Friday, December 31, 2010

Year In Review 2010: Release The Kraken!

If you remember from my deviantArt Journal, on New Year's Eve every year since I joined, I did some sort of recap of the previous year.  Blamethank VH1's I Love The series for my interest in zeitgeists.  But as evidenced by my 2009 recap, sometimes I can't get the creative juices flowing.  So this year, I thought a good place to start would be to analyze the recurring themes of the year's news and events.

Natural Disasters: All Justin Bieber jokes caught trespassing in this section will be shot on sight.  I don't like him either, but unlike you [insert expletive-filled rant I won't even bother to start to fill in] guys, I have priorities when it comes to what's newsworthy.  It's called professionalism.  GET IT.  But seriously, if you were to look only at the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the airplane-grounding volcanic eruption in Iceland, the oil well failure in the Gulf of Mexico, and the mine collapse again in Chile, you would think the news hour would be a bleak place.  But far be it from me categorize all the stories by one recurring pattern.  I'm just here to tell you about said patterns.  And you are welcome to pray for any and all victims at any time.

Heck Freezes Over: In the entertainment world, many of the impossibilities we consigned ourselves to over the past decade came true.  We got a good, or at least passable, video game movie out of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  Yeah, I know it's been done before (my shout-outs to Mortal Kombat, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and FFVII Advent Children), but think of the horrible success rate they're coming from.  More to the point, The Beatles' catalog was released on iTunes, Shantae got a sequel, and the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise got not one, but two good games for consoles: Sonic Colors and Sonic 4: Episode I.  The only thing that could make this better would be the release of Duke Nukem Forever, and while that sadly didn't happen, we did get the announcement that work was being moved to a developer who knew what they were doing.

Question Mark: This is more of a personal thing, but there are some items whose career I am very curious to see unfold.  Apple launched the iPad mid-year, which is basically the same cool **** that the iPod Touch and iPhone are... only bigger.  Being that and not quite a regular computer (wake me when you can run OS X), I personally think it's a waste, but far be it from me to force that opinion on you.  And then there's Justin Bieber...  Will he crash and burn fast, become more mature in his songwriting, or keep on keeping on?  I'd like to know, and while I won't be getting into his music anytime soon (unless it's run at 1/8th speed), I will say this: *why* is all his worst stuff his most popular?

Remakes: In the anime market, most of the big names were remakes or extentions of pre-existing series.  I'm talking about the series Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Dragon Ball Z Kai, and the Rebuild of Evangelion movies.  I'm also throwing Naruto Shippuden in there; even though it's a sequel, not a remake, of the old series, it got an English dub.  And since it moved from Cartoon Network to Disney XD (Disney!?), the former network is pretty much *done*.

Now let's run over all the stuff you shouldn't have missed.  Don't worry, it's never too late to catch up.

Best Movies: Toy Story 3, Inception, Despicable MeScott Pilgrim vs. The World, Tangled
Worst Movies: Alice In Wonderland, Shrek: The Final Chapter (just had to throw that in there ^v^), The Last Airbender, The Tourist
Best Video Games:  Angry Birds (iOS), Call of Duty: Black Ops (Multi), Sonic Colors (Wii, DS), GoldenEye (Wii)
Best Music Artists: Lady Gaga, B.o.B., Bruno Mars, Eminem

And finally, the themes which defined my personal life in 2010.

Not Quite Adulthood: I graduated college in May with flying colors, but then... nothing.  I've been trying to get a job since then, but with no luck.  Out of the dozens of applications I've sent over the past seven-plus months, you could count the number of interviews on your hands - even one finger, if you only consider in-person interviews with the employers themselves.  From what I understand, my family and I have been living reasonably well for the past few years, but now I can say the recession is finally catching up to me.  I can totally understand them having to choose carefully and look over someone like me who has little to no professional experience under his belt... so far.  I'm scheduled for one more interview around the start of the new year, though, so I'm throwing everything I've got at it.

The World: The upside of this year was well-suited to the geopolitics buff I have become.  I was able to travel the world on mutliple occasions throughout the calendar year.  After my sister stayed over in England with her school orchestra over the previous New Year, I responded by taking a class trip to Germany and a graduation vacation to Japan.  I shall have to share with you travel tips at some point.  And to top it all off, we all went to Disney World during Thanksgiving Week, giving us a chance to catch up on what we missed.  And for everything else, I hope the future will be kind enough to let me go on many more adventures - Lord knows how many itineraries I've been cooking up in my head.

Internet Reviewers: The Internet fad which defined this year for me would be Internet reviewers, like the fine folks of That Guy With The Glasses.  I started out with Atop The Fourth Wall and the Nostalgia Critic in late '09, and throughout the following year I explored the many other talking heads the site had to offer.  In fact, I got so into it that TGWTG was the inspiration for starting this website!  So I'd like to offer a dedication and thanks to you guys, and here's to a happy and productive 2011 and beyond!!

Decoding the Twilight Saga

I've discovered something about myself this past year: I'm what they call a devil's advocate.  What that means is that I like to argue for the sake of arguing; to counter public opinion.  More specifically, it's because I hate hearing the same jokes about controversial subjects, mainly because they distort the facts.  That president has an IQ in the 120s, that singer is 16 years old (at the time of this writing), and only the worst of those guys cut their wrists.  That's not to say I support or identify with those things, but somehow the opposition gets to me.  Although these were fads that came and went, one of them which is still going strong exemplifies this most of all: the Twilight Saga.  In fact, this time last year, I was involved in a small-scale flame war on the subject.  I don't want to talk about it anymore... let's just say no amount of Lumines or Half-Life 2 made me feel better at the time.  But since those on the other side were too dumb to see otherwise, allow me to state for the record:

I am not a fan of the Twilight Saga.

See?  Because of your bullheadedness, I have been forced to defile this entry with these disclaimers.  Nice job breaking it, hero.  This series has turned off some because of its popularity, but like others, I only started reading the books because they were popular (and, you know, for something to do).  I was never that interested in it, so when I did read it was casually, but by the end, I did it as a sort of rebellion.  Yeah, it's a real middle finger if you don't tell anyone about it, I said with sarcasm.  But unlike everyone else, I went into it with an open mind, which allowed me to pay attention to the themes and understand the purpose of the books.  That's why I'm here; to better explain what it is - and what it isn't.

I am not a fan.

And since you won't shut up about it, I'll get this out of the way first: I know the vampires in the Twilight Saga, sparkle, okay?  I'll discuss this later, but can we move on, please?  It's called professionalism.  GET IT.  But seriously, that's not what I think about when I think about the Twilight Saga.  You must understand that first and foremost, this is a romance novel series with supernatural elements.  It's basically just Romeo and Juliet with vampires and werewolves.  Even the romance isn't all that convincing, given all the times in which the boyfriend just shows up in the girlfriend's bedroom window as if he was stalking her.  Heck, I could write better romances than that - in fact, I would say I already have.  But what do I know?  The only other real romance novel I've read was The Spy Who Loved Me, and we all know how that turned out.  I blew a raspberry as I said that line out loud.

I am not a fan.

Perhaps the second biggest target for jokes, after the sparkle thing, is calling protagonist Bella Swan a Mary Sue.  After analyzing her character, I have to say that's not... entirely true.  She is, or at leasts starts out as, just an ordinary girl (Don't call her ordinary!).  She's from a middle-class family, clumsy, and hates gym class.  If there are any special qualities or skills about her, she certainly downplays them, especially since everything's told from her point of view (except a good chunk of Breaking Dawn).  It's true what they say: everyone's their own worst critic.  I think the goal of her character traits was to make her relatable to the female fanbase these stories were designed for.  Unfortunately, this applies to the author, too.  I am aware that her physical appearance, in terms of phenotypes, matches that of the author, Stephenie Meyer.  (At least Bella's actress in the movies, Kristen Stewart, did a good job of deflecting that relationship for a while.)

I am not a fan.

But if anyone's a Mary Sue, regardless of gender, it's our vampire boy Edward Cullen.  His family's filthy stinkin' rich with little to no explanation as to their wealth, is skilled in everything he does, seems to have a code of ethics (he and his family only draw blood from animals, never humans), and you better believe his physical traits are described in a way which casts him as the ideal for a master race.  Key points here include his skin, which is a marble-like pale under normal circumstances, his golden/amber eyes (You wish it meant that...), the color brought on by animal blood, and his voice, which somehow has a singing, bell-like quality to it even when he's only talking.  Yeah, I never even tried to imagine that, and I will even argue that last one bothered me more than his sparkles, which would also be an extention of Meyer's obsession with portraying him as beyond perfect.  And you don't have to take my word for it.

I am not a fan.

Symbolism is rampant in the Twilight Saga, enough to keep Film Brain going for weeks.  One of the themes brought on early is the one about the lion and the lamb: the lamb being the perfectly ordinary Bella, and the lion being Edward, who constantly lives in fear of his vampire instincts forcing him to attack Bella.  He melodramaticizes this fact so much that it becomes a plot point in the second book, New Moon.  Another one is fire and ice.  Think about the real thing: the fire melts the ice, and the melted water douses the fire, so somehow there's danger involved for both parties.  Coincidentally, the vampires have cold body temperatures and the not-werewolves are hot-bodied (in more ways than one, fangirls).  Bella and Edward also like comparing themselves to the famous lovers of Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights.  Never mind the fact that they never bring up the ending of R&J - I don't think it deserves to be marked as a spoiler anymore - but I can't speak for Heights, apart from the semaphore version in Monty Python's Flying Circus.  Look that one up, I guess.  And in a metaphor already commonly seen outside of this series, they seem to use transforming Bella into a vampire as a stand-in for losing her virginity.  Bet you felt silly for thinking that after having read Breaking Dawn, where they did both.
I am not a fan.

At the time of the aforementioned flame war, the biggest thing I was upset about was that everyone would just talk about how the vampires sparkle and never mention any of their other superpowers.  For one, they're super strong, super fast, and nigh invincible, so if you tried teasing them like that they could rip your balls out.  Or your girl balls - however you choose to interpret that, that's gotta hurt.  They can't transform into bats, but they're immune to stakes, garlic, and holy water (not that they're ever tried), and I assume you could see them in a mirror.  Not even sunlight stops them - in fact, they only sparkle when their pale skin is touched by direct sunlight.  There's a reason I bold-faced that: no one seems to care about that, because everyone portrays them as sparkling constantly.  Plus, some have unique gifts, like one-way telepathy in several cases.  In retrospect, all these special abilities make the characters come off as, again, Mary Sues.  And even though I completely ignored this fact while reading the first book, I do agree that having the vampires sparkle was one of the worst non-political decisions ever made, and I would like to know what Stephenie Meyer was smokingdreaming.  But is it really enough to justify saying it's all they ever do?  Is it really enough, combined with the more... valid flaws, to justify calling it the work of the Antichrist?  No, not to that extreme.  I blame the Internet communities who never give anything a fair say these days.

So fuck you Internet, I quit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Film Review: Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Publisher: Paramount
  • Studio: Lucasfilm
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Release: 28 May 1984
  • Genre: Action, Adventure

There are some superstitions fans use to determine which things in some series are any good.  For the Star Trek movies, it's whether or not the digits of the installment number add up to an even sum.  With the Mobile Suit Gundam video games, it's whether the letter Z is in the title.  And in the Indiana Jones film series, it's whether or not the main villains are Nazis.  The second film in the franchise, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, does not put the man up against Nazis, but rather an Indian religious cult.  But far be it from me to treat these superstitions as the reason as to whether something is bad, or a rule for something being bad in the first place.  This is the first feature film review I've reviewed on this blog; the format will be a plot recap with critical comments here and there.  Spoilers will be marked, but read with care in case I miss something.

The setting for this movie starts out in Shanghai, China in 1935.  The opening credits play over a musical number performed for the patrons of a nightclub, including Dr. Henry Jones Jr. himself.  Turns out the song, "Anything Goes", was written in the real world in 1934, and translated to the undefined Chinese dialect for the movie - way cool.  Indiana's business for being here involves making a trade with Lao Che, some crooked crime boss.  Don't worry too much about him; we won't so much as hear about him after the first few scenes.  But after completing the trade, he succeeds in poisoning the man.  The magnificent monster then makes another offer with Jones: the diamond he was just given in exchange for an antidote for the poison.  A bout of chaos ensues, drawn out because the crowd gets scared and start kicking the antidote and diamond about, but Indy steals the antidote and the show's lead singer, a girl called Willie Scott, and makes his getaway in a car driven by Short Round, an eleven-year old Chinese boy.  Did they *have* drivers' licenses in pre-communist China, or are we not supposed to care?  Oh, and the name of the place is "Club Obi Wan".  I can't decide whether I find that clever or corny.

I suppose now would be a good time to get to know our new supporting cast.  Harrison Ford returns as Jones, no problems there.  No, the problems lie with Willie (Kate Capshaw) and Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan).  Willie spends nine tenths of her time on-screen screaming in the face of danger, and the other tenth developing a wildly vacillating love-hate relationship with Indy.  Short Round, despite being more helpful, is somehow no less annoying.  And bear in mind I never had a problem with Jar Jar Binks.  Think about that.

So Jones and his two friends escape on a plane... owned by Lao Che.  Before the plane crashes, they are forced to bail out by - get this - falling out on a life raft onto the snow of the Himalayan mountains.  I have no idea if that's possible, nor do I think it would be a good idea to test it (unless you're the Mythbusters.  P.S. Please get on that, Mythbusters.).  But get this - this movie hasn't yet jumped the shark.  Think about that.

But the real plot begins when an old man leads them to a village in India and tells them about the children and sacred stone stolen from them.  They all go on an expedition to the Pankot Palace, with all the animals of the jungle creeping Willie out.  When they get to the palace, they are greeted by the kid Maharajah and his prime minister, who provide them with a feast of creepy crawlies.  Despite the warm reception, the meal grosses out Willie, Short Round, and everyone in the audience.  It's stereotypes like that which gave this film a bad rap with the nation of India, who demanded final cut privileges and forced production to move to the nearby island nation of Sri Lanka.  And this movie still hasn't jumped the shark!

Back to the plot.  Although Indy is unable to get any leads about the village's troubles from the hosts, an assassination attempt has him exploring his and Willie's bedrooms for a secret passage.  On their way, they avoid getting crushed by a spiked ceiling - accidentally triggered by Short Round - and discover the eponymous temple of doom.  They walk in on a ceremony where a devotee is locked in a cage, gets his heart pulled out of his chest by the head priest, Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), and - still alive - is lowered into a fire pit as a willing sacrifice.  This is no simple pool of lava, folks, it looks like a portal to Heck down there.  Somehow, the crudeness of the special effects only serve to make this scene scarier.  And this, my friends, is where the movie jumps the shark.  In lighter news, Mola Ram is the only one of the Thuggees who speaks Hindi.  Since production was moved to Sri Lanka, his mooks all speak the local Ceylonese.

In the aftermath of the ritual, Indy gets caught trying to steal back the stones.  He gets force-fed a potion which traps him in the suggestible state "Black Sleep of Kali Ma" and starts conducting another ritual, this time with Willie as the sacrifice.  Meanwhile, Short Round is sent to work with the imprisoned children in the mines, where according to Indy two more sacred stones are assumed to be, but he escapes and wakes up Indy by thrusting a torch at his chest.  And *how* did he know about that?  Was it just a lucky break, did he do it without knowing he would free Indy's mind, or did he overhear it?  No, not that I recall; it just comes out of *nowhere*, without any explanation!  And Willie's screaming throughout the whole ordeal only makes things worse.

With that shizzle out of the way, Indy steals the three sacred stones and starts freeing the child slaves.  But he is double-teamed by a tough-as-iron guard and the Maharajah, under the Black Sleep of Kali Ma and armed with a voodoo doll.  Yeah, I don't think they had those in India, but the ritual from before took inspirations from other cults around the world, so what do I know?  Indy is unable to fight because of all the intermittent pain from his voodoo stabbings, but Short Round takes another torch and wakes up the Maharajah, letting Indy finish the job and escape with his friends by mine cart.  You know, I grew up after this movie came out, so I've been exposed to a great deal of mine cart chases.  It's weird to see this sort of thing as it became a cliche and then see the one that started it all.  It's like songs written by Jimi Hendrix or the Beatles.

Back to the plot, the mine chase scene ends when the brake lever breaks and Indy stops the cart by pressing his feet on the wheels.  Yeah, it's another Mythbusters moment, but as far as I'm concerned, the movie already jumped the shark, so what do I care?  But the tunnels are flooding with water, forcing Indy and his friends to escape onto the cliffs outside.  There's a pretty funny scene which plays out like the one in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where a mook shows off with a sword and Indy shoots him in response, except he doesn't have a gun!  You don't suppose he was thinking of the gun he dropped during the car chase back in Shanghai?  Nah, that would be giving us way too much credit.

But before we can leave, we have one more future cliche where our heroes are trapped on a rope bridge.  Given a choice between giving himself or the sacred stones up, he chooses instead to hang on and cut the bridge.  Again, show me something I won't see before.  With half of the bridge hanging along the cliffside, Mola Ram climbs down and tries to steal one of the stones.  But Indy stops him by - get this - chanting a spell which makes the stone glow hot and burn Ram's hand, making him fall down to the crocodiles below!  How did he learn this spell, and how did he know what it would do?  Was it something the old man in the village said?  I don't know, but even if this were true, you can't count us to remember something that seemed so trivial at the time!  And if not, EXPLAIN!!!  Well, what's important is he returned the children and stone to the village, and got the girl.  And that's the end.  You are now free to turn off your TV.

So, does the lack of Nazis cripple this movie?  No, but it is plagued with other problems, from the meaningless first act, to the lack of explanations for certain plot points, to some downright annoying supporting characters.  Given these faults and some scenes that are just too scary to watch again, I personally hate this moveie more than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Just stick to playing this movie in the Lego Indiana Jones games.

Writing: 2 whips out of 5
Acting: 1 whip out of 5
Technical: 3 whips out of 5
The Call: 50% (D)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dance Dance Retrospective: Solo Series

There are many, many DDR games released that aren't part of what I consider to be the core series, which is mostly games done by the arcade DDR team.  Some of these other games tried to do things differently, and some of these changes lasted while others didn't.  But none of these changes were nearly as drastic as adding two more foot panels to the standard four-arrow play area - and that's exactly what the DDR Solo mini-series did.

There were four games released for the Solo series: Solo Bass Mix (August 1999), Solo 2000 (December 1999), Solo 4thMIX (August 2000), and Solo 4thMIX Plus (December 2000).  As the name suggests, only one person can play on each cabinet at a time instead of two, however it is possible for multiple machines of the same game to be linked.  Down on the floor, the play area is arranged with panels on the upper-left and upper-right spaces in addition to the existing up, right, down, and left panels.
A DDR Solo 2000 cabinet.  Note the two corner panels.
Solo Bass Mix starts off with a mode select screen; the choices are Beginner, Expert (the standard mode), and Nonstop Megamix.  In this last selection, you get to play one of several medleys of songs mixed into one giant, three-minute track.  Unlike the nonstop courses in 3rdMIX on, there are absolutely no breaks in-between individual songs; the transitions are seamless, like what DJs do in real-world dance clubs.  Given the length of the nonstop songs, you can only play one of them for a single credit.

Solo 2000 does things differently.  Instead of selecting a mode when you start, you choose from one of three pad styles: 3-panel (UL, D, UR), 4-panel, or 6-panel.  From there, you go to the music selection screen.  Since you can choose from normal songs and megamixes from the same list, Solo 2000 represents the number of songs you have left with in-game coins (usually 3).  Regular songs cost 1 coin whereas megamixes cost 2.  Unlike Solo Bass Mix, you can also switch difficulties at will on this screen, by pressing Up or Down three times (in Solo Bass Mix, as in 2ndMIX, you had to do this at the mode select screen).

Solo 4thMIX and 4thMIX Plus are nearly identical to their 2-player counterparts, except for the obvious fact that they use the solo cabinet style.  This means the (giant) songlist and UI are the same, with new 6-panel charts available for all the songs.  However, the 3-panel mode and megamixes from Solo 2000 are gone, since they're not part of the original 4thMIX.  For more information, check out my coverage on 4thMIX, coming soon.  On the other hand, Bass Mix and 2000 both have quite distinct UIs.  There are no dancing characters, and the arrows have been re-drawn for both games, having more rounded edges than their predecessors.  Solo 2000, 4thMIX, and 4thMIX Plus also colored the arrows according to timing (gold for quarter notes, blue for eigths, and purple for anything more precise).  Since it helps players in deciphering toucher charts, this feature was introduced to the core series as the "Solo" and later "Rainbow" modifier.  Another feature of Solo 2000 that was later reused was the option to change the speed of the arrows, making them fly up the screen at double or half the normal rate.

The soundtrack of Solo Bass Mix consists of 16 normal songs and 6 megamixes.  The licenses, all taken from the Dancemania Bass CD series, are heavy in the hip-hop and Miami bass genres, as are some of the Konami originals.  More eclectic in terms of genres, Solo 2000 adds 20 songs and 3 megamixes to that lineup, for a grand total of 45 songs.  Notable songs from both games include:
  • "Drop Out" by NW260, from Solo 2000.  This song set a new speed record which would not be beaten for over two years: a whopping 260 beats per minute!  However, it has led to a rift between fans who discuss whether or not songs like these would be more comfortable with or without their tempo doubled like it is here.
  • "Hysteria" by Naoki 190, from Solo Bass Mix.  A fast rap song composed by Naoki Maeda.  Charts like 6-panel Maniac on this song are unique in that they break one of the rules of standard DDR.  You know how you never see more than two arrows on the same beat at a time?  Well, at the end of this chart, there's a jump where you have to hit four panels at once.  Given the layout (L, UL, LR, R), however, it's easy to do this by having each foot cover two panels.
  • "Wild Rush" by Factor X, from Solo 2000.  This song consists of six distinct segments, each with a different genre and rising in tempo from 80 to 180 beats per minute, so it's like six songs in one!
All of the DDR Solo games are relatively rare; I've never seen one in person, and it doesn't help that there was no direct home port of Bass Mix or 2000.  The good news is that there was a PlayStation game, called Dance Dance Revolution Extra Mix (June 2001, Japan only), which combined all the new songs from Bass Mix, 2000 (excluding megamixes), and 4thMIX Plus.  Using a re-colored 4thMIX UI, players could play these 50 songs in Single, Versus, Double, or 6-Panel modes.  The 6-Panel mode was also incorporated into the home version of 4thMIX and its international counterparts.  Learn more about these amazing games on the next episode of Dance Dance Retrospective!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dance Dance Retrospective: 3rdMIX

Riker, motherhumper.  Just like that thing from Star Trek: The Next Generation, this is the point where the Dance Dance Revolution franchise started to get really good.  What I mean by this is that 3rdMIX introduced numerous concepts that many players took for granted ever since.  I'm talking about things like being able to select your own difficulty and characters, and arrows that are colored differently according to timing.

This game was first released for Japan on October 30th, 1999, with a PlayStation port following on June 1st, 2000.  The interface is still similar to 1st and 2ndMIX, but with even more welcome changes.  When you first start up, you get to choose your own character out of four choices (male characters for player 1 and females for player 2).  Then you choose your mode, but the choices are different this time around.  The traditional mode is called Medium, where you can choose between the Basic and Another levels at will during music selection by pressing Up or Down twice.  The Soft mode is different from  the Easy mode in 1st and 2ndMIX, since you play on simplified charts that are easier even than the Basic difficulty.  Finally, in place of a Hard mode, there is the brand-new Nonstop mode.  Here you have to play four songs from one of several pre-set playlists in a row, without breaks in-between the songs, while groove gauge carries over from stage to stage.

Change your difficulty any time at will! (From NA PSX release)
The color patterns in-game arrows have changed this time around.  They still cycle through colors in a rainbow fashion, but now off-beat notes (8th, 12th, and 16th) appear different from the basic quarter notes, whereas in the past all the notes went through the same pattern and were harder to tell apart.  In truth, this feature, called Vivid, did debut in the 2ndMIX Club Versions, but now you can switch back to the old color scheme, called Flat, with a panel code.  Other new modifiers are variations on Hidden from 2ndMIX: Sudden hides the arrows until they reach mid-way up the screen, giving you less time to react, and Stealth makes the arrows disappear altogether, forcing you to memorize the sequence just to survive.  The maximum difficulty was bumped up from 8 feet to 9, which again was first done in the 2ndMIX Club Versions.  In another nice feature, lyrics appear on-screen during gameplay, fading in and out like in karaoke, that other great Japanese institution.  Sadly this feature was never re-used outside of European home games and the ultra-rare DDR Karaoke Mix.

There are a total of 35 new songs in this game; in fact, they're the only songs you can choose from normally, but there is a way to play the songs from 1st and 2ndMIX instead.  After inserting your coin(s), you can enter a code with the yellow menu buttons (Left, Left, Right, Right) to switch to 2ndMIX Mode.  There is also a different code (Left, Left, Left, Right, Right, Right, Left, Right) which unlocks Step Step Revolution, where you play the songs from 3rdMIX on the Maniac difficulty (now titled SSR) only.  Also note that in SSR mode, the Flat arrow colors are used by default, and you will need a code to switch to Vivid instead.

Some of the notable new songs in this game include:
  • "Captain Jack (Grandale Remix)" by Captain Jack.  Completely unrelated to the Pirates of the Carribean character, the Captain Jack was a dance-music duo headed by Franky Gee, who served for the United States Army in Germany before switching to a musical career.  Much of their music appears on the Dancemania CD series, so it's only natural that Captain Jack was one of the most prolific non-Konami bands to appear in DDR.  "Captain Jack" was their first single released in 1995; the version seen here is a speed rave remix of the song, and has some very fast and chaotic patterns on Maniac.  Franky Gee died in October 2005 of a brain hemorrhage, and not much of the band's music was used in DDR since.
  • "Dynamite Rave" by Naoki.  A Euro-rave song in the style of last game's "Brilliant 2U", "Dynamite Rave" has become one of the signature songs of DDR.  At a brisk 150 beats per minute, the many jumps on Basic and 16th note trills on Maniac provide an intense workout.
  • "Afronova" by Re-Venge.  Another song composed and performed by Naoki Maeda.  This song is very African-tribal influenced, hence the name, and at 200 beats per minute was one of DDR's fastest songs at the time.  This song is best known for its rapid-fire step patterns on Maniac, which at one point forces the player to face his or her body off to one side and twist to the other.
  • "Drop the Bomb" by Scotty D.  First appearing in the home version and 3rdMIX Plus (see below), this is a high-energy rap song with some surprisingly heavy lyrics for a dance game.  The artist is none other than Scott Dolph, who you may remember had a character named after him in Metal Gear Solid 2.
Karaoke-style lyrics are a rare feature for the series.
Since it was so fine-tuned, the 3rdMIX engine was used for many DDR games released over the next few years.  Counting international and home versions, 3rdMIX has the most releases based on it out of all the games in the series.
  • Arcade games:
    • The original 3rdMIX for Japan.
    • Two versions of 3rdMIX for South Korea.  Both games licensed then-recent K-Pop songs in order to buck the image that the franchised focused more on old material.  Only the new songs from the first version carried over to later Japanese releases.
    • An English-language version of 3rdMIX for east Asia, excluding Japan and Korea.  Despite being 100% in English, there are no new songs, and a couple of existing songs were even cut for some reason.
    • 3rdMIX Plus, and upgraded re-release for Japan in June 2000.  Added 14 new songs and the ability to select the Maniac difficulty outside of SSR.
    • Dancing Stage Euromix, for Europe in October 1999.  The songlist was a collection of licenses from 1st and 2ndMIX, licenses and originals from 3rdMIX, and some new licensed songs like "I Will Survive", "Video Killed the Radio Star", and "Word Up".  The difficulty names were changed to Standard, Difficult, and Expert for some reason.
    • Dance Dance Revolution USA, for North America in May 2000.  The songlist was similar to Euromix, but without the exclusive songs.
  • Home games, all released for PlayStation in their respective markets:
    • 3rdMIX for Japan.  In addition to 3rdMIX and SSR, the home port added the "3rdReMIX" mode where you could choose from Basic, Another, and Maniac in the same game.  Also the debut of Diet Mode, better known in the West as Workout Mode.  Here the game tracks the calories burned during gameplay, and keeps you playing until you reached a time or calorie goal if you so choose.
    • Dance Dance Revolution Best Hits, for Japan in 2000.  No new content, just songs from 1st through 3rdMIX.  One new feature (I'm not exactly sure where it first appeared) is in Soft/Beginner mode, where the in-game characters play the steps on a dance pad.
    • Dance Dance Revolution, for North America in March-May 2001.  Just like Best Hits, no new content, just a different sampling from 1st-3rdMIX.
    • Dancing Stage Euromix, for Europe in September 2001.  None of the non-exclusive licenses were brought back for the home version, but some originals from 1st and 2ndMIX were brought back to make up for it.
As successful as this interface format was, the next core series game would get rid of it in favor of a radical makeover.  But before we find out how much has or hasn't changed, there's one interesting detour we must take... the DDR Solo mini-series.