Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dance Dance Retrospective: 2ndMIX

Well, I'm sorry for the wall of text that I subjected you to in the last entry of Dance Dance Retrospective, especially considering the fact that there was some stuff you already knew... and a lot you didn't.  But now that I got the basics out of the way, I won't need to repeat them in subsequent entries.  And DDR isn't a franchise that changes too much between entries, for better or for worse.  So with that in mind, the changes in DDR 2ndMIX should pop out all the more.

Dance Dance Revolution 2ndMIX was released in Japan for the arcades in 29 January 1999 (my birthday! ^v^), PlayStation in August, and in a first, Sega Dreamcast in February 2000.  Most of the interface was carried over from DDR 1st, as were all of the songs (except on the PSX version).  What has changed, however, is for the better, especially on the mode select screen.  The Easy, Normal, and Hard setlists work the same as they did in 1st, but it's much easier to select your difficulty level.  Again, you can't change it after you leave this screen, but all you have to do is press the up or down panel twice in a row to toggle between the Basic, Another, and Maniac levels.  And as if this were not enough, if you highlight the Hard mode and press right four times, you can play with all the songs in the game available at once.  Yes, finally, we don't have to stand for artificial content lockouts anymore!

It's also easier to access the Double mode in this game.  Before starting the game, hold the left and right menu buttons and press start (Arcade), press Circle (PSX), or press Start (Dreamcast).  This will let you choose between Single, Versus, Couple, and Double.  Note that this is the same way you can access the two-player modes in 1st (sans Double); sorry I forgot to mention that.  Switching on the other modifiers is, however, another story.  On the music select screen, you have to input longer codes, but you have more modifiers to choose from.  Mirror is joined by Left, Right, and Shuffle, which rotate the steps in different ways.  Hidden makes the arrows disappear halfway up the screen, and Little simplifies the sequences by removing all but the quarter notes (you will not be able to score as high with Little on).

Some of the most notable songs from 2ndMIX are:
  • "Boom Boom Dollar" by King Kong & D. Jungle Girls.  This song was originally released by the Italian band in 1989.  Considering the fact that there are no new level-1 songs in 2ndMIX, this is one of the easiest new songs, at level 2 on Basic.
  • "Brilliant 2U" by Naoki.  A Euro-rave song composed by Naoki Maeda.  This hyper little tune, clocking in at a brisk 150 BPM, served more or less as a template for many of Naoki's most famous songs from future games.
  • "AM-3P" by kTz.  A robotic techno/disco song also composed by Naoki Maeda.  There are a lot of irregular "chaos" steps (16th notes if you're good with music) in this song, even on Basic (level 5).  In fact, there are plenty of other songs that feature similar syncopated patterns, like "El Ritmo Tropical" and "Get Up'n Move".  This is one pattern you should get used to.
  • "PARANOiA Max (Dirty Mix)" by 190.  A remix of "PARANOiA" from the first game, PARANOiA Max is a touch faster than the original and arguably more popular for some reason.  Other than that, the difficulty is similar to the original - which is to say, very hard for its time.
Gameplay is, obviously, the same as it was in 1st, as is the scoring system.  However, there's no extra stages after you're done, just like I warned you.  But if you've got one of the import home versions, the fun doesn't stop there.  The exclusive Paint Mode lets you draw new arrow shapes, Nonstop Revolution lets you play user-defined sets of songs in a row, and Edit Mode lets you design your own step sequences for use in the game.  In fact, Konami re-released the arcade version of 2ndMIX, the Link Version, which includes 5 new songs and ports for PlayStation memory cards that let you play your Edit steps in the arcade game!  From then on, the memory card ports became an option for later core series arcade games.  You might even spot one plugged into an imported machine near you, but be warned: they only accept edit data made on the Japanese home games.  So, sorry Konamix owners. :-(

But it doesn't stop there.  Konami also released two different "Club Versions" of DDR based on the 2ndMIX engine.  But rather than use any of the existing songs from 1st or 2ndMIX, all the songs in the club versions were transplants from Konami's beatmania and beatmania IIDX series of DJ simulation games.  I'll get more into that when we explore the rest of the Bemani family.  The arcade versions had the ability to link up with a beatmania IIDX cabinet, allowing up to 2 players of either game to make beautiful music together.  The club versions were also released as 2 games for PlayStation and one for Dreamcast.  However, to play the PSX versions, you have to put in a copy of 2ndMIX and change the disc from the main menu.  This also means that you can't even play the PSX club versions as imports if you're using a disc-swap device like the GameShark.  Sorry. :-(

I promise things will brighten up with 3rdMIX.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dance Dance Retrospective: 1st

We'll start simple by looking at a game that, itself, started simple.  The first Dance Dance Revolution game released in Japan for the arcades in September 1998 and PlayStation in April 1999.1  Contrary to the current arcade editions which store hundreds of songs from its ten-odd year history, this game had only nine songs (the PSX version bumps it up to 16).  And they're broken up into two setlists that you choose from when you start the game: Normal and Hard.  There's also the Easy mode, which has the songs from Normal mode, but with a twist.  You only get to play one song, but you won't fail in the middle of it even if your Groove Gauge falls to zero.  If you're playing this game after having experienced later editions, you'll probably be baffled by the fact that you apparently can't change your difficulty from the Basic level.  As it turns out, you can, but the only way to do so is to input a code on the panels in the mode selection screen.  Doing so lets you play on the Another (medium) or Maniac (hard) levels, switch the arrows around by 180 degrees with Mirror, or experience all-new sequences on all eight panels in Double mode.  Here are the codes if you're interested:

Another: Up, Up, Down, Down, Up, Up, Down, Down
Maniac: Left, Left, Right, Right, Left, Left, Right, Right
Double: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right
Mirror: Left, Right, Left, Right , Left, Right, Left, Right
Mirror Another Double:* Up, Up, Down, Down, Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right
*For all other combinations, e.g. Another/Double or Maniac/Mirror, input each code one at a time.2

The music selection screen in Hard mode.3
So once we get through that ordeal, we get to select our music.  On the music selection screen (picture above), CDs are arranged as if on a jukebox, with the difficulty level of the steps measured in "feet", ranging from 1 to 8 feet.  The starting songs for Normal and Hard modes have been forever ingrained into the minds of veteran DDR players.  On Easy and Normal modes, the first song is "Have You Never Been Mellow" by The Olivia Project, a house remake of the 1977 song by Olivia Newton-John.  It is one of the easiest songs in DDR, ranking at level 1 on Basic.  On Hard mode, the first song is "Butterfly" by Smile.dk, a then-recent European pop song with Japanese-themed lyrics.  Hope you like their music, because Smile.dk popped up on many more DDR games in the future.  And just to set things straight, Smile.dk is from Sweden.  Yes sir, even though "Butterfly" was inspired by Japan and the .dk in their name refers to Denmark (a marketing trick by their record label), they are actually Swedish.  Spread the word.  

Going through the rest of the song list, some songs are their original versions ("That's The Way ( I Like It)"), whereas others ("Kung Fu Fighting") are new versions by cover bands.  Until the mid-2000s, all the licensed songs in DDR came from a CD series called Dancemania.  Released only in Japan by record label Toshiba EMI (currently EMI Music Japan), all the Dancemania albums are nonstop megamixes, with each song blending seamlessly into the next, like what DJs do in nightclubs.  Over time, numerous themed sub-series were released, such as Speed (focusing on high-speed rave) and Bass (focusing on Miami bass hip-hop).  Of course, the soundtracks for the DDR games were released as part of the Dancemania series, with one disc containing the songs as they appear in-game, and another disc blending them in an exclusive megamix.  If you notice, product placement for Dancemania is all over the Japanese games, such as icons in the music select screen telling you which album a song is from.

The character Afro in-game, playing "That's The Way" on Another.3

So, sorry for keeping you, but now we get to play the game for real!  You are expected to focus on the arrows scrolling up the screen, but there's a lot going on graphically.  Animations involving random flying objects and Engrish phrases run in the background, and on top of that, a 3-D character or two dance along to the music.  No, it's not like they're stepping in four directions like you are - in fact, you might wonder what the heck kind of moves they're busting.  Well, in this first game only, icons on the bottom of the screen tell you what style of dance the characters are using: hip-hop, jazz, house, and even Capoeira.  Which character (or characters) appears depends on whether you held down the left, right, or neither arrow panel when starting the game.

After you finish the song without getting booed out by the game, a result screen shows you your score and breaks down your performance based on how many of each timing mark you got.  Going from more to less precise, these marks are called Perfect, Great, Good, Boo, and Miss.  While playing, you can rack up a combo of notes you hit with a Perfect or Great mark, and your score will increase faster, but if you get a Good or worse, the combo resets to zero and you may lose some health from your Groove Gauge.  You will also get a letter grade based on your score for each song, in this game ranging from E (failed song) to SS (all Perfects - no easy feat).

After seeing how well you did, you go back to the music selection and pickout another song.  Lather, rinse, and repeat until you beat the last stage and the game ends.  In this game, the available songs may change on later stages.  On the final stage, you get to tackle the first (and in this game, only) original song from Konami's music staff: "PARANOiA".  "PARANOiA" is a drum-n-bass/techno song composed by Naoki Maeda.  Get to know this name.  As the music director for the DDR series, he has composed much of the original songs throughout the entire franchise.  And "PARANOiA" is a beast, at least it was at the time.  It's a level 6 on Basic mode, and it's really fast at 180 beats per minute (180 is also Naoki's pseudonym for this song.  No coincidence, trust me.)  But if it seems easy now, think about this: people used to believe that if you couldn't beat this song, you couldn't handle the harder stuff found on later editions, like it's some rite of passage.  Oh, and one more thing: if you finish your last song with a full Groove Gauge, you even get to play an extra stage on the next difficulty level up (unless you were playing on Single Maniac or Double Another, the hardest levels for their respective modes).  This feature would not return for a while, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Konami followed up the original game with an Internet Ranking version.  It added two new songs, the originals "Trip Machine" and "Make It Better", and the ability to post your scores online through the game's website.  The home version of this game also features the Arrange Mode, which is the same as Arcade Mode except you get penalized for stepping on a panel if there's no arrow over the Step Zone.  The damage is an Ouch mark and a sharp health decrease.  Throughout the entirety of DDR, there has been NOTHING like this in any other game...  Do you think it would be a good idea to bring it back?  Either way, the first DDR is not so much bad as it is... primitive.  The dearth of available songs and the unintuitive method of changing difficulties are not going to justify a purchase for most people, never minding the hoops you have to jump through to play import games on PlayStation in general.  But if you get a kick out of memorizing a code just to play on Maniac, then by all means, enjoy your trip down memory lane.


1 "Game Timeline".  Zenius -I- vanisherhttp://zenius-i-vanisher.com/v5.2/ddrgametimeline.php
2 "FAQ - DDR Internet Ranking Version".  DDR Freakhttp://www.ddrfreak.com/versions/faqs-arcade.php?version=3
3 "Dance Dance Revolution (Japan)".  GameFAQshttp://www.gamefaqs.com/ps/197034-dance-dance-revolution-japan/images

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Game Review: Milon's Secret Castle

Milon's Secret Castle
  • Publisher: Hudson Soft
  • Developer: Hudson Soft
  • Platforms/Release:
    • NES: September 1988
    • Wii (DLC): June 2007
  • Genre: Action
  • Rarity/Cost:
    • NES: Common (US$1-10)
    • Wii: N/A (US $5)

YOU CAN PUSH BLOCKS IN THIS GAME.  IN ORDER TO MAKE THE FIRST BOSS APPEAR, YOU HAVE TO KEEP WALKING AGAINST ONE OF THE BLOCKS ON THE FLOOR OF THE FIRST LEVEL AND SHOOT THE SPACE BEHIND IT TO MAKE A SHOP APPEAR, WHERE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO BUY THE SPRING SHOES.

...Okay, I'm sorry for getting ahead of myself.  I just really needed to get that out of the way, because without it, you won't make it past the first ten percent or so of this game.  Even worse, this little piece of advice isn't even in the enclosed instruction book.  And back in the day, before you had websites like GameFAQs to come to the rescue, the instruction manuals were pretty much all you had to go by.  The only other place you could find this out, as the Angry Video Game Nerd pointed out, is in an issue of Nintendo Power magazine (back while they actually told you how to beat the games).  When you have to pay extra for that tiny piece of crucial information that can get you past such a daunting roadblock, that's a sign of a bad game.  Or is it...?

But first, history time.  Milon's Secret Castle was released by Hudson Soft for the Famicom (Japan) in November 1986 and the NES (North America) in September 1988.  It is also available for the Wii through the Virtual Console shop for 500 Wii Points (US $5) in all 3 regions (Japan, America, and PAL).  The simple plot casts you as a boy named Milon, who lives in a world where everyone communicates through music but he is unable to do so.  But that's not important; what is is that there's a Queen Eliza under a sleeping spell in the Castle Garland, and you must defeat the evil Prince Maharito and wake her up.  So when you boil it down, it's pretty much the same save-the-princessqueen plot that was in vogue for a while after Super Mario Brothers.

Milon attacks by shooting bubbles given to him by a magician in the offscreen backstory.  They fire at an upwards angle if you press B, or a downwards angle if you hold Down and press B.  Not being able to shoot straight forwards is an inconvenient setup, especially when the range of your bubbles starts out slow, but that's the least of your worries, trust me.  Milon moves with slow forward acceleration, and decelerates rapidly once you stop walking.  If you jump from a standing position, you will not move forward at all.  Also, whenever you start out, either from a new game or a continue, you only start out with 4 units of life, which is only about half full when you start out.  Yeah, The Legend of Zelda pulled this on you, too, but at least that game doesn't have so many problems.  Like this next one - and this is the big one - there's no mercy invincibility after you get hit.  Combined with Milon's slow initial agility, and you can easily be juggled for loads and loads of damage until you die.

The game itself is very open-ended.  When you start out, you get to choose from two action stages, a shop, and an empty boss room.  In the action stages, you can collect money and honeycombs (which refill and extend your health) by shooting bubbles at certain bricks, and healing hearts and umbrellas (which increase your rate of fire) from downed enemies.  The enemies respawn soon after being defeated and never stop doing so, so you'll never get a moment's peace.  In order to leave these rooms, you have to cause enough mayhem to make a key appear, then use it to unlock a door, which you have to search for by shooting at empty spaces until it appears.  This is truly an inconvenient setup.

You have to SEARCH for the exits!?1
A treasure trove of items is available for sale in the shops of Castle Garland.  There are the spring and roller shoes to make you jump higher, a hammer and saw to break into new places from the overworld, and a medicine bottle that lets you shrink when you touch a green boxing glove.  ...Umm, yeah, if I can roll with it, why can't you?  You'll need to buy most of the 12 different tools in order to open up new areas and survive the encounters within.  In fact, you need to buy the Spring Shoes and Medicine just to make the first boss appear.  There are seven main bosses in addition to Maharito himself, but they're all the same - creatures that jump around and lob fireballs at you.  Lazy design, to be sure, but at around the fourth or fifth one (based on my experiences), they somehow get too tough to handle without mass repetition and frustration.  The best advice I can give you is to hang back as far as your bubbles can reach and shoot the bosses when they get close.  Beating a boss earns you a Crystal Ball, which extends your bubbles' range.  In addition, after you win the first one, you get to use the continue cheat after you die.  When the title screen appears, you have to hold Left and press Start.  It's a DARN good thing the developers put this in - in the instructions, no less - because you're going to use it.  A lot.

After you get to a certain point, especially when you find the shops that can refill your health, you'll start to run out of money.  There is only one room in the game where the money respawns every time you go back in, and it's all the way up on the third floor.  For a quick fix, you can bump your head on certain blocks and turn up a music box, which takes you to a bonus stage.  In these, music notes will fly up from the bottom of the screen.  Collect the regular notes and sharps (#), while avoiding the flats (b), and you'll gain points.  When time is up, you'll earn money based on how many point you've accrued.  In a neat little touch, for each new bonus stage you get into (there are seven in all), a new instrument is added to the background music, played by the elves on the top of the screen.  But once you've depleted the main and bonus stages, and are forced to go back to that one level to get enough money to fill your health back up, tedium will start to set in.  And when playing a game starts to feel like going to a boring job every day, you know it's time to go.
This boss is the hardest for some reason.1
So, apart from how frustrating and repetitive this game can be, it also suffers from the technical problems I mentioned earlier and from a lack of direction.  A good number of games leave you to find your own way but somehow are still loved by many; early Legend of Zelda and Metroid titles come to mind.  But considering how flawed and unintuitive Milon's Secret Castle is, it just can't measure up to the classics.  And even after you learn about the box-pushing trick, it's still a very, very hard game, no mercy invincibility and all.  In fact, it's probably one of the toughest games I grew up with, along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game.  I mean, I was never experienced to stuff like Bayou Billy, Battletoads, or even Ninja Gaiden, but seeing what other reviewers have gone through, I think I'll just go and count my blessings now.

Control: 2 musical notes out of 5
Design: 2 musical notes out of 5
Graphics: 3 musical notes out of 5
Audio: 4 musical notes out of 5
The Call: 40% (F)*
*50% (D) if you know the push trick.

1 "Milon's Secret Castle - NES Screenshots".  MobyGameshttp://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/milons-secret-castle/screenshots.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Anime Review: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water


Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water

  • Episodes: 39
  • Airdates: 15 April 1990 - 16 March 1991 (Japan)
  • Studio: Toho / Group TAC / Gainax
  • Publisher: ADV (USA)
  • Directors: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi

With the recent closing of animation studio Group TAC, which I first learned about in MarzGurl's latest Anime News Editorial, I thought I'd look into one of their previous works.  Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Japanese title: Nadia of the Mysterious Seas) was co-developed by TAC and Gainax, and directed by Hideaki Anno from the latter company.  Yes, that's the same guy who made Evangelion, but don't worry, this one's gonna go down a lot easier.  Besides, Nadia was my first anime girl crush, ever since I saw her on a media player skin in '02, so this review was inevitable anyway.

Here's the part where I get to wax on about the show's history.  It was first broadcast in Japan on NHK in 1990-1991 (or was it '89-'90?), with the run interrupted briefly mid-way due to budget troubles (or was it so the network could run news reports on the Gulf War?), and lasted 39 episodes.  The show was first licensed in the United States by Streamline Pictures - headed by the now-deceased Carl Macek, so you can probably guess where this is going.  I haven't seen any of that version, nor will I probably get the chance.  They only released eight episodes on VHS before they lost the rights in '96.  (Although it did have Wendee Lee of Haruhi Suzumiya & Lucky Star fame in the title role.)  Fortunately, ADV films acquired the rights in 2001, and released the whole series uncut with a new dub.

Nadia's plot is inspired loosely by Jules Verne's classic novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  (Which, for the record, refers to leagues across, not down.)  There is a submarine called the Nautilus, helmed by a Captain Nemo, but that's where the similarities end.  The main character is the titular 15-year-old girl Nadia, who owns a blue jewel pendant, the also-titular Blue Water.  Its only power happens to be to warn her of danger - anything else would be a spoiler.  So let's have at it: it also has the power to operate a superweapon, control the walls and floors in Atlantean ruins, and heal people from near-death.  And while we're at it, Nadia is the princess of Atlantis, and Captain Nemo is her father.  Her friends include Jean, the young inventor boy I happened to mention earlier, King, a gray lion cub, and Marie, who survived her parents being assassinated.  And they're all being chased by Grandis, a gold-digger girl who was clearly never ripped off of to make Jessie from Pok√©mon, and her two flunkies, Hanson and Sanson, who keep trying to steal the Blue Water.

But they pretty much only serve as comic-relief villany, because the plot picks up once they first encounter the Neo-Atlantean army, led by Gargoyle.  And on the other side of that conflict is Captain Nemo and his first-mate Electra.  In order to survive, Nadia's team is forced to join forces with Grandis's team and travel aboard the Nautilus together, with Gargoyle's fleet of "Garfish" submarines hot on their tail.  Throughout this story arc in particular, we are treated to two of the show's trademarks.  One is the submarine combat.  When the Nautilus stops to fight the Garfish and other threats, expect a lot of orders to be thrown around.  It's just like Das Boot, but with a couple of hot chicks... and Jean.  (Yes, I will look for any excuse to throw in extra tropes.)

The second of this show's quirks is Nadia's personality.  She a staunch pacifist, so much to the point that she can't take it when people die around her.  Some particularly interesting abuses of this are when Gargoyle shoots a henchman to torture Nadia into talking (Finally, an excuse for the Blofeld Ploy!), and numerous confrontations between her and Captain Nemo about the deaths on both sides of the war on Neo-Atlantis.  She's even a vegetarian, something Jean tries (unsucessfully) to fix.  Let me tell ya, if she were born seventy to eighty years later, she would make a great hippie.

Adding another item to the list of comparisons with Evangelion, Nadia has some episodes that are just completely pointless.  Evangelion had the last two episodes, and Nadia has the Island Arc.  Right after "Elektra the Traitor", perhaps the greatest plottastic bombshell in the series, Nadia, Jean, Marie, and King get stuck on a deserted island.  No, Oceanic Airlines was not involved.  But what we do get is eight whole episodes of their inconsequential adventures.  Even worse, one of them is actually a dream sequence. Still, nothing wrong with a good mushroom samba!  And even after the Island Arc, there are a few more filler episodes involving a guy from an African tribe whom Nadia gets the hots for before the plot picks up again - and by then, the series is almost over.  And about those two Evangelion episodes, the exposition scenes in Nadia are sometimes done in a similar minimalist style, but at least they're talking about stuff we actually *care* about.

This is one of the few series that I, given the chance, chose to watch in Japanese the first time through.  What's noticeable about the ADV dub is that they got actual children to do the roles of Nadia (Meg Bauman), Jean (Nathan Parsons), and Marie (Margaret Cassidy).  While I have to applaud them for authenticity, the results don't quite deserve so much praise.  You remember what Jake Lloyd was like in Star Wars Episode I, right?  Now, cross him with Tommy Wiseau of The Room and you've got Jean.  Yeah, I just broke you.  Okay, so it mostly gets bad once he starts to get angry about something.  Nadia and Marie are alright, but my call for the best actor in the ADV dub is Gargoyle (David Jones).  He is equal parts human, menacing, and Jeff Goldblum, just like a quality villain should be.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is quite the bipolar series.  When it's bad, it's just useless, harmless filler.  But when it's good, the story gets rather gripping and hits you with a little bit of everything.  Plus, say what you want about the island arc, but in retrospect it sure reminds you of Lost, only without the smoke monster.

Acting (English): 3 out of 5
Acting (Japanese): 4 out of 5
Writing: 4 out of 5
Technical: 4 out of 5
The Call: 75% (B-)

On that note, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water sure has had a lot of things ripped off of it.  Perhaps the most famous is Atlantis: The Lost Empire, a 2001 Disney cartoon.  They both feature a hot chick with a blue jewel pendant, a dweeby guy, Atlantis in some form, and a submarine.  Both are also based on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but Disney has a bit more leeway with that since they adapted the novel themselves some time ago.  Then there's the characters themselves.  Nadia's design was borrowed by Hideaki Anno himself when he created the main character from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji Ikari.  And apart from Jessie like I mentioned before, play Gunstar Heroes and tell me one of the bosses doesn't remind you of the Grandis gang.  And in one final example that is bound to be only a coincidence, take Electra the first mate and King the lion cub and you get...  Elektra King from The World Is Not Enough!   ...I like to think only I could've come up with that, and maybe that's true...

Dance Dance Retrospective: Introduction


Somehow while watching Linkara's "History of Power Rangers" series, I had been inspired to make something like that for something like this blog.  It had to be something I was an expert on, that would give me a chance to blab on endlessly about it...  You were expecting James Bond, my favorite fandom?  Well, I had forgotten about that, maybe next time.  Nope, what we've got is a retrospective of the Dance Dance Revolution video game series.

EDIT 13 October 2014: With the series nearing its end, I have decided to rename it from "History of DDR" to "Dance Dance Retrospective".  To anyone who mistakenly believed the subject matter would be the former East Germany (a.k.a. the Deutsche Demokratische Republik), I deeply apologise.

As the first major music game series to hit it big in America (notice I said series... and major), I'd like to guess many of you know how to play DDR, especially if you're reading this blog, whereas the rest of you are just baffled by the name.  So to compromise, I'll keep it brief.  The game is played with a set of four pressure panels on the floor, one for each direction of left, down, up, and right.  On the screen, a sequence of arrows will rise from the bottom to the top.  Your job is to step on the matching panel(s) when an arrow passes over the Step Zone, a white set of arrows at the top.  The trick is that the sequence is timed to the music playing.  Is it really like dancing?  I'm sure this has been debated a lot when the series started, and the general consensus is no.  But when you're playing, you don't care!  At least I don't...

My experience with the series began in the Summer of 2002.  In the arcades, I was never all that attracted to the bigger games that cost $1 to play.  You could say I wanted to stretch my gaming dollar.  But after getting out of school that year, I fell of my bike and broke my right arm.  That compression fracture left me in a sling for two weeks.  Whether or not this attracted me to DDR or not I'm in doubt about, but this happens to be when I started getting into it.  I was really bad the first few times, but grew experience with the arcade version DDRMAX and the home games on PlayStation, and after a few months was able to play well on all but the hardest difficulty levels.

So what am I going to cover in this series of posts?  Well, I'm going to be talking about all of the "core series" games and a bunch of the side games.  In each entry, I'll cover the changes brought about by the new games (or lack thereof), some of the major songs (since it would be foolish to dedicate an entire blurb to every new song introduced), and if needed, notes about the history and/or release of the games.  There are a slew of other music games out there, including a whole brand by the publisher of the series (Konami), so if any of them relate to a particular DDR game, I'll talk about them when the time comes.  I do have my own prejudices about some games here and there, but as always on this blog, I'll let you know they exist and then throw them out the window.

NB: By "core series", I am of course talking about the numbered arcade (and some console) releases.  However, partway through the series, they stopped numbering the games in the traditional sense, so it gets a little subjective around that time.  If I'm talking about a side game instead, don't worry, I'll let you know.

Arcade Series:
Console Exclusives

Spin-Offs / Etc.: