We’re living in an age when it isn’t uncommon for a game that would typically never get a localization to suddenly pop up on a digital storefront worldwide. Take Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party from Taito. One minute, we’re learning that the Japan-exclusive is going to have an English language option when released in that region, the next it is suddenly immediately available worldwide a week after its Japanese launch. Unfortunately, a consequence of such things is that such titles can slip under the radar. Which would be especially tragic with this particular rhythm game.
Groove Coaster, as a series, is one that initially seems rather minimalistic. Your avatar travels on a rail, with indicators noting how you must hit notes as you approach them. However, the visualizers in play are far from boring. Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party is constantly playing with perspectives as you go through its tracks, with color changes and images that use Spartan designs to use the least amount of information to perfectly capture themes. You know exactly what sorts of notes to expect before heading into a song, so you can anticipate any challenges and there are no distractions.
The result is an abstract, immersive experience that captures the feeling the song is trying to evoke. Each one of Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party’s charts for a song makes sense and perfectly aligns with the beat. There were times when, because of the way I was naturally inputting presses, I was automatically in the zone to hit directional indicators correctly without having to adjust and accommodate them when they appeared. Everything going on in the background is visual white noise. It makes sense when you are able to register it, but it is never distracting enough to pull you away from what matters: the song. You can even play it in the standard horizontal mode or in Tate mode.
And what a song library Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party has. The series has become known for having a variety of tracks available for people. However, with installments like Groove Coaster 2 and Groove Coaster for Steam, that can mean buying a lot of DLC. Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party has 100 songs included. It intelligently organizes them for you. You could go by genre, which even has a folder full of “For Beginners” songs to ease people into the game. You could sort by the average score or difficulty. It will even keep track of ones you have played more often or let you set your favorites. It is the epitome of accommodating.
Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party is also good at giving people an excuse to keep playing. The game offers a Challenge section, where you can clear certain groups of songs one after another to earn titles like “Let the Bass Kick” or “Taito Game Master.” (You can also make your own.) There is also a Mission grid. While there are 100 songs… well, you have to unlock 29 of them. (You also have to unlock things like additional avatars, skins, sound effects, and navigators.) Visiting this screen lets you go through nodes and unlock them to get all of these new items. Or, if you don’t feel like doing something like playing “Kimi no Starlight Road” one time, you have the option to unlock nodes with the G Coins you get from playing the songs you do enjoy.
Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party is also something special because of its multiplayer mode. Up to four people can play together locally. The screen splits up into between two and four parts, with each person essentially getting their own lane. Casual and Hardcore options are available, to help accommodate beginners and those who have played rhythm games before. You can even set the difficulty level for each person, so no one feels obligated to keep up with everyone else.
The only downside is the lack of sharing options. Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party doesn’t allow you to take screenshots or record video clips. (Hence the generic images here today.) Which is unfortunate, because this series has often been about showing off how skilled you are at keeping to the beat. There is a multiplayer mode here for up to four people. The PC installment on Steam has leaderboards. It would have been lovely to be able to share results screens to show how well you are doing or a screenshot so people could see which avatar, skin, or title you like to use.
Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party is a joy to play on a system quickly becoming known for having an assortment of rhythm games. (After all, it also has titles like Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun, Deemo, Superbeat: Xonic, Voez, Gal Metal, and Musynx.) What sets this one apart is how stylish it is, how robust its track list is, how it keeps people coming back with various unlocks, and the ease with which you can play with others. It has so many things going for it, and people should be talking about it.
Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party is available on the Nintendo Switch.