The main gameplay is formed around the simple idea that the player must press various buttons at the correct moment, which is indicated by the music and the notes which scroll down in a tune of the music track visualized on screen. Hitting the correct notes fills in the missing instruments from the melody and gives player points. The player receives percentage per note which tells how close to player was from hitting the note exactly right moment. It ranges from 1–100% and player receives points from the notes accordingly. Hitting all notes 96.9% gives player 96.9% of the points gainable from the song.
If the player keeps hitting notes at the correct moment, the player also receives Combo points and the DJ Fever gauge gradually fills up. Combo is an additional multiplier used to get maximum points from the song. Fever is used to maximize Combo points. If the player misses even one note during a Combo, this counter is the reduced to zero and counting begins again from first correct note. The player gains additional Combo points by activating "DJ Fever" when it has charged fully. It speeds up the game and makes it harder to hit the correct notes but it also allows player to get a much higher "Combo" value. The objective of the game is to hit all notes with 100% accuracy, gaining full "Combo" and activating "DJ Fever" as many times as it is possible to during the song to maximize Combo points which are used to maximize points from the song.
There are various types of difficulty settings in this game, and specifics vary from game to game. Usually there are at least Arcade, Mission and Freestyle options available. DuringArcade and Freestyle, the player has the option of choosing which button layout to follow. Button layouts scale from just two buttons up to a maximum of eight buttons. Which button layouts are available for the player depends on the type of game. For example, original DJMax Portable features button layouts 4B, 6B and 8B, while DJMax Portable 2 features button layouts 4B, 5B, 6B and 8B. Button layouts offer first selection of difficulty for player. 4B being the easy mode and 8B being hard mode. Every song in the DJMax Portable series and Trilogy has a rating which indicates the difficulty of the song. Some songs are available in more difficult formats. For example, the player can try to play an 8B song fitted for a 6B layout. These are marked usually with HD (Hard), MX (Maximum) or SC (Super Crazy) as opposed to NM (Normal) of the 6B layout default difficulty. It significantly increases difficulty from the 6B NM mode when player plays 6B MX instead. It allows player to have higher score in 6B layout mode.
Gameplay also opens new game modes, songs, styles, additional content like music videos or backgrounds for player as player progresses and gains experience points which determine the level of the player.
In Arcade mode the player has to pass stages. There are usually three or four stages in Arcade mode depending on the game. For example, in DJMax Portable 2 the player has to pass four stages but in DJMax Portable 3 the player only needs to pass three. Stages consist usually of a limited selections of songs. In the first stages, the songs feature a lower rating than the songs in the later stages. When the player passes the stage, the player receives a grade ranging from F to A+ in most games. When the player has passed all the stages, scores from the stages are combined and presented to the player with statistics about the player's success. After passing the Arcade mode, the player usually sees a small "Thanks for playing DJMax" video clip. The objective of this mode is to get the highest score. In some games the player can compete against others by submitting his or her score to an online ranking system by using password codes that DJMax generates.
Freestyle is a mode where any unlocked song can be played individually. Additionally, the combo counter is persistent throughout all song plays meaning the player can get an 'infinite' combo.
Mission game mode, which is also known as XC (Extreme Challenge) mode in some DJMax games, features preselected sets of songs with certain challenges. These are explained in a mission briefing when selecting a mission. These challenges can be for example achieving a certain amount of points, a certain score multiplier, a certain accuracy, not breaking the combo more than what is allowed, or achieving a certain combo. These challenges can be combined. For example, in DJMax Portable 2 there is a challenge called "Rock n' Night" which states that player has to use DJ Fever at least once, two times in a row, on every preselected stage of the mission and that player also has to exceed combo of 2000 notes. If the player is able to pass the mission, then the game rewards player with additional items like new characters and new gear & note styles.
REMIX SYSTEM modeEdit
The DJMax Portable 3 introduced a new game mode known as "REMIX SYSTEM". It features game modes 3.2T, 4.2T and 6.2T which add two additional tracks for players to follow. The player uses PSP's analog stick to move active track to be either left or right, default position being center. These additional tracks only feature three lines so player only has to press the square, triangle and circle buttons while moving the analog stick correspondingly to hit the notes. The trick is that player has to follow the active track and changes can come fast.
In this arcade series (which also has one entry for the PlayStation Vita), players have to tap the screen at the moment when a moving slider crosses the symbols. Tapping the correct symbols produce sounds which fills in the missing sounds from the song and gives players points. There are different kinds of hand gestures or motions player needs to perform at times.