Slipping out another Boom Boom Dollar.
I proudly live up to the Chinese American geek stereotype: I once was the president of the DDR Club at my university. I have played Dance Dance Revolution since 2nd Mix at the arcades, I have competed in an official DDR competition, and my specialty is improvisational freestyling – creating steps on the fly to arrows I either haven’t seen before or don't remember. But I’m not the president of the DDR club anymore, and I have no desire to go back.
[image1]Dance Dance Revolution X continues the ugly trend of DDR titles going on and on (and on) without doing anything significantly new. It’s been wincingly difficult for me to see one of my most beloved series needlessly prancing along the line between respected franchise and money-grubbing shovelware. It makes me wish there was a "Dynasty Dance Dance Warriors Card Battle Extreme" just so I can’t see the bar go any lower. (…I shouldn’t have said that.)
Given the ten-year legacy of DDR, explaining how it works is like having to explain why Mario eats polka-dot fungi. So I’m just going to say, “Arrow. Arrow. Step-o. Step-o.” In case you still don’t understand how to play, just read a review of any other DDR title. And if that review tells you to read another review of any other DDR title, have a dance-off.
Dance Dance Revolution X has every basic mode as expected: a standard Game mode for quick play through single songs or set courses, a Training mode for focused practice play, and a Workout mode to burn an amount of calories that is supposedly specific but actually immeasurable when you think about it. If I’ve missed any other mode or option, don’t worry. It’s probably not new.
The only exceptions lie with Party Zone mode - which allows you to locally connect your PS2 with other PS2s to form a larger party, but it isn’t as robust as an actual Party mode – and a completely redesigned solo mode called Street Master mode. Unfortunately, there was no need for a redesign. Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova 2’s Hyper Master mode had a sequence of goals, which when completed gave players points to spend in a shop to purchase new songs, courses, modes, and game-adjusting components for easier or harder play. It gave you choices, paths, and the ability to strategize and customize.
[image2]Street Master mode forgoes all of those improvements, returning to the days of linear missions that are smothered in absurd character-specific plotlines. Imagine Rage, a hoodie-adorned hip-hop wannabe, pacing back and forth, wondering how to spread the word of his takoyaki stand (that’s fast-food fried octopus in dough for you Japanophobics). Then, it finally hits him: He’ll beat-bop around the entire city, force fashionable passersby to dance off against him, and cram the takoyaki into their faces if they lose.
Yep, dance-offs are apparently the solution to all your heart's desires. Can’t find the racetrack? Dance! Can’t interpret your weird dreams? Dance! Want me to stop giving examples? Dance!
Not only do I not care about the internal struggles of DDR characters (why does DDR need characters who don’t even dance to the arrows anyway?), but the challenges don’t even live up to the “Dance Master” name. Though the gentle learning curve helps beginners get used to the steps, expert players will spend a long time dragging their feet through Basic and Advanced songs before they break a sweat. Not that there’s much point in completing the mode, anyway – all you basically get are additional costumes for characters that don’t matter.
But the real tragedy lies in the fact that DDR has fallen so out of “the cool” that it needs to create a fictional world where it hasn’t. There’s an element of desperation in the attempt to bring on the hip-hop funk, old-school electronica, pseudo-Jet Grind Radio “freshness”. When the track list isn’t flaunting its surprise pop guests like MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” and OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again”, it veers on the edge of modern disco and overwrought you-know-your-feet-are-screwed technogasms.
Meanwhile, the quasi-gangsta announcer spews more unworthy gems of canned dialogue than a conservative radio talk show host trying to DJ a MTV New Year’s Eve Masquerade. I’m not sure which parts of “Oh man, homeys, these beats are the funk-diggity!” I actually heard correctly, but even if I was half-off, I would still want to dump a ghetto latte on his head.
[image3]Despite my grumblings with the track list, though, it does have a rounded mix of old and new songs. Even with “boss” songs that can have a difficulty rating of 16 (I remember the days when level 8 seemed impossible), there’s something for everyone. Remixed versions of DDR favorites such as “Butterfly”, “Boys”, “Dub-I-Dub”, “Hero”, and “Get Up‘N Move” sit well with The Epoxies’ “Synthesized” and DKC Crew’s “Taj He Spitz”. I’m just surprised that Konami couldn’t pull out all of the stops for its ten-year celebration and finally compile all of DDR’s greatest hits onto one CD.
There are also several minor improvements that deserve a mention. I still applaud DDR for getting rid of the epileptic backgrounds from a few installments ago, and though there are a few stale dance club backdrops this time around, many songs now have their actual music videos streaming behind the arrows. Changing up the “up, down, left, right” gameplay a bit are shock arrows, which, like the bomb arrows from In The Groove, force you not to step on any arrows. Aside from drawing more casual players, it’s this kind of innovation or “borrowing” that the DDR series desperately needs.
Dance Dance Revolution X is an average rehash of everything that has been done (and at this point, possibly everything that ever will be done) in the series. Even if Street Master mode is awful, hardly anyone will care since it’s not what DDR is all about. It’s about watching people do crazy moves, whether that means choreographed freestyle routines or just your drunk friend rubbing his ass on the up arrow. Even so, I would rather spend my time watching real dancing; that is, fast zombie hobo cabaret.