Audition Online, originally developed by T3 Entertainment, is a very old game. I remember back in a time when Bush was still President and nobody knew who the Kardashians were. There was a game called Audition Online that a lot of my mates played, nudging and urging me to join in with them on their quest to be the best dancer ever. After all, it was the time when the Dance Dance Revolution madness was in full swing, and every single rhythm game was picking up steam, popular or not. I was derisive and critical of the game, calling it a waste of bandwidth, not even giving it a second look. To my surprise, even to this day, so many folks still play the darn thing despite the fall of the trend of the rhythm game. Audition Online still persists and it piqued my curiosity as to why. I felt it was time to take a dip into the dance-athon that has apparently aged quite decently through the years.
It’s Like DDR, But It Isn’t
Audition Online is, at its very core, a basic key-pressing rhythm game. For the uninitiated, games of this genre normally require certain key presses in a span of time in order to gain points and succeed in a stage. In Audition’s case, the keyboard directional keys are what make up the basic controls along with spacebar to confirm the key presses on every fourth beat of a song and succeed in the string, then making your avatar dance. If you still can’t fathom how it works, old-school rhythm games like Bust-a-Groove, PaRappa the Rapper, Guitar Hero, or even a contemporary of Audition, O2Jam.
However, unlike others in the genre where difficulty is based on how many key presses there are in a single line, Audition Online’s gameplay gets incrementally harder as a stage progresses, starting off with one button up to several more that can boggle the mind. I’ve played a lot of games like it in my entire life, but I’d have to say that this is the hardest I’ve experienced. Actual difficulty isn’t really tied to keys, but the bpm that each song has. The higher the bpm, the faster the song and the less time you have to actually input all keys. Lower bpm songs can be challenging enough, but going through higher ones are gauntlets to be reckoned with.
Back in its earlier days, when the trend was wearing off, I remember one of my friends commenting on her reason for quitting the game was because of the lack of songs in Audition’s library. Now, however, I don’t think that it will be an issue for newer players. Audition has such an expansive musical vocabulary at present time that it’s hard to imagine anyone getting sick of it due to the lack of its library. These songs include original works from Audition, other Asian musicians, and even western bands like Panic at the Disco. But, even with the large library, many of the songs are oddball combinations that simply don’t fit the theme and motif of the dancing in the game. Many songs feel like they were integrated into the system for the sake of having a lot to choose from. But if you ever wanted to breakdance to an 80’s rock ballad sounding Korean song, well, you are in luck.
Even if players manage to get sick of the extensive song library (provided that they like all of it), Audition Online hosts a myriad of different modes for those that want a challenge past the four-key standard. Some modes maintain the same four keys but others reach up to eight, all the while having different flavors and quirks like the freestyle mode, Battle party (for multiple player madness), a “couples” mode (where couples can do ballroom dances and such), and even a story mode for those who are looking for something beyond mindless dance-offs. There’s just so much content here, it’s hard to imagine anybody getting sick of the game to be honest.
The core of the game is solid and there is little to comment about. But that’s just it; it’s so solid that it is plain. It is bereft of any negative or positive criticism that Audition comes off as nothing more than a generic rhythm game that you may as well forget what you are playing. In this year of 2015, there isn’t much to set it apart from the plethora of other similar games that can clinch the loyalty of newbies.
Creepy Anime Dolls Want To Kill You
Unfortunately, despite Audition Online's timeless gameplay, the visuals, on the other hand, did not make it so far. By today’s standards, avatar animations are clunky, slow, and awkward; a far cry from its remarkable and stellar appearance when I first saw it in action many years ago. It becomes ever so apparent, especially on lower bpm songs where the speed of animations match the speed of the song, making for an awkward looking breakdance in the later moments of a song, such as in the ballad that I mentioned earlier.
The extremely static expressions of the anime-oriented faces of avatars also lend a creepy vibe in unison with the animations. Audition was one of the first MMOs to ever try the anime-inspired stylistic in 3D, but now most avatars look akin to a serial killer in a tritely corny mascot disguise. With their facial expressions never changing, it adds further fuel into the creepy fire of “realism” anime. This facet of the game, by itself, can turn off even the most hardened rhythm game veteran. Seriously, this is so creepy/disgusting that I haven’t the faintest as to why this was never polished to look better.
However, a consolation for the lackluster visuals, if any, is in the form of avatar costumes that are bought from the cash shop. But that is pretty bad itself, considering that there are only few options to dress up your avatar without breaking out your credit card. If you don’t have the bank for it, be prepared to look like a common poser for a very long while.
I have more than a thousand sentences prepared to explain why Audition’s graphical department is lacking, but for the sake of my time and yours, dear readers, let me just say that the graphics in Audition have aged like milk.
Community – Seriously?
Here is where Audition Online really cinches the crap factor. Having spoken to many veterans of this game as well as reading the troubles of other players from various forums, the game’s community seems to be pretty nasty. Even with racial slurs and vulgarity abound, the GMs seem to care little for in-game verbal conflicts, as well as unfairly banning certain parties due to favoritism. Players here can be as nasty as those trash talking folks you can find in MOBAs that I sometimes felt like I was playing Dota 2. People here are content with the circle of friends (including GMs) they’ve established that it’s hard to meet other players as a newbie due to their default reactions of completely ignoring any attempts at conversations. Instead most of the time they end up telling you how bad you are. Hey, I’m all for the competitive spirit in games but let’s all learn where to place that. In a game where socialization is key to its success, having a player base and moderators that function like this spells nothing but doom for it.
There was even a period, sometime between the months of May and June 2015, where Redbana, the current publisher of Audition, was bribing players with $40 worth of in-game currency just to leave a positive review for the game. Frankly, any publisher or developer worth their salt won’t ever stoop to something as low as that. But, in all fairness, with the state of the game I can understand Redbana’s desperation to keep it afloat.
As a complete noob to the game, I had no idea of the real troubles that plagued Audition Online’s current state, but people who talk around in the game tell of a time when updates were fresh and current with the Korean version of the game. There were even more songs back then, but the licensing for them kept getting lost one by one. Redbana certainly hasn’t done as well as Nexon previously did.
Frankly speaking, Audition Online is a very below average game. Yes, the core gameplay is solid and fun, but the aging visuals, the horrid community, the arguably bad song selections, and lack of love from the publisher make Audition a bad game to be getting into in 2016. The only reason anybody would ever go back to this old-man of a game is due to the sheer nostalgia of having played it in their youth, but they would soon realize the horrible mistake of doing so. There are other Rhythm MMOs out there that are way better than Audition Online is or will ever be.