By now, every gamer worth his or her salt is familiar with Dance Dance Revolution – you know, that giant contraption at the arcade that’s always mobbed by energetic teens ready to bust out their spectacular moves? Most know, as well, that with a small investment in a dance pad, you can experience the joy of DDR (as it’s known to its fans) in the comfort of your own home, where your endless stomping can bother the crap out of whoever’s trying to sleep in your building.
Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA is not exactly a great leap forward in the history of this series, rather more of a cute, jazzy hop. The basic premise remains the same: little flashing arrows travel up the screen. When they hit the top, you step on the corresponding arrow on your dance pad. If you get good enough, it kinda looks like dancing!
does have a few new tricks up its sleeve. The main difference between this game and its predecessors is the Stellar Master Mode, in which you travel to different planets, completing dancing challenges. These are straightforward and mainly just add some structure to what you were planning to do anyway: dance around to a bunch of songs.
As you complete challenges, you open up a series of Showdowns. While the challenges aren’t all that exciting, the Showdowns are a different animal, and add a new layer to the series I hadn’t experienced before. Each Showdown level tweaks the game somehow, finding a new way to mess with your little mind and prove to you just how bad you really are at dancing.
I can just picture some sadistic little monkey back at the Konami basement having a field day coming up with these levels and testing them on his hapless victims. I picture him looking something like this
, and sounding a lot like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. “New victims, eh,” he would say, “What happens to our feeble little players when we turn the traditional arrows into bumblebees so that it’s nearly impossible to tell up from down? Yes, yes. Or what if we slow down the arrows so much that the next 734 steps are all visible on the screen at the same time, resulting in a massive arrow cluster that hurts the mind just to look at? This next song will consist of 128 jumps in a row without a single break! Ah, I see they’ve collapsed from exhaustion. Eeeeexcellent. Our work here is done.”
Yeah, it’s hard, but it’s also fun, adding new spring to these old steps. And at least the game doesn’t shoot fire
at you when you mess up. As you complete showdowns, you unlock more planets, each with their own set of challenges. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And what are you watching while all this dancing is going on? As it turns out, not much that you haven’t seen before. The candy-colored ‘Space’ theme of the Stellar Master Mode is the coolest setting in the game, and that isn’t saying much. Most disappointing are the videos for the songs. In some cases, they play the actual music video, which is always fun.
Gone, though, are the painstakingly created videos featuring psychedelic shapes, oddball animations, and random English words. Instead, you just watch a randomly selected character dance and groove as you sweat through a song. This can be especially jarring when the disco-suited Afro man starts getting funky to traditional Russian folk music, or when the skater dude busts out all his killer breakdancing moves to Kelly Clarkson. It’s just not right.
But of course, the most important feature of any DDR game is the music. While SuperNOVA continues in the time-honored tradition of thumping club remixes and saccharine Japanese pop, the game broadens the spectrum by including the likes of Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, and Franz Ferdinand, which makes for a nice change of pace. It’s a good mix, overall. Rather than making all songs available at once, they cleverly divide up the tracks so that each mode and difficulty level has its own set of available music.
In spite of not being dramatically different, Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA is a good game. As they say, it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it. And really, that’s all that matters.