Monday, July 23, 2012

Dance Dance Retrospective: Extreme 2

By 2005, whichever sub-division of Konami was handling the North American and European DDR series, had all but caught up with the arcade titles.  This meant that instead of piggybacking off an existing release, they more or less had to create one from scratch.  And that necessity led to what I consider to be my favourite Dance Dance Revolution game of all time: Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 (PlayStation 2, 27 September 2005).  It had it all: Brand-new songs from Konami-original artists famous from the arcade games, revivals from Extreme, Ultramix, the classic era, and more - and that's just the songlist.  The game also added a new interface tailor-made for the home console scene, a new single-player campaign, a modified graphics engine with new background videos a la Ultramix 2, and online play (which has since been disabled).
The music wheel and Groove Radar are back.
Expanding upon Mission Mode from Extreme 2004, The Dance Master Mode is the new single-player campaign which takes the player through a vast web of challenges.  Like Mission Mode, some of these add modifiers and some have specific objectives, but this time around there is a greater emphasis on playing full songs instead of just sections.  Or, if you just want to play songs at will without any responsibilities other thn keeping your Groove Gauge up, there's always the Free Play mode, which marks the return of the Music Wheel format and the Groove Radar to the blue-dominated UI.  But to unlock new songs and other content, you can't just clear songs like you did in the previous titles.  First, you earn Dance Points, which are used as currency for an in-game shop, by playing songs in Dance Master or Free Play modes.  Strangely, you also have to accomplish certain requirements in order for items to become available, primarily by playing through Dance Master Mode.  The only reason this would make sense is so beginners wouldn't save up for the boss songs straight away.  Seriously, go with one method of unlocking content or the other; don't inflict both upon us!
A new graphics engine loses the cel-shading on the characters, but adds new video backgrounds.
Among the other unlockables are Endless, Combo Challenge, and Survival modes.  The latter two are basically Endless with a limit of one or four lives, respectively.  You may be able to rack up Dance Points faster through these modes, if you can survive long enough.  EyeToy support has also returned from Extreme 2004, however only the Watch Me Dance and Hands & Feet modes have carried over.  That's a shame, because I will admit (and have done so, in fact) that those other minigames were quite fun.  And then there's the online multiplayer, a first for the series on the PlayStation 2.  Unfortunately, as this required a sold-separately network adapter, I did not take part in it, and now it's too late: online support for this game was shut down in September 2006, just as the game's sequel came on the market.

At 74 songs, Extreme 2 has more tracks than any of the American DDR home games that came before it (but still short of the Japanese Extreme, which boasted over a hundred songs). Notable songs include:
  • "In the Heat of the Night" by E-Rotic.  A revival from 4thMIX, this is notably the only song from this German dance-pop band to appear in an American DDR title.  They've had numerous songs used from 3rdMIX to 5thMIX, however their overtly sexual lyrics may not have been in the right taste for American audiences.  To be fair, this is one of their least suggestive songs, but it was enough for this to be the first DDR game to get an E10+ rating from the ESRB (the classification was just created earlier in 2005).
  • "Injection of Love (Hina Mix)" by Akira Yamaoka.  A dark techno song which uses 12-beat rhythms.  The interesting thing is that the North American and European versions of the game use an instrumental version of the song, while the Japanese version adds English lyrics to the song - and fairly sexual lyrics, at that.  Fun Fact: There's also a Japanese version of the song, with vocals by Sana Shintani, which crossed over to one of the beatmania IIDX games.
  • "Passion of Love" by Naoki & Paula Terry.  I don't know about you, but it was a glorious moment hearing these two together again - but little did I know it would be their last work together.  The Australian singer also appears in "Maria (I Believe)", a transplant from beatmania IIDX 9th Style.
  • "Polovtsian Dances and Chorus" by Naoto Suzuki feat. Martha Matsuda.  A trance arrangement of an 1890 composition by Aleksander Borodin, as used in Konami's PS2 game The Sword of Etheria.  Interestingly, this is one of only two songs to have a dedicated music video in-game, the other being "Get Busy" by Sean Paul.
  • As in the 2004 Extreme, some of this game's licenced songs are covers of tracks that have appeared in the Karaoke Revolution series.  But while some of them are direct re-creations ("Crazy In Love" and "Play That Funky Music"), some of them have been remixed into other genres ("Genie In A Bottle", "I Will Survive", "Oops! I Did It Again").  The trance remake of Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle" is my favourite.
  • Revivals from Ultramix include "Absolute (Cuff-n-Stuff It Mix)" and "INSERTiON (Machine Gun Kelly Mix)" by Thuggie D., "Infinite Prayer" by L.E.D. Light feat. Goro, "Quickening" by DJ Taka, and "Sana Mollete Ne Ente (B.L.T. Style)" by Togo Project feat. Sana.
  • The boss songs are "PARANOiA Survivor" and "PARANOiA Survivor MAX", revivals from the 2002 Extreme.  Yes, the latter's Challenge chart is present, but thankfully you are never required to play it in Dance Master Mode.
  • Amazingly, there are only six songs revived from American home versions: "Brilliant2U", "Dynamite Rave", and "PARANOiA" from DDR, "Afronova Primeval" and "Dive" from Konamix, and "Look to the Sky (True Colors Mix)" from MAX.  And for the most part, they're popular classics, at that.
Once again, North America was the first region to get some edition of this game, but it was follwed up in Europe by Dancing Stage Max (25 November 2005), and in Japan by Dance Dance Revolution STR!KE (16 February 2006).  You may wonder to yourself what kind of a name is "STR!KE", espcially since they stylised it with an exclamation point.  But in my eyes it makes sense, and here's my proof:  I recognise this as the 10th title in the Dance Dance Revolution canon, with the 2002 Extreme as the 8th and the 2004 Extreme/Festival/Fusion as the 9th.  Yep, even though there was no arcade port made of Extreme 2 in any region (even Dancing Stage Fusion had an arcade port in Europe), it made enough contributions the series as a whole, in terms of music and otherwise, that I have decided to recognise it as part of the core series.

Speaking of which, the core series is about to welcome its first new arcade game in almost four years, but before we do so, let's take a look at the challengers to Dance Dance Revolution's throne, next time on Dance Dance Retrospective!

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