Best Licensed Soundtrack
Most Colorful Game
Best Enhanced Port
We don’t always get every great rhythm release in every region. Things like licensing disputes, distribution issues and concern about brand familiarity are a few of the problems that can get in the way of a good game. When Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party! was announced for Japan, it seemed like it could have been a victim of such complications. I mean, it has licensed music, is handled by Taito and one of its main selling points is how it uses virtual YouTubers. It seemed like the sort of game where you would be thankful its Japanese release has an English language option, then you eventually import it when you could afford it.
The crazy thing is, Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party! ended up localized. It showed up among the upcoming eShop releases everywhere, sadly with no fanfare. It carried a premium $59.99 price tag, but it was here! Frankly, it warms our hearts to see it.
Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party! is basically built upon the foundation of the 2018 PC release. It is an on-rails musical adventure that takes you through abstract spaces and designs while almost-always pleasant music plays. These can be series-specific, as ones involving Vocaloids or Touhou Project heroines will have themed imagery. You press or, with the Switch motion controls, move in time with icons as they appear. Though, the game does encourage you to ad-lib in the empty spaces with occasional hidden indicators that can bolster your score.
What is interesting is how it allows you to focus on the music. Because you don’t have distractions like characters dancing around or animated movies, you are forced to pay more attention to the sounds around you. Considering there are about 100 tracks, it can be quite a lot. In some cases, you could technically consider the included list to be even larger if you factor in the scenarios where an alternate vocalist option is also available. For example, “The First Sound” could be performed by Hatsune Miku or Sister Claire.
This is to your benefit, I assure you, as Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party! makes a lot of introductions. Do you know any VTubers? They are virtual characters who put on different sorts of streams. Kizuna Ai is among the most famous, which means of course she is here, but this rhythm game brings in other ones of varying degrees of fame! Dennou Shojo Siro, Kagura Suzu, Mirari Akari, Mokota Mememe and Tsukino Mito are among the others who also come in to sing along. While some of them have their own tracks, like “Groove Loop,” others appear as alternate voices for additional songs and as Navigators to guide you through menus.
Speaking of guiding, Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party! is great at encouraging people to play and keep playing. The game has an assortment of different sorts of missions to unlock avatars, navigators, skins, sound effects, and tracks. The good thing is, almost all of those are cosmetic and don’t keep you back. Sure, 29 songs do need to be unlocked, but the game is clear about its requirements and gives you the information you need to easily acquire each song through either hard work or by paying in-game coins you earn from playing any song.
It is encouraging. Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party! is the sort of game that wouldn’t have been localized for a console 10 or 20 years ago. Here we are, tracklist intact, on the Switch everywhere. Let’s get groovy!