Don't just stand there, bust a move.
One of these days, Konami is going to toss all their Bemani games in a blender and create the ultimate interactive rhythm monster. Put this visual in your head: While doing the old soft shoe across a familiar four-square dance pad, your right hand must tap out a melody across 9 ivory keys. In the meantime, your left hand wields a drumstick to tap out a beat while your head spins a full metal battle helmet to the beat, all while dodging light sensors...of DOOM.
Until that dark day, we can only ask for upgrades. Enter Dance Dance Revolution Konamix, the latest DDR to find itself on American shores. But rather than a mere immigration or a half-assed depreciation, Konamix is a reintegration for its fans, hosting fresh mixes and options that should please both old and new boogiers alike.
I'm sure DDR nuts have either purchased the game already in support of Konami's American Beatmania venture or have cast it aside due to the lack of 6-step mixes in all the songs. This review is mostly for everyone else.
The basics behind DDR gameplay have been thoroughly refined and toe-tested, bringing us up to 5 iterations in Japan, two prior US releases, and now, Konamix. If you are completely new to this, DDR is a dancing game that involves dancing to music and tapping out steps on a combination controller/dancing stage.
At the top of your screen is an immobile bar of arrows. As the song begins to play, a flurry of arrows flow up the screen. When these moving arrows line up against their stagnant counterparts, you step down on the corresponding direction. More arrows go by, more stepping takes place, and waahoo! Yer dancin'! Break it down!
Your performance is graded by how well you can step to the beat. If you can stay in time and hold the rhythm, you'll score big points. If you make too many mistakes, you will eventually irritate the game and it will cut your dancing short.
There are three difficulty modes - Basic, Tricky, and Maniac. Additional modifications can be made to tweak the level of insanity, including turning the arrows completely off. Successfully completing songs yields additional tracks, bringing the final count to over 50.
There's an added 6-steps category that implements forward diagonals utilizing the X and Circle buttons. Unfortunately, there aren't 6-step routines for every single song in the game. Don't worry about it too much if you are new to DDR, as there's still plenty here to keep you dancin'.
DDR's infamous Workout feature makes a return, allowing you to enter information about yourself and calculate the amount of energy you expend. It even goes so far as to keep long-term records of how much exercise you've accomplished, complete with a chart and accumulated logs of all the calories you've burned. There are also lessons that can teach you the basics of DDR, as well as a Training program that allows you to slow songs down and pinpoint your problem areas. And if have enough imagination and time, there's an Edit mode that allows you to conjure up your own dance routines.
The interface is smooth and purposeful, replete with shiny lights and bright colors. Patterns flash in the background while your onscreen counterpart does a little jig. However, I don't like how each song is listed in a smaller rectangle that confines the title and art. It's kind of like the transition from album covers to cassette tapes.
I have yet to figure out how to move backwards in the song selection. Maybe I'm just a bit indecisive, but I'd like the ability to go back to the genre listings when I can't find a song I'm in the mood for.
Obviously there's no way to make everyone happy with the song list, but the range covered in DDR Konamix is pretty strong. Admittedly, I'm not as hardcore as some DDR players, but I can at least see the thought they put into the range of music styles. And with the number of songs, I'm sure you can find at least a few that you like.
From a pricing standpoint, Konamix is right on the money - 30 bucks, compared to the exorbitantly high markups of import gaming. But don't forget the cost of the dance pads, which figure into this mightily.
I was granted a Red Octane Arcade Pad for this review, which boasts features such as arcade-sized buttons and a heavier foam lining. I've performed much better on this pad compared to the non-modified cheapo pads I've nabbed in Taiwan, but I find it a touch expensive considering the cost of materials. While I can't vouch for the long-term strength of this Red Octane pad just yet, I've just been happy with how the foam lining has kept the pad from slipping.
There's always the cheaper alternative of taking one of the more inexpensive pads and modifying it by stapling it to plywood. Or you can always hook yourself with one of these ultra-1337 pads.
But whichever way to go, know that this game is basically useless without a dance pad. It's just not fun with the controller, so be prepared to drop extra coin on the extra hardware.
DDR: Konamix has enough to entice the DDR newbie and appease the hardcore fan. It's just a much better product than the original DDR USA and the Disney Rave, both in breadth of songs and range of features. It's really the game that DDR USA should have been. Though it isn't a reinvention or anything that drastically changes this already innovative game, it fills a hole for gamers who don't like to import.