Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dance Dance Retrospective: DDR 2010

Previously on Dance Dance Retrospective, there were DDR X2 for the PlayStation 2, and DDR Hottest Party 3 for the Wii. I thought little of them at the time, and still do, but their announcement earlier in 2009 came with promises of more advanced titles for the PS3 and XBox 360. Those, of course, never came to be... at least that year. But the following year, the seventh-generation consoles were finally (not including the Universe trilogy for XBox 360) graced with Dance Dance Revolution games to call their own: the simply-titled DanceDanceRevolution, which released first for the PS3 and Wii, with an XBox 360 port following shortly after.

And it sucked.


I assume. Yeah, as with the previous entries, I've yet to play this one, because it's not doing a heck of a whole lot to interest me. First of all, let's start with the title: no number, no subtitle, just "DanceDanceRevolution". I'd like to state for the record that I hate when people recycle a title with little to no changes when making a sequel to some form of media. I hate this practise so much that I might even write a top-ten list on the subject. To be fair, it is just one word in CamelCaps this time around, unlike the 1998 arcade game, its home port for Japan, and the 2001 home game which used a somewhat different engine. And yes, I guess they did it to ring in a new console generation... Oh wait, there was the DDR Universe series! ...Oh wait, that was an XBox 360 exclusive. Never mind. Meanwhile, over in Europe, the game was blessed with the subtitle "New Moves" on the PS3 and 360, and "Hottest Party 4" on the Wii. And I'm like, why couldn't you have done that over here!? *sigh* As it stands, I shall collectively refer to the new games as DDR 2010.

So enough about the title, what's the game itself like? Well, speaking at least for the "New Moves" versions, the interface colour scheme is dominated by reds and blacks, and the music-select screen brigns back the 5thMIX-through-SuperNOVA2 "music wheel" layout. Oh, and the rating scale is once again brought back to the old 1-to-10 standard. But not well, mind you. For example, the Basic chart for "Let's Get Away" is ranked a 4, but it's really more like a 2, 3 tops. After playing second-banana to the Guitar Hero / Rock Band duumvirate for some years, DDR 2010 attempts to incorporate some features from those games. "Groove Chains", or short sequences of notes that offer bonus points when completed without error, and "Groove Trigger", which you can activate at full health to get bonus points, both borrow elements of the Star Power/Overdrive systems from those rival games. In theory, I do admire these embellishments as attempts to liven up gameplay which has for the most part remained stale since 2001 (when they invented Freeze Arrows). But the execution leaves something to be desired. To use Groove Trigger, for example, you have to press Up and Up-Right or Up-Left immediately after, or flick the right analog stick on a separate controller. And the game still tallies the bonus points earned from these gimmicks separately from your base score (out of 1 million), so in the end it's kind of pointless.

Club Mode in the PS3 version.
DDR 2010 game lacks a Nonstop course mode in the traditional sense, but the PS3 and 360 versions do feature a Club Mode, which has you playing a random selection of 4 to 20 songs without breaks, and is the primary method of unlocking new songs. The only problem, at least for experienced players, is that it always starts you out on Beginner-level charts. The "Hands and Feet" mode from the later PS2 entries has been reincarnated as "Step and Move", which uses the dance pad along with the Move camera and wand (PS3 only). This time around, there are targets on all four corners of the screen, and you use your wand to trigger them for the appropriate note markers. From what I've seen of this mode, it has an unfortunate tendency of forcing you to twist your upper body at odd angles to hit the right markers, as if you were playing high-speed Twister with no tactile feedback. And you know that 8-panel mode that was teased in the 2009 trailer? Yeah, it's still in this game -- the new dance pads finally have eight panels, after all -- but like the Shock Arrows in DDR X, they're only used for a scant handful of Challenge-level charts. Meanwhile, the Wii version has carried over the Balance Board-supported Choreography Mode from Hottest Party 3.
Choreography Mode in the Wii version.
But if you were to ask me, and by reading this blog you implicitly did so, the make-or-break feature for any music game is, duh, the music. And it is in this arena that DDR 2010 sucks a fat one. Of the licenced songs chosen for this game, which would I characterise the whole thing with? "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train. "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. "Battlefield" by Jordin Sparks. And "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum. You see the problem, don't you? If you're not familair with those songs, I'll give it to you straight: they're too slow and dull for a dancing game! Oh, and you read that last one right: there's now a country-western song in a Dance Dance Revolution game. A really good country-western song mind you, but not something I'd want to dance to. Okay, to be fair, there have been slow songs in the older games which I didn't mind, but those were Konami originals for the most part. And there are more... active choices in this game -- I guess I'd highlight "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga, "crushcrushcrush" by Paramore, "Rio" by Duran Duran, and "Venus" by Bananarama -- but the damage was done by the lower end of the quality spectrum.

As for the Konami originals, well, I guess they're okay; they're pretty much going through the same motions by now. For the bosses, there's another level-10 happy-hardcore song, and another "Evolved" song. Also "MAX 300" again. Oh right, I forgot to mention, there are 5 revival songs in this game, the other four being "Afronova" from 3rdMIX, "Sweet Sweet Magic" and "Tsugaru" from MAX2, and "Hana Ranman (Flowers)" from SuperNOVA. Plus, there are even more songs available as downloadable content: 30 songs across 6 packs, all revivals spanning the classic through the SuperNOVA eras. This arguably makes for the most interesting material in the game, but if that's so, it's pretty sad when you think about it. For one, you have to pay extra for the best content, and two, the best content is stuff you've already seen before. So is the 2010 DanceDanceRevolution the worst game in the series? It'd be hard to say that for certain, what with all those pint-sized spin-off releases Japan got back in the day, but at least among the full-budget, worldwide (at least for more than one region) releases, it'd be easier to make that accusation. And for what we were promised in 2009, it's easily the most disappointing.

Next episode is on both an arcade and a home game... I do hope this next installment of Dance Dance Retrospective will bring something more interesting to the table.

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