Reviewed: October 12, 2008
Reviewed by: Arend Hart
Released: September 16, 2008
Konami has been printing money over the past decade with their seemingly endless string of “Revolution” games. With literally dozens of Revolution titles ranging from the various Karaoke Revolution iterations, and even more Dance Dance Revolution offshoots, it is a solid indication that there is a fairly solid community of Revolution fans out there buying these games.
While I have a bit of experience with the Kararoke Revolution titles over the years, I have never really paid much interest in the Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) franchise. It actually took my wife and daughter (Amy and Mieke, respectively) asking me to pick them up a DDR game that I requested this review assignment for the latest PS2 release of Dance Dance Revolution X (DDR-X).
As I am not much of a dancer, my DDR-X review session was performed with Amy and Mieke’s help (or should I say, their energy). Thanks, ladies. Although I have not paid much attention to the DDR series over the years, I did jump on the bandwagon in the late 1990’s with the first US release of the original Dance Dance Revolution. At the time, I was not impressed with the humdrum J-Pop, mediocre backgrounds, and…well…arrows – lots of arrows. A decade later, I see that the formula has not changed much.
Well, I must admit that the music selection is better than it was back then – sure, there is plenty of milquetoast J-Pop filling up the 70+ song soundtrack, but there are also a number of electropop and techno songs from the likes of classic acts The Pet Shop Boys and Book of Love, as well as newer acts like OK Go and Fischerspooner. Hell, DDR-X even features MC Hammer – what more could you ask for? The sound quality is rather impressive – sounding bright, dynamic, and free of compression fidelity loss. Considering the disc features about 6 hours of music, that is awfully impressive.
DDR-X features five gameplay modes – the pick-up-and-play Game Mode, the self-explanatory Training Mode, the calorie-burning Workout Mode, the do-it-yourself Edit Mode, and the story-based Street Master mode. None of these really alter the core mechanics of the game – they just give a different context to the hopping around.
The most fleshed-out mode is Street Master, although that’s not saying a much as none of DDR-X is all that deep or complex. The story segments are portrayed via a series of text-based storyboards that meander around various elements of Japanese absurdity – somehow relating dancing abilities to cooking abilities and the like. It isn’t much, but at least it gives some purpose to the proceedings – and hey, Japanese absurdity is always good of a chuckle.
DDR-X is difficult – much harder than any of the other rhythm games I have played. Then again, I am 6’5” and pushing 250lbs, so hopping around on a squishy dance pad is not the easiest thing for me to do – hence the wife’s and daughter’s assistance. One thing that gamers will have to deal with are the wild and dynamic backgrounds that often interfere with the ability to see the arrow overlays. I have to admit that while I was unimpressed with the stagnant backgrounds of the 1999 release of DDR, we were often wishing we could turn off 2008’s DDR-X backgrounds altogether. Still, they were bright and colorful and definitely give spectators something more interesting to look at than a bunch of arrows running up the side of the screen.
So, is DDR-X worth your hard earned money? Well, more so than any other game, the answer to that question is going to be up to the gamer. For most DDR fanatics the question is moot – in fact, they probably already own DDR-X by now. In fact, any gamer who owns a set of Dance Pads for their PS2 probably owes it to themselves to pick up DDR-X – as the $29.99 disc-only MSRP is a relatively small investment to breathe a bit more life into the dusty accessories. Sadly, DDR-X features no Online multiplayer, which might turn some of the more hardcore fans away, as the only party action to be had is locally or through LAN hookup.
As for newly initiated DDR gamers like myself…well…if there was a way to rent the full kit and give the package a try before buying, I would definitely recommend that over an all-out purchase. The DDR series definitely appeals to a select group of gamers, which has grown even more unique and specialized with the advent of the motion-based gameplay of the Wii that has rendered the once-intriguing dance pad, as a thing of the past.
The bundle MSRP of $50 is surprisingly cheap in my opinion, but still not chump change. I mean, spending $50 on something you don’t particularly care for is a bummer, but spending $50 on something you don’t care for and having a bulky dance mat left over taking up precious space is even worse. And believe me, these DDR games have absolutely no trade-in value…anywhere.