The closest thing I’ll get to playing a piano.
Type: Single Player
Genre: Rhythm Puzzle Adventure
Developer: Rayark Inc.
Release date: November 21, 2019
We upon up as a strange entity is playing piano like he probably does everyday as another way to pass the time. However, that day turned out to be different. Light suddenly shines down on him and upon looking up, the ceiling window opens and a little girl starts to float down. When she is caught, instead of being afraid of this stranger, she feels weirdly comforted and somehow knows that his name is Deemo despite not remembering her not remembering anything. After Deemo plays a song for the Little Girl on her request, they find out that a tree is growing right behind the piano. Maybe if more songs are played then the tree will grow tall enough for her to get to the trap door! Though, it’s not long before the Little Girl finds another resident, the Masked Lady. The Masked Lady, however, treats the Little Girl coldly and tries to get both of them to stop trying to get the tree to grow.
Questions immediately pop up. What is this tower? Why did the Little Girl fall down? Who is Deemo? Who is the Masked Lady and why doesn’t she want them to grow the tree? For now, this all remains a mystery and lost memories that the Little Girl can’t fully recall just yet.
Before we get into the new other half Deemo -Reborn- introduces, let’s trend some familiar ground: the rhythm half. Deemo -Reborn- keeps with its roots with all the music you play through incorporating a piano, whether it’s the main instrument used or not, and each song has its own artwork incorporating the Little Girl, Deemo, and/or the Masked Lady. A nice addition -Reborn- adds is that the artwork is now animated. By the end of your playthrough, you’ll have 66 songs, with 23 of them being exclusive. Once you pick your song, you’ll be greeted with a six-track board meant to simulate a piano with the notes falling from the top. -Reborn- plays DJMAX style with the buttons needed split in half, so the left side requires you to use the d-pad and the right using the face buttons. To help easily distinguish notes, the side notes on each side are white with the middle ones black. There are also hold notes and yellow connecting slide notes which require you to swipe a stick in the direction it’s going. The game keeps track of your combo and how many charming notes (or hits that are extremely close or on the line) you hit as getting Full Combo and/or Full Charming grants you a higher score percentage.
Each song has three difficulties, or charts, available with each difficulty increasing how complicated the note arrangement will be (so no speed up unless you want to). With each song you complete, the tree will grow. The better you play will increase how much it grows, with your first time giving you a boost. This also includes different charts, so make sure to play multiple charts if you run out of new songs even if you end up being terrible.
However, playing with a controller isn’t the same and much more difficult than it sounds. I’m sure those who are familiar with DJMAX, or any rhythm game that has the same setup, will be fine but I just couldn’t get used to the layout. Especially when I was on harder songs where there’s less time to think about which note corresponded with the right button. I guess this mostly stems from me already playing Deemo on a touch screen and that I was stuck on it being a piano that I would often think the two inside notes were together when in reality it’s on different sides. Personally, I found the touch controls more natural and satisfying than using a controller.
When you’re not playing the rhythm half of -Reborn-, there’s also the puzzle adventure half that you cannot ignore. While in the original Deemo each area was a beautifully drawn with some areas of interest that the Little Girl can comment on, the tower is fully explorable. Finally giving you the chance of walking through each room and see Deemo and the Masked Lady walk around or idle. While the art style doesn’t really translate well to 3d, it still works.
While the original Deemo gives you songs automatically with some revealed when touching various spots at certain tree heights, -Reborn- requires you to explore and complete puzzles as your main way of getting new songs. -Reborn- has a nice sliding scale for it’s puzzles. The majority of its puzzles require you to pay attention to your surroundings and looking at everything. Everything other than this includes remembering the solution (or at least write it down), having Deemo or the Masked Lady in or out of the room, and the outliers of randomly stumbling on one. Really the only ones I got stuck on is when I overlooked where one of the needed items were and thinking that the table puzzle in the Loft room wanted you to have the icons on the outside rather than the inside. Each puzzle will reward you with songs, an item you’ll need, or a rune light that goes towards a song that unlocks after you finish the game. A nice feature -Reborn- has is that the songs or collectables you can currently get is only listed. So say, a room has 10 songs you can find in it, but you can only get three currently. The game will only tell you there are three songs you have yet to find rather than outright telling you there’s 10 songs here and having you guess whether or not you can get it now. The most -Reborn- does is setting up the puzzle early. However, this also causes some players that can’t solve a puzzle or doesn’t know one is there to have less songs than they’re supposed to have. Thankfully, there is a small guide out there that helps out with the more difficult puzzles if you need it.
While I can’t talk on the VR gameplay, I have seen some gameplay and discussions about it. Basically, when you’re in the rhythm half of -Reborn- your move controllers turn into Deemo’s hands and you actually move your hands across the tracks to play each song. However, I heard the move controller tracking can’t keep up with fast notes or the more difficult tracks. You also don’t have the Normal charts in VR for some reason. For exploration, it turns as a point in click rather than controlling the girl yourself. You’re situated in a corner of the room and you tell the Little Girl where to go and what to interact with. During cutscenes, you also act as the game’s camera and free to look around rather than going with the camera angles they used in TV Mode.
I can’t know this for sure, but I’m pretty sure VR was the intended way for playing the rhythm half. If VR mode already being highlighted when you open up the game wasn’t enough, it’s the fact that Deemo originated with touch controls. Having it on VR is the closest step to that. Though I feel like the puzzle adventure half had a controller in mind, but it may just be me finding the implementation weird.
If you haven’t played Deemo or seen the ending yet and don’t want to be spoiled, I recommend skipping this paragraph. I can’t leave without mentioning this and it sadly goes into spoiler territory. Alright, I’ll start at the beginning where -Reborn- decides to start out with the Little Girl falling rather than letting you play a song or two before she falls. This doesn’t seem like a big change, but it does change the pacing as you don’t get the initial feeling of Deemo being alone and reminiscing about the past. Also, one of the new song’s artwork spoils the reveal of Deemo before the game ends. This isn’t a big deal for those who already know, but considering that the artwork exclusively uses the Little Girl, Deemo, and the Masked Lady for song artwork, it’s not that hard to decipher. Now let’s fast forward to the ending. First things first, the last song you play story-wise was switched out from Fluquor to an exclusive song called My Dear, Deemo. Fluquor is still in the game, but it’s treated as a song that’s laying on steps right as the ending becomes available. While it could be argued which one is better, to me Fluquor is much more heartbreaking. While I was writing, I actually re-listened to Fluquor and it still had me tearing up as the song grew while My Dear, Deemo didn’t. Not to mention that we do see the Little Girl grieve in the original as she starts crying as Deemo’s identity is revealed and she starts remembering. Then at the very end, she breaks down crying again as reality hits. However here, she only sheds a tear and stands strong at the end (and disappearing?), which is reminiscent of the After Story ending from the PSVita version but it doesn’t really fit in this context. There are a few things with the ending as well that I expect has to do with the limitations with the 3d models, like Deemo’s identity reveal was more like a fade away into the truth rather than a flash of light and the lack of Deemo’s real face (Also I don’t know about anyone else, but I honestly didn’t find the Little Girl’s and the Masked Lady’s true appearance similar at all). I’m sorry if this all seems nitpicky, but it’s just the small details all put together that made the story of Deemo truly special.
Spoiler free TL;DR: Deemo -Reborn- makes some weird story-related changes that overall makes the scenes weaker.
One aspect that I’m not sure will be added to -Reborn- is everything with the Forgotten Hourglass. For those who don’t know, The Forgotten Hourglass is like a NG+ where the game will restart with everything previously unlocked staying and with a few changes and additions made to reflect another playthrough. One of the main additions was Moments, or memories, that unlock throughout four playthroughs. Now I’m not sure this will be implemented into -Reborn- since some Moments were incorporated in and could only be found after you complete the game.
For something like Deemo -Reborn- I feel like saying whether it’s worth getting or not isn’t the best way to go considering that Deemo has multiple versions. For those who haven’t heard of Rayark or Deemo, Deemo originated on mobile, then got ported over on the PSVita as Deemo: The Last Recital with it’s own exclusive content and animated cutscenes, then to the Switch that added in a Labo Piano collection, and finally to the PS4. With the mobile, PSVita, and PS4 versions having song packs as DLC. Someone in the community made a handy chart to help anyone wondering which version to get and I’ll include it here. Since this chart doesn’t include Deemo -Reborn- in it, I’ll contribute my two cents as well:
So where does Deemo -Reborn- fit and is it worth getting? Or more importantly, should you get Deemo -Reborn- over these other versions or in addition? Well… this highly depends on what you’re looking for personally. If you want to explore the tower and do all the puzzles, can’t go without playing the 23 exclusive songs, and especially have a PSVR or don’t mind playing on a controller DJMAX style, Deemo -Reborn- may be for you. Otherwise, if you’re just in it for the sweet rhythm half and could care less for the puzzle adventure half and would enjoy touch controls more than playing with a controller, go for the mobile version (if you don’t mind paying for more songs) or the Switch version. In fact, playing Deemo -Reborn- solidified my decision into getting the Switch version and I found myself enjoying it more. Though, even if you plan to get Deemo -Reborn- I still recommend getting Deemo sometime as well due to some weird decisions made in -Reborn- and that some songs are being left out, the most notable being VK’s songs.
Did I enjoy Deemo -Reborn-? Yes, I love how the main way of getting your songs was to do the puzzles even if the downside to that is that you’ll be behind if you can’t find or solve the puzzle once it unlocks. It’s also great having the ability to actually explore the rooms you originally couldn’t. However, I can’t help but be disappointed when the base game comes with only 66 songs for the price of $40 with the rest of the Deemo library locked behind DLC. So on top of $40, you’ll have to also pay $30 for the Classic Song Pack Season Pass (or about $60 if you buy all of them individually) plus the other 32 song packs that will most likely make their way to -Reborn- (which will be about $165 assuming there won’t also be a Season Pack for these as well). Now compare that to the Switch’s $30 price point with access to all current and future songs for no additional price. For that reason, I don’t recommend buying the DLCs unless they come out with more exclusive songs or you have a PSVR.