Lumines: Electronic Symphony is, put simply, more Lumines. And that's probably a good thing. While games like Touch My Katamari have worn out their core gameplay over numerous sequels, Lumines has yet to outstay its welcome.
Electronic Symphony for Vita does introduce a few new gameplay mechanics for those that wanted a bit more depth in the puzzling side of things. However, most people will be drawn into the game for the things that have remained unchanged: Lumines is still a mesmerizing fusion of interactive music and visuals.
I'm sure that Lumines would look brilliant on the Vita screen, even if it were unchanged from the PSP iteration. The high-resolution OLED screen the Vita sports is brilliant, and Lumines does a great job of showcasing it. Q? Entertainment's James Mielke tells me that the Vita game has better graphics than its predecessors, thanks to fully-rendered polygonal blocks and real-time lighting effects. I couldn't notice the difference--they still looked like blocks to me.
The gameplay will be immediately familiar to anyone that's played a Lumines game before. There are a few Vita-specific additions, however. For example, you can tap on the rear touch panel (in tandem with the music, if you'd please) to boost an energy meter. Once your energy meter is full, you can touch your avatar to activate your character's special ability. These abilities always make it easier to clear the board. For example, my power allowed me to clear one color off the board.
These powers will come in handy, especially if you suffer one of the game's trick blocks. Randomly, a block will appear that will rearrange the colors on your board. When you see it coming, you'll want to isolate it from the rest of the blocks as much as possible, to minimize its effects. This latest addition makes Lumines feel more like a "game"--but this may make an otherwise relaxing experience a bit more stressful.
For better or for worse, Electronic Symphony won't include a single track from the previous games. If you want to relive "Heavenly Star," you'll have to dust off your PSP. Electronic Symphony promises to feature a much more focused tracklist than Lumines II--you won't find any Black Eyed Peas or Gwen Stefani here. As the title suggests, this Lumines will focus exclusively on electronic music.
Lumines was easily one of the must-have titles at the PSP launch. While Electronic Symphony may not seem as innovative and fresh anymore, it's still one of the most captivating experiences Vita will offer at launch. Expect it at retail and PSN in February.