Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dance Dance Retrospective: DDR 2013

So it's come to this, huh. Not content with recycling the title "Dance Dance Revolution" for the 2010 PS3/X360/Wii release, or the 2001 PSone release based on 3rdMIX, or the first American/Asian arcade release based on 2ndMIX, Konami released a new arcade entry in their long-running dance simulation series, only to saddle it with the un-embellished title yet again. It is what will heretofore be referred to as DDR 2013 (JP: 14 March 2013, AS: 28 March 2013), and yet again it is, sadly, exclusive to Asia. Although I can say, for once, that I've played this game in person the last time I visited Japan, and I can tell you from my own experience that the game was... ...meh. What complaints I do have regarding about DDR 2013 are the same complaints might levy at such franchises as Call of Duty or Madden NFL. There's nothing mechanically wrong with DDR 2013, and if the new content doesn't entice you, there's still all that old material to fall back on. But whatever concerns I've had with this series have not been addressed, and all in all, it does practically nothing to excite me as a consumer. Oh well, maybe I'll go over the usual description routine and something will jump out at me.
Here's an idea of what the new cabinet design looks like.
Only five years and three games after their last cabinet redesign, Konami rolled out yet another machine design for DDR 2013. This new machine is painted predominantly in white, which combined with the game's light pink/blue colour scheme, gives off a sort of pastel aesthetic. Keeping in Konami's tradition of cutting costs, the USB ports for loading custom step charts AND STILL NOT USER PROFILES have been removed, although I doubt anyone was using them anyway, and the panels on the bottom no longer light up, which if nothing else useful to tell if something was wrong with the pads. Although they did add storage bins at the bottom of the cabinet for you to stash your bags and stuff, and as a veteran arcade connoisseur, trust me, that is a good thing to have. But all in all, what was the point of going through all that trouble? Is there some ground-breaking new feature in DDR 2013 that signifies a new era of this venerable yet long-in-the-tooth franchise?

The 2ndMIX Mode from the last game has been removed, although all the songs from it are available in the main game mode from the get-go. So has the Happy Mode from X2, but that was just some artificial limitation on the songs and difficulties available to the player, so no big loss on that one, I guess. And so have all the course modes. Okay, now that's a bad thing. And they made it so the game won't even run unless the machine is connected to the Internet and set up for eAmusement. Apparently it's all part of some scheme for properly sharing income between Konami and the arcade itself, but whatever it entails, it even further precludes the release of this game outside of Asia. Even worse, when you get right down to it it's a form of copy-protection. But there's an upside to this approach after all. Because of the game's always-online nature, a new handful of songs gets uploaded to DDR 2013 machines every month or so. One of these upgrades also changed the menu interface a bit, giving birth to the unofficially-titled "Dance Dance Revolution 2014".
Each player gets their own Groove Radar. That's... something, I guess.
I'm officially going to break with tradition and not include a notable songs section. For one, this game is new enough that I don't yet have a handle on what songs have stuck in the minds of the fandom. And besides, to be honest, none of the new songs stood out to me. There are no English-language pop licences, for example. Perhaps because Konami knew they weren't going to sell DDR 2013, and X3 before it, outside of Asia, they felt they could get away with just licencing J-pop and such. I could understand that argument, but even though this product was not intended for my personal consumption as an American, it's just disheartening to be left in the cold, so to speak, eh? And besides, in this Internet age, the Japanese gamers this game was marketed to might also be a little more worldly in their musical tastes, so what's the point of such exclusion? (Then again, this series didn't even have Japanese-language songs until 5thMIX, not including side games, so there goes that theory.)  Oh, I almost forgot: DDR 2013 does also feature "Caramelldansen (Speedycake Remix)", that Swedish song which spawned an Internet meme... back in 2007. I suppose in five years we can expect "Gangnam Style" to show up in a new DDR game. (Although given the current state of Japan-South Korea relations, that might not even happen.) Seriously though, that fact serves as a fitting metaphor for how relevant Dance Dance Revolution is with the gaming scene at large. In short: not much so anymore.

It's been over four years, but with this article, I've finally finished detailing the "core series" Dance Dance Revolution games. There's just one more article to go, where I break down the mobile games. Perhaps this is where is where DDR might finally manage some relevance in this evolving games industry? Find out on the final installment of Dance Dance Retrospective!

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