Review By: Siou Choy
|# Of Players:||1-4|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (online play, content DL, tournaments, rankings)|
I don’t really know how many years they’ve been kicking around, but it seems like Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution series has been with us for ages. At this point in time, for the average onlooker to assume that any new entries would inevitably prove dull and boring is a forgivable, if not expected reaction. After all, just how many different ways can you “dance” (or more accurately, stomp around stiffly in predetermined patterns) to a collection of songs by (occasionally) the washed up and (generally and overbearingly) the deservedly unknown? The good news is that somehow, Konami was able to breathe a few embers of life into a series that should have been long dead and buried by now.
Now, that’s not to say there isn’t trouble brewing in paradise, as it were. For starters, Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 4 starts off on a decidedly wrong foot, forcing you to work your way through a rather annoying “how to play” tutorial. Seriously, now, there aren’t all that many people out there who would pick up DDRU4 without having played at least one of its numerous earlier incarnations (literally dozens, if we’re counting Japanese import versions). That point being taken up as a reasonable base thereby renders the very presence of the tutorial somewhat pointless, and the enforced nature of same absolutely ridiculous. Nonetheless, this damn tutorial keeps popping up every time you load the game, or at least until you successfully complete the entire game in “Basic Mode”. Once this mode has been completed, you can move on to the “Master Mode” which contains the bulk of the game, or the real meat of the matter which 99% of the DDR fanatics out there (and at this point, it’s fairly unlikely that the series will pick up many first time customers) have picked the game up for in the first place.
“Quest Mode” centers around an ostensibly amusing premise which has you, the dancer, traveling around to certain clubs (oddly titled as particular “streets”, as if the whole street were your stage du jour) where you attempt to earn street cred and form a following of fans. Now, I remember the days when dorky “guido” types would waste their free time devising group-and-partner based, predetermined dance routines to be performed whenever the DJ would spin a particular song, and while people on the dance floor would (rather bewilderingly) make room and applaud their meager and somewhat disturbingly pathetic efforts at playing boy-band backup dance troupe, I can tell you these clowns didn’t exactly garner any “fans” this way – all such acclaim being limited to the duration of said performance.
Personal reminiscences out of the way, and given the milieu of the game in question, the premise of this mode does sound amusing and “different” from the usual series M.O. However, in practice the mode proves more than a bit annoying. First off, you have to earn a certain number of points to complete each level. Unfortunately, the game does not let you know which songs have enough points for you to complete the level. Simple terms? The end result is that I’ve personally completed several songs with high ratings (i.e. ratio of “greats” and “perfects” to “goods” and “poors”), only to fail the level in question continually because, despite my high performance rating, there weren’t enough points available in said song to allow one through the level in the first place! And no, there’s really no way to tell this before choosing a given song…or at least, none I was able to find. This is a major programming gaffe, guys.
Another problem. Ignore any pretense at this being a multiplayer game, after any fashion whatsoever. Here’s what I mean. Since DDRU4 is a dance game, you will definitely, as you might have assumed, need to have a dance pad to get anything whatsoever out of the game. What you didn’t expect is this: you’ll actually need a separate dance pad for each and every person who wants to play. Don’t believe me? Check this one out: even though you can create separate profiles in the game, the computer isn’t smart enough to remember it when you switch players or positions. So if you set up a profile in controller port three, then you’d damn well better make sure that you continue to use port three each and every time you play the game. If you attempt to retrieve your info in another port, you’ll actually wind up overwriting someone else’s game data. Trust me on this one, your friends will not be happy about this, particularly once they find themselves having to go through that tutorial again...
OK, now on to the good stuff. Remember the “Workout Mode” of previous series entries, which limited you to a particular group of songs, not to mention keeping you from making any progress in the game proper should you desire to keep track of your calorie burn? Guess what – huge improvement this time around. Once you create a profile in the “Workout Mode”, that calorie tracking actually follows you around the game, regardless of the mode or level you’re playing in. In other words, if you decide to play a couple rounds in the “Quest mode” and then feel like switching over to the “Party Mode”, the game will keep track of your caloric consumption throughout, from start to finish. Needless to say, this is a really nice addition for those of us who’d rather “dance” off the pounds than struggle through more traditional exercise routines.
All told, there are about 70 songs to work up a sweat to in DDRU4. As par for the course with the DDR series, though, despite the large number of ostensible selections, there doesn’t seem to be much of a variety, with few tracks of any real merit or replay value. Most of the songs are generic, mediocre, and of the same type and style – hardly enough variation for those of us with diverse tastes, and somewhat trying even for hardcore dance music genre aficionados.
As always with the DDR series, I (and to hear it told, a fair sized coalition of gamers along with me) have a strong bone to pick with the music selection: why not leave some of the original J-pop in the mix? And either way, why not include some “real” songs, however recent or out of date, that we might actually recognize and want to waste our energy “dancing” to? One Geri Halliwell disco remake and a friggin’ Ya Kid K track don’t exactly cut the mustard in terms of song selection. I know lawyers and copyright disputes are killing the music and film industries, but really…you could shell out a couple of bucks here and there for the music and have cheap imitators handle the vocals, like they do in the Karaoke Revolution and Guitar Hero games. Seriously, this kind of cheapness is what will drive the series straight into the ground, buried under mounds of generic techno-speed crap…
Good enough for the usual suspects, but no way this one’s drawing in any new fans (not like that would happen anyway at this point in the DDR universe, a series which continues to trudge on well past its expected shelf life). Bottom line is, DDRUM4 is kind of like what the guy told me down at the kosher deli the other day: “ehh…could be bettah”.
Posted: 2007-04-09 16:45:41 PST