEX appeca menu

Selection is still made using VOL-R.

VOL-L can be used to scroll a whole page instantly.

FX can be used to switch categories. (SDVX I, II, …, Touhou, GUMI, …).

BT can be used to preview text messages that you will be able to use in multiplayer lobbies.

You can earn more APPEAL CARDs in a gacha at the end of each credit, using in-game money.

When playing on equipped machines, you can pay more than a regular credit to print a real version of the cards you draw from the gacha. This is the only way to get UR and PUR versions of the cards (Ultra Rare and Pure Ultra Rare).

After the card is selected, you will enter the song selection.

SOUND VOLTEX track 1 enter screen

Song selection

This is the song selection screen. There is a lot of informations a player should pay attention on this screen.

SOUND VOLTEX track select

VOL-R is still used for primary selection. You can select songs when you are in the main track select menu. In other sub-menus, it is also used to navigate through the different options.

BTs do nothing on this screen.

START is used the confirm the currently selected song. After pressing START, you will enter the multiplayer lobby and won’t be able to cancel your selection or change the difficulty. If you are hovering a locked track, pressing START will unlock it by spending in-game money if you have sufficient funds.

VOL-L is used to change difficulty.

Pressing any of the FX will bring up the categories menu. Example of categories are: SOUND VOLTEX Originals, EXIT TUNES, Touhou Project. During the selection of your first track, you can pick SKILL ANALYZER from this menu. You can also find the BLASTER GATE in this menu. In this menu, navigate with VOL-R and select with START. Close the menu using any of the FX again.

SOUND VOLTEX categories menu

Pressing both of the FX will bring up the sorting and advanced options menu. There, you can change the sorting option using any of the VOLs knobs. Example of sorting options are: Level, Song name, Release date. From there you can also configure advanced options like the gauge type (hp bar). Select an option using one of the FX and configure it using the BTs. More about advanced options in a future article. Press both of the FX again or START to exit this menu.

Now let’s examinate the screen, let’s look at the above section.

SOUND VOLTEX track select top

“TRACK SELECT » TRACK no. 2” says we are currently in the track selection screen. Here it is not the first but second track. On your third track, it will say “TRACK Final”. This is helpful for people waiting for their turn to play to know if the current player is near the end of its credit or not.

Current song

Then comes BPM, EFFECTED BY and ILLUSTRATED BY.

The BPM, or Beat Per Minute, is an unit that can give an idea on the speed of the song. Keep in my mind that, like in most rhythm games, this is different from the actual scrolling speed. As the player can modify the scrolling speed to suit their preference. Songs with multiple BPMs will have two values (minimum and maximum).

The artist next to “EFFECTED BY” is the sound effector, responsible for the audio effects and most likely the chart of this song. This is usually a hired KONAMI artist.

The artist next to “ILLUSTRATED BY” is the artist responsible for the song jacket, that you can see on the left. Since doujinshi artists can submit their work through SOUND VOLTEX FLOOR, this is how they are credited.

Next comes the title of the song and artist of the song. In case of remixes, the remix artist will be shown, not the original artist.

At the right, you can see a logo, it indicates the category of this song.

Then a short version of your best result on this song is presented. More on this on the actual section about Result screen.

Then comes the different difficulties available for this song.

Difficulties

In the latest version of the game, each song can have up to 5 difficulties. All songs have at least the three first ones: NOVICE, ADVANCED and EXHAUST. Some songs have a special difficulty called INFINITE for songs released in SDVX II, GRAVITY for III songs, and HEAVENLY for IV ones. Some songs have an expert difficulty called MAXIMUM.

With each difficulty, a number is associated. Before SDVX IV, this number could range from 1 to 16. From SDVX IV it can now range from 1 to 20. Songs rated 16 in SDVX III have been rerated 19 or 20 in SDVX IV. Similar changes apply for songs previously rated from 13 to 15, they have been rerated up.

The difficulty name only serves to seperate different charts of the same song. But only the level number is representative of the difficulty. A level 12 ADVANCED is more difficult than a level 10 EXHAUST.

Then on the right you can see a “CLEAR RATE”. It tells the percentage of successful attempts to clear the track.

On the left you can see the best player on this specific track in the world and in your current amusement center. You can hide this indication by pressing numpad key 8.

Selection grid

SOUND VOLTEX selection grid

The selection grid shows a basic summary of all this informations. You can see the track title, song jacket, song difficulty, your CLEAR MARK (Failed, Clear, Ultimate Chain or Perfect Ultimate Chain), your GRADE (B, A, AAA, …). The upper right section shows if someone is currently in a multiplayer lobby to play this song. The upper left section is the song category.

You can press any FX and rotate VOL-R to scroll to the next section. For exemple, when browsing songs sorted by difficulty level, this will jump from LV06 to LV07, then from LV07 to LV08, etc. This is useful to quickly navigate through the tracks.

You can also use the categories menu (use any of the FX) to filter your selection. In the above example, the selection is filtered to only show LV18 tracks.

Playing a song

Multiplayer lobby

When you finally selected a song, you will enter the multiplayer lobby. While in there, other players who select the same song will be able to join and compete against you. You can send your APPEAL CARD text messages here, using BT. Each BT correspond to a message.

You can modify your scrolling speed by holding START and rotating any of the knobs. This will adjust the speed multiplier applied to the BPM. To perform more accurate adjustment, use the same method by press START twice before holding it. This will adjust the result of the multiplication rather than the multiplier. To save your scroll speed to your account, hold START and press numpad key 6.

When you are ready, press both FX to leave the lobby, or do nothing until the lobby waiting time runs out.

Playfield

SOUND VOLTEX playfield

At the top you can see the game logo and the currently playing song alongside the song artist.

On the top left you can see the track number (1, 2, or Final). Your position in the song, when it reaches the right, it means the song is finished. The current BPM and speed multiplier, called Hi-Speed.

On the top right is your curent score and your maximum combo.

On the left there is your user profile, you can read your name, your SKILL LEVEL, and ranking if you are playing against other players. Your APPEAL CARD and NAVIGATOR is also displayed there.

On the right is your gauge (hp bar). EFFECTIVE RATE is the default gauge. It starts at 0% and the goal is to raise it above 70% before the end of the song. Other gauges exist for SKILL ANALYZER, BLASTER GATE, and the advanced option EXCESSIVE RATE.

Before each laser, a warning appears to let you enough time to prepare.

SOUND VOLTEX laser warning L

Your running combo is shown on the middle of the screen.

The LATE/SLOW indication will show at the same place as the combo on the default settings. This can be changed in the advanced options. Every time you don’t hit a note with maximum accuracy, this indication will tell you if you either pressed the button too late or too early.

Finally, on each hit, the judgement CRITICAL, NEAR or ERROR will appear, telling you how accurately you hit.

Result screen

SOUND VOLTEX result screen

On the result screen you can see:

  • The track number (1, 2 or Final)
  • The song title, artist, and jacket
  • Your grade (B, A, AAA, …)
  • Your % of gauge filled at the end of the song
  • Your profile
  • Your clear mark (Failed, Clear, Ultimate Chain or Perfect Ultimate Chain)
  • The gauge type used
  • Your score and the difference with your previous best score
  • Your maximum combo
  • The amount of CRITICAL, NEAR (LATE), NEAR (SLOW), and ERROR
  • The ratio of VOL, LONG and BT successfully hit

Force” is a special mechanic introduced in SDVX IV to rank players with a system similar to an elo ranking.

Failing to complete the goal will result in a fail, called TRACK CRASH.

SOUND VOLTEX track crash

After game

After playing the three tracks, you will be asked if you want to play or no the gacha game, by spending in-game money. The game is called APPEAL CARD Generator.

SOUND VOLTEX appeal card generator

Selecting EXIT will end your credit. You can press both FX to select the EXIT button without using the knobs.


And that’s it!

Now you should know everything you need to know to play the game without getting lost in the menus.

In a following article, I will discuss SKILL ANALYZER, advanced options, note patterns and hand technics.

Thanks for reading. Please let me know on Twitter if you have any question or remarks regarding this article.