Wednesday, April 25, 2018

STsung and Pump it Up (part 1)

Recently I was trying to find the first trace of me playing on a Pump it Up machine. My first blog entry talking about Pump it Up is from 2006 but it doesn't say if it was also my first time playing. On April 20th 2008, according to, I entered my first Pump it Up Pro scores. Now, ten years later, I have the possibility to play Pump it Up again and I'd like to write a bit about my previous experience.

I am not sure if I can say I was a real Pump it Up player but I certainly wanted to be one - I fell in love with the game the first time I set foot on a PIU platform. In order to be a player, one usually needs a machine nearby and that wasn't my case. We used to travel far to be able to play even four panel games and sometimes there was also a Pump machine around that many players weren't really giving much thought. I played rarely but my ability to play was quite ok since I was good at 4-panel. The most important part in terms of learning how to play Pump were (anime) conventions where Pump was available and my stays in Warsaw because I had an access to a machine during three days (otherwise my sessions were like 3 months apart). My parents lived in Warsaw and whenever I came to visit once in a while I came to one of the arcades around to play Pump it Up. This way in few days I was able to teach my legs where to step and how to play on Nightmare - doubles. I was a fairly good four panel player making it to the finals of different disciplines at World Cup. I wasn't using the bar at the time and that's probably a reason why I didn't win^_~. It was a great experience though, I met very nice people. We shared a passion and the players were highly skilled in machine dance. At that time it was clear that my strength was clearing difficult songs but I was pretty bad at accuracy (my 96% scores couldn't beat those 99%). Pump is more about speed, technique and full combo so my ability to clear difficult songs proved to be the perfect ability to play Pump it Up. I could speed! After I made it through songs I played over and over to clear them - Csikos Post and Turkey March - I started playing all the songs and tried to figure out how far I can go. I soon learned that the song I liked and played at first might have been 'easy' on the difficulty scale but were rather more difficult compared to songs from K-Pop or World selection of songs. I realized that Banya songs' difficulties should be multiplied by 1.5x. Thanks to that I was surprised I could clear songs of higher difficulties. After I felt a bit bored by playing on one pad I decided to give doubles a try. I always liked playing doubles in DDR but it cost too much money and couldn't be easily done at home. On Pump it Up though playing on Nightmare difficulty cost the same as playing on Crazy. That is how I fell in love with Pump and doubles and pretty much stuck with NM.

A rare picture of me playing Pump it Up, obviously I was playing Monkey Fingers CZ and I wasn't doing well

I started with level seven songs and my way through more difficult songs. At first I had troubles stepping or jumping and landing on the right panels but after a while I could jump through Beethoven Virus strange jumps just fine. Then one day I discovered a song I successfully failed. Its name was Love is a Danger Zone. I liked the song and I also seemed to like the stepchart but I couldn't clear it. I didn't know why that was happening. I seemed to be good enough to pass difficult songs. No matter where I went to play the machines were showing my high scores even when my visits were usually a year apart. But this song I couldn't clear no matter how fast I moved. This had to change. I wanted to progress and put this song on the 'imaginary' list of songs I cleared.

I have no idea what songs I played to get this machine record (something relatively easy). Later I learned that playing LIADZ2 CZ as many times as you can is what gets you the best score

Later I discovered a cab set on Free Play at one mall by accident. It was a rather abandoned place but it had a Pump it Up cabinet there. The game also contained Love is a Danger Zone so instead of paying 2 zloty for a credit I could just hit the center panel and play. I decided to play Love is a Danger Zone on Nightmare till I'd eventually pass it. Well, I was naive thinking I could clear it that day. My parents left me there and told me they would pick me up later. That later was six hours later. I spent most of the time playing LIADZ over and over. It was fun. I didn't pass it (that day).

The next morning I woke up in unimaginable pain. After a long Pump session I usually wake up with my legs aching all over but this time it was my core muscles that ached so much that I could hardly move. I had to literally crawl if I wanted to go somewhere. It was a rather embarrassing day and I think I won't forget it ever. My parents were certainly amused and laughed at me. In the evening I was able to walk again though and my parents asked me if I want to play more Pump that day and I was like 'Yes, sure if someone drives me there' (I was serious, my parents not). Well, no one took me there so I had to stay in their flat and regenerate. The next day though I went to play on a different machine and I suddenly had not problems with crossovers and running all over the platform. I learned something that day but I didn't know what at that time. All I know is that I could clear level 20-21 songs and that I could probably clear even more difficult songs.

Long version and a level 22 song. What could go wrong, right?

When NX2 came out I fell in love with WorldMax - a mission mode. I spent a lot of money on playing that and if you've ever tried World Max you probably know that it is designed in a way to make you fail. There were missions that were pretty normal but once in a while you'd encounter one that was very difficult to understand yet even clear. I was ready to feed the machine with my money and play missions I'd fail even but there was one catch though. All the machines in the vicinity of 1000km had World Max locked. The thing is that if there is a player that can pass through the boss missions anyone can move around the map. Well, on those machines I played on no one made it past the the first area. I started playing that and eventually got to the boss mission too. It was something like For You Full Nightmare, reverse grading, stage break on, get over 1500 combo. Which was totally great. At that time I couldn't even imagine clearing the song but I tried anyway. I could do about 1000 combo at the first part of the song but a slow down or hands broke the combo. There were parts of the song I was consistently dying. That was the end of a fast stream in the second part of the song and the part that followed with many hands. The stream I sometimes got through so I knew that it's not my main concern but I needed to figure out how to do those hands properly. In order to pass that there was a song by Novasonic named Another Truth. I'm not 100% if that is the correct song, but the one I have in mind has a Nightmare chart that consists pretty much just these hands and nothing else. When I managed to consistently clear that I came back to my boss song and tried to clear it. Eventually I did. I didn't need to care much about the combo, because one just needed to survive till the end. Anyway, I considered that a big achievement even though I only managed to get 1000 combo on it. I was proud to clear 7 percent of WorldMax on my own (until the machine became unavailable for us, I managed to get to 33% on my own) and moved onto another area in World Max.

Getting Andamiro flash drive and registering at was no easy task, it was definitely worth it though!

At that time, I considered myself a fairly good player but this mission was probably at the limit of my skill and my progress was showing 7 percent. I started to wonder what kind of missions would follow. Fortunately for me, many following missions were relatively easy. There were those that were quite killer ones too though. No matter what World Max was for people who could clear at least level 20 songs with stage break on both Crazy and Nightmare difficulties. I started wondering what the overall level of players was in Korea (or elsewhere where people actually played Pump) was. In our area players tried to collectively get through the first area and failed. I got through 3 areas but felt like a total noob - it was way too difficult for me.

Both our NX2 and Pro machine ended up somewhere where one couldn't access them so a long period of not being able to play followed. Fast forward to 2018. Joystick Arcade bar bought a Pump it Up Pro machine and that means that I can go there anytime and play some Pump. During a few year period during which I didn't play any dance game at all I still managed to show up at Las Vegas Arcade Soho twice, La Tete dans les Nuages twice and in Funland once. Both me and Pump it Up games changed. I gained like 42 kg. PIU games introduced something like beginner mode and lot of other difficulties. Crazy and Nightmare difficulties became history.

Totally random doubles I played and... um missed 1 note on it.

When I first stood in front of Prime in LV it was a very embarrassing moment. I had no idea how to operate the machine, enter full mode and I had no idea what I can possibly clear. I played the most difficult songs in the beginner mode until someone showed and I asked him how to play songs on Nightmare (or well higher difficulty). After a surprised look I was told about full mode and how to enter it. Unfortunately I spent a lot of time in that beginner mode an didn't have much time left to fully enjoy what Prime had to offer. Some time later I came across Canon-D Full version. It showed some ridiculous difficulty like 23. I knew the song was difficult, I played it at all occasions I could in the past and successfully failed it (usually). After 3 days spend at a convention center (walking a lot), being totally exhausted, being sleep deprived and pretty hungry I decided to play this song. I asked the kind person who showed me how to enter full mode to record my attempt and hit the center panel (he was kinda surprised since I hardly played a song on higher difficulty than 14). I tried my best and I got a passing grade. How did that even happen (I blame the awesome platform, at that moment I didn't even realize that it doesn't have brackets)? I was given a broad smile and thumbs up and that felt great. I wondered if I could even step down of the platform and get to the airport without needing to crawl^_^ (I was fine).

I thought I'd completely fail and the machine would just show me Stage Failed. It didn't happen and it gave me a passing grade. That's great, maybe?

My next experience with Prime was a similar fiasco. This time though I knew what to look for - the full mode code which I didn't memorize. I found it on a poster on the wall and entered it (I had no idea when to do it). I played some 10-13s and got some full perfect combos and lots of machine records. I didn't get the chance to write down my name which used to be possible on the older machines. I figured there had to be some kind of internet ranking in place. Since I didn't sleep for over three days straight I didn't want to kill myself on something like Canon-D Nightmare and decided to leave soon. I was in a really bad shape but it was my second time playing on Prime.

My third time playing on Prime was awesome and I finally got the time to get used to Prime and explore it more. At Funland, I was joined by Thumbsy who was so kind and answered all my silly questions I could have about Prime. I learned to set a speed mod, took few hours to figure out what I can possibly read but still failed some songs because of a wrong speed mod. I learned that many new songs have some gimmicky things happening to the step chart. I also learned about the internet ranking, different kind of judgment windows and whatnot. At one point I realized one more thing that for some reason I didn't see before. I asked Chun to record a video of me playing Shanghai Romance. That song featured several "three notes at once". When I landed on the first jump I realized that I landed with my feet on the panels without hitting brackets and screws that I expected. I finished the song and then had to look down at the platform. It was bracketless o_O!

The song sounded fun. It was too easy for my liking but that's the only video I have. Thanks to this song I realized that there are no brackets...

I played songs of difficulties 10-18 (just few of the higher difficulty ones). Since it was clear I'd spend more time there I played something around the 13-15 doubles charts so I'd have enough energy to still play few hours later. After 6.5 hours we left for Den Haag to eat something and we came back to Funland again. There were too many people there for me and obviously Prime machine was way too popular. Pump it Up Pro was left alone so the rest of the evening I spent mostly playing Pro. I discovered that the difference between Prime platform and the PIU Pro one was huge, suddenly it was way more difficult to clear any song. I left few high scores on the machine as well, this time also leaving my game tag behind.

Did I get any better? Most of the time when I thought I got a new record I could consider an achievement it actually wasn't since I got a better score 10 years ago.

When I arrived back to Czech Republic I decided to start playing again since I have a machine nearby. My primary reason to try that again was to lose weight because my 90kg is not good for my body. All those years I tried everything from different kind of diets and exercise but I couldn't find anything that would have worked. Pump it Up is my last resort. People say that doing what one likes is something that has the most impact so hopefully it will help.

Me trying to survive Monolith... it didn't go well

Nevertheless, apart from losing weight, I have a goal - fill my groovestats as much as I can. Get back into shape and be able to clear some of the harder songs without passing out^_~. I know that I can still clear some crazy songs but I don't have the courage to try 11s or even some 10s because I doubt my skill. On the other hand when there is a level 13(or 14) song I want to play I just do it and somehow it ends up in a clear. How come I can pass some 13s while I manage to almost fail some 10s?

After I fill my groovestats I'd like to get some better scores on songs I have really bad scores but that can wait. I have a long road ahead of me since I'm afraid to play tens! Even though if I won't achieve any of the goals I set playing Pump makes me happy. I don't smile often and when I do no one sees me because I'm usually behind my computer screen playing Magic on MODO. Here's a pic of a happy STsung.

This was a great session... but who the hell decided to play I'll give you all my love CZ followed by LIADZ remix?!

Pump it Up Fiesta 2 (EDIT: May 30)

At the end of May we upgraded the local machine to Pump it Up Fiesta 2 and it was a really great idea to do. After playing Fiesta 2 for few days I have to say that I finally feel that this can possibly make me lose some weight^_^. There are way more challenging songs and the game has way more to offer compared to PIU Pro. I had to adjust a bit to it but after figuring out that I should set my speed mods higher I started playing and having lots of fun. I also managed to get the USB slots working, so from now on I can keep track of my (high) scores and play some missions in Quest World. It's hardly World Max but it is fun nonetheless. Probably not worth the money but since I set the machine to 5 hearts and I usually feel very exhausted after 3 stages it is a place I can go to and try a mission - I don't care about the outcome. So far I cleared just 9 missions but maybe I'll manage to clear few more.

Playing Fiesta feels way more demanding and maybe it's just because the songs I play are more difficult than the ones I played on PIU Pro. It's time to get back in shape and start playing those D22 songs I used to play! A long way is ahead of me.

Thank you for reading