I’m not sure what has me more hooked in DJ Max, its wickedly good song library or its strange hidden secrets.
I’m almost positive that if you looked hard enough, almost every single videogame has some kind of lore in it. Even the ones that seem like pure, dumb fun will end up with some strange world-building nugget that have you questioning everything you know. Hell, even goddamn Just Dance has lore. But it’s not the only rhythm game that’s stuffed with weird hidden story beats.
You see, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. A deep, strange, musical rabbit hole. I’ve been on a real rhythm game kick these last two months, my love for the genre revived by too many weekends holed up in my local arcade playing Dance Dance Revolution and Maimai. In an attempt to bring that love back home with me, I reinstalled DJ Max. It’s a game that initially didn’t resonate with me, but I’ve been grinding it out pretty hard since the new year.
It started simply enough. I was going through different songs with friends, making use of the game’s pretty sweet multiplayer lobby function. I’d already caved and bought a few song packs to broaden my library, trying my best to become comfortable with difficult four-button note charts while my friends casually aced eight or ten-button ones.
Then, it happened. My friend scrolled past a song called NB Ranger – Virgin Force. Naturally, in all my maturity as a 27-year-old woman, I had a little giggle at the name. “Virgin Force? Like, virgin virgins?” I remember half-jokingly asking my friend. Imagine my surprise when, with no hesitation, he replied “yup.”
Something I hadn’t had tons of time to pay attention to while grinding away at each song was the music videos that play in the background. Every single song in DJ Max has an accompanying video—rest in peace to my hard drive taken up by all these video files—and NB Ranger – Virgin Force was no different.
Turns out yeah, these are literally Power Ranger-type dudes who hate relationships. The story appears to follow the red ranger, the rest of his comrades lost to girlfriends and other things that are totally against the NB Ranger ethos. But it’s fine, because the red ranger is still around to sabotage relationships and ensure no two people can successfully be in love. Until, I’m pretty sure, he falls in love himself. He gets a girlfriend and even seems to have a child.
This spurs on the rest of the force to return and bring their brother back to the way of the NB Ranger. For some reason, they deal with this by hitting his girlfriend with a laser that turns her into a giant. The squad then turn into one mega-ranger, taking her down once and for all.
I was so bewildered and weirdly into whatever was happening, but I assumed it was an isolated incident. Nope! There are a ton of NB Ranger songs (opens in new tab) that span years of DJ Max games, like the very first one that shows the sexless squad ruining numerous dates. They incinerate flowers, terrorise couples on a ferris wheel and have a wee cry while doing it. But then the sequel introduces a girl ranger, for whom the entire crew seem to battle with their morals to win over. Not only are they fighting each other over their desire to smooch a hot lady, but doing it in their own selfish pursuit of also wanting to smooch her. There’s even a version where the squad are all girls instead!
I’ve become so disgustingly fascinated with it all, and I’ve been determined to dive into more weird bits of lore. I noticed that DJ Max has two mascots in El Clear and El Fail. Two sides of the same coin, the former being a cheerfully good mascot while the latter is a little chaos goblin who I adore. I assumed they’d always been present in the series, but turns out they’ve only been around for a few years. After more digging, I discovered they’re a split reincarnation of a mascot from DJ Max Portable on the PSP called EL. Who the hell even thought of all this?
Why am I rambling to you all about bizarre lore from a game I didn’t even think would have it? I think there’s something super neat about spending time with a game and finding all its strange quirks and story that you wouldn’t have even known about without doing a bit of digging. There’s a weird satisfaction that comes from knowing all these strange facts and background for different characters and songs, and I’ve loved seeing discussion over on the DJ Max Discord and conversations with my own friends. Uncovering secrets in games is always a ton of fun, but even moreso when you weren’t even expecting any in the first place.