Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dance Dance Retrospective: SuperNOVA 2

After SuperNOVA, Konami kept the ball rolling with the arcade release of Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA 2, for Japan on 22 August 2007 and North America on 17 January 2008.  (Europe was left out, due to EU sanctions preventing the import of the PlayStation 2 hardware on which the game was based.)  As per the name, SuperNOVA 2 keeps most of the features from its predecessor, including the Tutorial, Battle, Nonstop, and Challenge Modes.  As such, I had by this point in time noticed the lack of innovation this series had to offer, and the game left me with a lukewarm opinion at best.  However, this game offers a couple of neat points if you do the research.

Sometimes, character graphics flash on-screen with good performance.  (Europe PS2 version)
First off, we have the inclusion of the e-Amusement system which Konami had used in its other Bemani arcade games over the past couple of years.  Basically, it combines stat tracking and internet ranking.  The player gets a card which stores data on calories burned, performance trends, and "Enjoy Points", which serve to unlock songs and features.  Machines connected to the Internet can also compare the player's scores with those from players around the world.  While DDR first got e-Amuse support with the Japanese version of SuperNOVA, Konami tried to put it out to the rest of the world for SuperNOVA 2.  But there was one problem: apparently, setting up a DDR machine to use e-Amuse requires a hardware upgrade, and a US$50/month subscription fee, presumably for the online functionality.  So, it never caught on abroad.  (The only known DDR machine to use e-Amuse outside of Asia can be found in Naperville, Illinois, where they held a location test for SuperNOVA 2.)  And that's where trouble started: since the game was designed to use e-Amuse to control song unlocks, there was no work-around to access the hidden content, at least until Konami released a series of unlock codes from their website.  This also meant that the ability to save local high scores, which was one of my favourite parts of the arcade SuperNOVA, was taken out.

I'd like to jump back into the Pump It Up! series for a moment here.  Around the time of the SuperNOVA games, Andamiro was adding campaign modes to their arcade PIU titles, starting with World Tour from 2005's Zero, and hitting their stride with WorldMax from 2008's NX2.  WorldMax mode presented players with challenges laid out in a map format, like Dance Master Mode from DDR Extreme 2.  Each credit paid would let the player play three stages, depending on the machine's settings, regardless of whether the player won or failed each mission.  Given the massive scale of the mode, progress could be saved onto USB devices.  Now, this would be the ideal alternative to how Konami forced e-Amuse upon us.  On the consumer's side, USB is a widely-used format, as opposed to a proprietary card which players would have to buy for one purpose.  And while the operator would have to buy the USB drive directly from Andamiro, or buy a new machine with one built-in, there's no mucking about with subscription fees and all that jazz.  So, in conclusion...  KONAMI!!  Y U NO USE USB UNLOCKS!?

*ahem* Moving on.  Whereas the Marvelous timing mark had previously been relegated to Challenge Mode, since its introduction in Extreme, this time around it was introduced into the rest of the game.  As such, the scoring system has been changed once again.  The maximum possible score is now 1 million points for all Marvelous marks, while all Perfects or better is good for at least 999,000.  For whatever reason, the AAA grade, previously reserved for a full Perfect combo, is awarded for a score over 990,000, so you can still get a AAA with at least one lower mark on most charts, but the game still keeps track of full combos and Perfect-full combos separately.  Apart from that, there's nothing else that sets SuperNOVA 2 apart from the previous game.  Oh, except the music.  Notable songs include:
  • "Angelus" by Hitomi Shimatani.  A latin/house-flavoured J-pop song.  This song was also used as the opening for season 6 of Inuyasha.
  • "Arrabiatta" by RevenG Kai.  A cyber-Arabian song and crossover from Pop'n Music 10.  The Expert chart is only level 9, but it's very hard and draining, given its tempo of 225 BPM.  Among the not-quite-10-footers, it's worse than "Healing Vision (Angelic Mix)" in that regard.
  • "Music In The Rhythm" by nc feat. Electric Touch.  An electro-rock song with a fun beat and charts, and pauses throughout the track.  One of my favourite songs from SN2.
  • "My Favorite Things" by Sloth Music Project feat. Alison Wade.  Seriously?  They remade a showtune from The Sound of Music!?
  • "Trust -DanceDanceRevolution Mix-" by Tatsh feat. Yoko.  A tie-in with the anime Gurren Lagann.
  • "Unreal" by Black Rose Garden.  This rock song only shows up as the final stage until it is unlocked proper.  The charts are full of jumps; even I have trouble passing the level-9 Expert chart.
The new round of boss songs:
  • "NGO" by Keiichi Nabeshima.  A guitar-driven rock song with lots of irregular step patterns.
  • "PARANOiA Hades" by α-Type 300.  This new remix of PARANOiA has more in common with "MAX300".  And a really scary background video.  Fun fact: This remix was composed by Junko Karashima, a.k.a. "Jun", a Bemani artist who is better known for much brighter happy-hardcore fare.  So, this is a serious case of mood whiplash we've got on our hands! ^_^
  • "Pluto" by Black∞Hole.  A piano-techno song with lots of tempo changes and pauses.
  • "Pluto Relinquish" by 2MB, a remix of "Pluto".  This song set a new speed record for the DDR franchise: some brief passages run at quadruple-speed of 800 BPM.
There's also another set of unlockable songs called the "Groove Radar Specials".  These are new charts for old songs, which emphasise one or more of the Groove Radar elements (offbeat steps, jumps, Freeze Arrows, etc.).  They are pretty self-explanatory, and are as follows:
  • "AM-3P (Chaos Special)" by kTZ (from 2ndMIX)
  • "B4U (Voltage Special)" by Naoki (from 4thMIX)
  • "Brilliant 2U (Stream Special)" by Naoki (from 2ndMIX)
  • "D2R (Freeze Special)" by Naoki (from MAX2)
  • "Dynamite Rave (Air Special)" by Naoki
  • "Dead End (Groove Radar Special)" by N&S (from 3rdMIX).  This one has all five ratings maxed out, plus tempo changes that weren't in the original charts, and as such this chart is one of the hardest in the entire franchise.  Have fun.
Modules can change your score in
Hyper Master Mode. (PS2 version)
The PlayStation 2 version of SuperNOVA2 was released for North America and Europe on 25 September 2007, and Japan on 21 February 2008.  The new single-player mode in this game is called Hyper Master Mode.  It's just a series of levels, each with a series of missions, but oddly, you only need to clear the last mission in each level to move on.  But Hyper Master Mode does mix it up through the use of Modules, which are essentially modifiers that you can buy in-game and use in the missions.  Some are helpful, and some add to the challenge and the "Hyper Score" you can earn on top of your regular score.  This is a nice idea, and I do wish it was better implemented, since both the Module system and Hyper Master Mode on the whole have plenty of potential.  But because the core gameplay has remained stagnant since 2001, my interest in the series began to wane by this point.  Perhaps some spin-off series could spice things up?  Find out next time, on Dance Dance Retrospective!

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