Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dance Dance Retrospective: Hottest Party

It's no secret... that is, secretly-held opinion... that the Dance Dance Revolution franchise got stuck in a rut by not presenting innovative mechanics often enough.  I for one place the turning point right around SuperNOVA.  But where the franchise floundered in the arcades and on the PlayStation 2, its star rose on a new platform: the Nintendo Wii.  In 2007, Konami produced a spin-off entry entitled Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party, and molded into the formula several welcome changes which instilled a renewed sense of fun even into jaded fans like myself.  In fact, it was so well-received that Konami saw fit to bestow upon us a total of five games bearing the Hottest Party nameplate (depending on which region you live in).  But were the games themselves anything to write home about?  Let's find out.

Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party (2007)

First off, anyone remember the last time Konami attempted to put a DDR game on a Nintendo console?  Yeah, DDR Mario Mix (GameCube, 2005).  You can go ahead and forget about that one.  Except the fact that the dance pads they made for that are also used by Hottest Party.  Unless you've got one of the newer models that left out the GameCube ports, in which case sorry, but there's kind of no way to play this.

Four players and Hand Markers.  (From Hottest Party.)
As for everyone else, you'll be pleased to know that Hottest Party uses the Wii's exclusive features to great effect.  You can play with the regular four-panel setup, or you can turn on optional Hand Markers, notes in which you must shake the Wii Remote or Nunchuck to catch.  In effect, this is the next evolution of the six-panel mode from the DDR Solo series, or more recently, the EyeToy-powered Hands and Feet mode from the PlayStation 2 games.  In addition, you can also turn on optional Gimmick notes, which do anything from expanding into more notes to penalizing you for hitting them.  And while a new roster of characters has replaced old standbys like Disco, Rage, and Emi, you can also use your Mii characters in-game.  Yeah, that isn't creepy at all, I said in sarcasm mode.

The music selection, on the other hand, might not fulfill the excitement you built up for yourself in reading the above paragraph.  Whilst they did licence a decent array of hit songs from recent and past eras, they're all covers done by some of Konami's in-house bands.  Their results are generally nothing to be proud of, although at least they tried reworking stuff like Janet Jackson and Nelly's "Call On Me" and JoJo's "Too Little Too Late" to be more danceable.  Strangely, not even Konami's own songs are immune, as franchise classics like "B4U" and "Break Down!!" also got the cover treatment, and call it a case of "They Changed It, Now It Sucks", but... they suck.  I mean, seriously, I know the lyrics don't really matter, but at least get them right!  At least the brand-new songs are halfway decent, primarily the ones coming from the usual suspects like Naoki, DJ Taka, and Jun.

I know I told you to forget about Mario Mix, but I'm bringing it up one more time to illustrate one more point.  Mario Mix was easy; the hardest charts in that game would be lucky to be classified as Standard-level charts in the main series.  Hottest Party does not have this problem; it utilizes the same scale of difficulty as the Max and SuperNOVA games.  If you see a chart ranked at level 10, they MEAN level 10.  Fittingly, Hottest Party introduces a new paradigm for the "boss" songs, which eventually got carried over to the rest of the series:
  • A fast Happy-Hardcore song with relatively straightforward charts, usually performed by Jun.  In Hottest Party it is "Super Samurai".
  • Something known as an "Evolved" song, having plenty of tempo changes and multiple randomly-chosen versions.  In Hottest Party it is "Tokyo Evolved" by Naoki Underground.
  • In addition, the Japanese version of Hottest Party boasts a third boss song, "Pluto the First" by White Wall.  As the title suggests, this is another remix of "Pluto" from SuperNOVA2, and has more in common with the original than "Pluto Relinquish".  This was eventually ported abroad in Hottest Party 3 / X2.
Even more (easier to define) Hand Markers.  (From Hottest Party 2.)
Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 2 (2008)

Also known as Dance Dance Revolution: Furu-furu Party in Japan.  Again, many of the licenced songs are covers, although they did get some original versions here and there.  The features and style are similar to the original, so you feel like giving the Hottest Party series a try, you could do well with either one or the other.  Preferably this one.  The new boss songs are:
  • "Silver Wing" by Jun.  The happy-hardcore song.
  • "Osaka Evolved" by Naoki Underground.  The Evolved song.
Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 3 (2009)

Also known as Dance Dance Revolution: Music Fit in Japan.  Unlike the previous two entries, all the licenced songs in HP3 are the original recordings, with an emphasis on top-40 hits form 2008  A tie-in with the PS2 game Dance Dance Revolution X2 (not to be confused with the arcade game of the same name); more on DDR HP3 will follow in the article for that game.

DanceDanceRevolution (2010)

Also known as Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 4 in Europe.  Added a Choreography Mode which used the Wii Balance Board and remotes, perhaps to compete with the likes of Ubisoft's Just Dance series.  A tie-in with the game of the same name for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360; more on DDR 2010 will follow in the article for those games.

DanceDanceRevolution II (2011)

Also known as Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 5 in Europe.  The final DDR title released for the Wii, DDR II eschewed the functions and modes brought on by the previous Wii-exclusive entries, in order to bring itself more in line with the arcade/PlayStation paradigm.  Fitting, as this was a tie-in with the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution X3 vs. 2ndMIX.  More on DDR II will follow in the article for that game.

So yeah, there's lots I didn't want to spoil before I spoke about some other games, for being too similar to them.  That only stands as a testament to how much the Hottest Party series was accepted by new and hardcore fans alike.  So now that I've got that out of the way, it's time to revisit the arcade series for a little anniversary party, next time on Dance Dance Retrospective.

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