Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dance Dance Retrospective: X3 vs. 2ndMIX

Previously on the SDP, there was the 2010 DanceDanceRevolution. And it sucked. Well, inasmuch as a DDR game can suck. But earlier from that same year, there was a new arcade edition, DanceDanceRevolution X2. And it was good. But it would turn out that X2 was the last arcade DDR game, to date, to have been sold outside of Asia. But it wasn't the end of the series, for a year and a half later, Konami released DanceDanceRevolution X3 vs. 2ndMIX (JP: 16 November 2011, AS: 16 December 2011). I also have yet to play this edition in person, even during my latest trip to Japan back in March. But even though Konami did not sell X3 in North America or Europe, they did release a new home game suspiciously similar to it: DanceDanceRevolution II for the Wii (NA: 11 October 2011, EU: 16 November 2011).

X3 features a blue-and-white colour scheme, and many of the features from X2. Two new features are exclusive to eAmusement/PASELI users: they can view both machine and eAmusement high scores on the music menu, and, similar to X2's Marathon Mode option, pay per song in Quick Play Mode. As hinted at in its full title, X3 also includes a HD remake of Dance Dance Revolution 2ndMIX. It is entered through a button prompt on X3's title screen, just like the 2ndMIX mode from 3rdMIX. The songs from 2ndMIX Mode were eventually added to the main game in a later update. As to why they chose this entry to remake, I'm curious. Perhaps the first game had too little content, and the more popular 3rdMIX had too much content. And yes, you still have to enter a hidden panel code for the Maniac level.
2ndMIX Mode's menu screen in DDR X3.
DDR II, meanwhile, shares with X3 some songs, UI elements, and of course the core gameplay, but in other ways differs from it as well as the Wii DDR games before it. There are no alternate modes that use the Wii Remote, Nunchuck, or Balance Board, but they did bring back the Double mode from the core series. Also, the majority of songs come in two flavours: the traditional 1-to-2-minute edits, and the full-length versions. And this isn't like in 5thMIX or DDR X where only a scant handful of songs were long versions; this is done for all the licenced songs, and most of the Konami originals which weren't already from previous games. The unlock system also seems to have borrowed a page from the PS2 days. Unstead of a separate single-player campaign, you unlock new content by playing in the free-play mode and earning points. The "Replicant-D-Action" system also makes an appearance, but it's been simplified greatly from its appearance in X2. All you have to do is clear any three songs, and the Replicant-D-Action folder will become available. When you play any song therein, the folder disappears until you play another three songs, and so on.
Double mode in DDR II. A mainstay for most of the series finally makes its Wii debut.
DDR X3 features 515 songs, plus 30 songs in 2ndMIX Mode, and DDR II features 83 songs. In X3, you've got your usual stable of J-pop licences and Konami originals, including ones from DDR 2010, seeing as how that game was never released in Japan (lucky buggers). However I will admit that, apart from the boss songs, the "notable songs" section will be shorter this time around than the ones for previous games. Not including the revivals for 2ndMIX mode, there are only six new licenced songs, all of them Japanese, and they culled most of the licences left over from X and X2, just to add insult to injury (or is it the other way around?). And I've long since stopped keeping up-to-date with the other Bemani games -- which, I remind you, aren't made available outside of Asia -- so there's nothing in the selection of crossover songs that catch my eye. But maybe it's just me; if you absolutely must have material from jubeat Copious or Reflec Beat Collette, then go nuts, I guess.

As for DDR II, I feel a little conflicted. First, the bad news. There are two -- count 'em, two -- Justin Bieber songs in DDR II. And one by Miley Cyrus. And one by Selena Gomez. And one by Willow Smith -- you know, that "Whip My Hair" fellow. And two songs with Bruno Mars, who isn't nearly as embarrassing. Yeah, you can tell Konami of America courted the teen-pop crowd this time around. But it's not like those are bad songs to dance to; not like those boring slow songs from the last game. So now, the good news. Since (the 2010) X2 was never given a proper home port, the Konami originals (mainly Bemani crossovers) that weren't already included for the (the 2009) X2 and Hottest Party 3 have been revived for DDR II, including such assumed classics as "smooooch", "Gold Rush", and "Mei". Other notable songs include:
  • "Connect", as made famous by Claris. (X3 only) The theme song from the anime series Puella Magi Madoka Magica. For some reason, X3 uses a cover version of this song, as well as with...
  • "Heavy Rotation", as made famous by AKB48. (X3 only) Why Konami would need someone to cover one of the biggest names in J-Pop, I couldn't tell ya.
  • "Say a Prayer" by Des-Row & Maxi Priest, and "Still Unbreakable" by Des-Row and Vanilla Ice. (II only) Unremarkable songs, but it's neat that they're collaborations between Bemani and non-Bemani artists.
Certain songs were made available later on for machines connected to the Internet, a form of DLC if you will, as tie-ins with certain events.
  • Daily Special: Added five songs from other Bemani games. During the event, different ones were unlocked on each day of the week.
  • Append Travel: Added four songs from jubeat Copius Append, another Bemani music game. Also let players earn Append Points to spend on items, however this feature expired in September 2012.
  • Konami Arcade Championship 2012: Added seven songs. Five of them are remixes of Konami originals from 2ndMIX.
  • Tsugidoka!: Added four songs from other Bemani games.
  • Extra Tour: Gradually introduced the Evolved songs as selectable Extra Stages.
The new round of boss songs are:
  • "Amalgamation" by Mystic Moon. (X3 only) A fairly high-speed (170 BPM) trance/techno song. Originally the Extra Stage on X3; replaced by "Unbelievable (Sparky Remix)" in an update.
  • "Unbelievable (Sparky Remix)" by jun feat. Sarah Jane. (X3 and II) A happy-hardcore song in the vein of "Silver☆Dream" and "Kimono Princess". Originally the Encore Extra Stage in X3; later replaced by "Nephilim Delta" and demoted to Extra Stage in an update.
  • "Nephilim Delta" by L.E.D-G. (X3 only) A darker-sounding gabba-techno song, its high-speed (220 BPM) eight-note runs play like an even more turned-up "Afronova" or "Arabiatta".
  • "Silver☆Dream" by jun. (X3 only) A revival from Hottest Party 2.
Other boss songs include:
  • X3 revived the "Tokyo Evolved", "Osaka Evolved", and "New York Evolved" series from Hottest Party, Hottest Party 2, and New Moves/Hottest Party 4 respectively, as part of the "Extra Tour" update. 
  • DDR II revived "deltaMAX" and "888" from Universe 3, and the other boss songs from X2
  • "PARANOiA Revolution" by Climax of Maxx 360, and "Trip Machine Evolution" by DE-JAVU. (X3 only) The latest remixes of these fan-favourite songs from the first game. These are playable in 2ndMIX Mode, as Extra Stages, and certain nonstop courses. 
  • "Love Is the Power (Re:Born)" by NM. A remix of the end-credits songs from 2ndMIX. It's not a particularly hard song (only level 10 on Expert), but when played as an Encore Extra Stage, you have to get all Perfect marks or better; so much as one Great kicks you out of the song. 
  • "London Evolved" by TAG Underground. (X3 and II) The new set of Evolved songs, bearing three variations, this one is more trance-like, specifically reminiscent of "Roppongi Evolved" from X2
  • "Tohoku Evolved" by 2.1MB Underground. (X3 only) Yet another Evolved song, specifically a remix of "London Evolved". Technically there is only one version of "Tohoku Evolved", except that the last note is a randomised corner-jump. This song breaks the DDR speed record, with a certain passage reaching a whopping 1,020 BPM. A tribute to the victims of the natural disasters which hit north-eastern Japan earlier in 2011, this version incorporates voice samples such as "Our thoughts and prayers are with you". 
Come to think of it, "Tohoku Evolved" would have been a poignant send-off to the Dance Dance Revolution series. Scratch that... it should have been the series' send-off. We've got only two more entries to go on Dance Dance Retrospective, and I have a bad feeling about them.

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