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DanceDanceRevolution - Wii Review

Game Info
DanceDanceRevolution / DanceDanceRevolution 2010 / DDR Hottest Party 4

Wii | Konami / Benami | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Dance Mat; Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii Balance Board; Classic Controller; GameCube Controller
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2nd March 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

Konami's incredibly successful franchise has definitely gone through some rapid changes since they brought it over to the Wii. But for one reason or another, Konami has decided to reboot the franchise with a completely new game with its own distinct face. Simply called "DanceDanceRevolution" in North America (but, oddly enough, is labelled as "Hottest Party 4" in EU), the developers hope this title will put them back on the overall grid, but with whom exactly? That's something I'm still trying to figure out. Was this game designed for casual DDR players like the last game was? Is it trying to win back the hardcore players? Or are they trying to bridge the gap between the two even more than in previous titles? It's awfully confusing to be quite honest, and the name choice certainly doesn't do it any favors. Nonetheless, as a major DDR player, I put a lot of time into discovering what this new entry was all about and having lots of fun along the way. And after much playtime, it's safe to say that this is a worthwhile investment for new players and those who already purchased any of the earlier titles.

    The first dramatic change in this reboot is the removal of any kind of Story Mode. Unlike the three previous Wii-only titles where you had to go through a series of venues and complete requests to unlock new content, DanceDanceRevolution does things entirely differently. Instead of going for the content-purchasing approach used in classic DDR titles, they now have "Play Points". Just by playing songs in the game, you can earn points, and each time you reach a certain threshold, you'll unlock new costumes and songs, and the ability to use Mii characters. They've also incorporated Challenge Tasks that pop up on occasion where you can complete a requested song and earn bonus points for clearing it under certain conditions like getting a Full Combo. So at least that element from Story Mode has been preserved to motivate less experienced players. Perhaps they felt the whole structure was a bit frivolous especially given the Wii audience they're catering to, but regardless of the reason, I think overall it was a move for the better.

    As you explore the setup for each of the mode selections, you'll notice the structure has differed slightly from games in the recent past. The first thing to observe is that Record Data is now approached in a different light. In fact, it's exactly the way I've wanted it to be from the very beginning; you can create different profiles and keep track of your personal records independent from everyone else's. So that's especially great for beginners who want to track their personal progression. Additionally, character selection is now an item on the song wheel under My Dancers. I didn't like the fact that your settings didn't save, which is something I thought they'd fix by now. Other than that, everything else should be pretty familiar.

    The modes you have to choose from should be standard stuff if you're already been exposed to the other three title. You have Free Play, Workout, Training, DDR School, and Wii Balance Board Mode. With respect to Play Styles, you have Single, Multi, Sync, Friendship and a new one called Family style where you share a chart in a synchronized fashion. (Yes, even after all these mats they've released, there still isn't Doubles support!) After selecting a style, you can choose between two play modes: Classic and Choreograph. When playing on Classic, gameplay largely stays the same as it always has in the previous Wii outings. Players use their feet to step on button triggers on the DanceDanceRevolution Controller included with the game. Arrows will steadily flow upwards to the top of the screen, and it's your job to hit as many as you can with good timing as it approaches the Step Zone. So that's pretty straight-forward. However, there are two areas where, once again, the developers switched things up a bit. 

    For one, the player area is now divided into four sections as opposed to a solid bar, which seems like a move for the beginners. The other thing is that for some reason, Gimmicks are now non-existent in this release! This feature gave the franchise an added sense of challenge even on "easy" charts, especially in the case of Hottest Party 2 where some songs couldn't be truly mastered without having these on. To see them gone was incredibly disappointing for me and even now, I still can't understand what the reason is behind this decision.

    If you have experience with any of the Hottest Party titles, you'll know that Konami has tried different methods of implementing hand-based motion controls into the experience -- with varying degrees of success. However, the new Choreograph Mode is probably the best incorporation of motion controls since the original title. And much to their support, they've developed a chunk of the game with this in mind. Instead of it being just a side extra, both new and longtime players are encouraged to fix their attention on this element of gameplay. This is largely made manifest by the fact that the background choreography in all other modes use the dance routine specially designed for this mode. 

    So, how does it work exactly? Basically, the dancers will actually direct you into a full-body dance routine where you'll use both your hands and feet to follow the actions performed by the on-screen characters. Instead of just performing air shakes and punches, you'll also have to swing one or both of the controllers in an arc, or even "pose" (i.e., holding your controllers in the right position) in imitation of the dancers' movements. To make it more seamless, the dancers wield pink and blue glow sticks that emit special flashes and light trails when you've done what the game asks of you. When playing in Classic Mode, these glow sticks are removed entirely which results in characters having their hands clenched to nothing. It looks odd to say the least. I would have preferred having the glow sticks included if they weren't going to develop totally different routines for the standard play mode, but that aside, I think it's a nice recipe for variety.

    The song selection in DanceDanceRevolution ranges dramatically. Let's start with the licenses. Now I knew from the very beginning that this game wouldn't do as well as the last in this area, but by the same token, I didn't expect the licenses this time around to be so mediocre. A few years ago, seeing a song like I'm Yours in a DDR game was totally unheard of, but suddenly it's an acceptable choice! Other picks that didn't sit well with me were Missing (how could they not use the official remix?!), Plastic Beach, and Dancing in the Street.

    Although this DDR title has its fair share of misses, thankfully there are still some great license picks to make up for the undesirable ones. Love Like This, for instance, totally trounced Pocketful of Sunshine from last year. Celebration from Kool and the Gang, So Fine by Sean Paul, and Venus by Bananarama are some other examples of great choices. But you know, I'm really starting to question what's going on with the development team. Picking songs based on popularity alone is ridiculous, and this is something Konami needs to reflect deeply on moving forward. 

    You know, I expected nothing but good things ever since they decided to do away with covers altogether. But to be honest, some of the original songs we're getting are simply not up to par. I'd go so far as to say they pale in comparison to some of the remixes when it comes to instilling excitement and facilitating great step charts. As if this wasn't bad enough, not only have the licenses dipped in quality, but the quantity has gone down as well. Having a total of 20 license songs is borderline adequate, but how can you not complain when the last title had 10 more than that? All in all, DanceDanceRevolution easily has the worst license selection of all the Wii-based outings and it's really sad to see that considering we're now four games in.

    On a more positive note, Konami has once again successfully included a great group of KO's for this release. There's a great mixture of genres represented here, including progressive and techno, pop, ballads, R&B, and more. Further, this game is home to TOMOSUKE's best work, with the beautifully-composed Seasons rising above the high bar set by Dreamin' and Shine (from HP2 and HP3 respectively). Some other fantastic songs are One-Sided Love, Private Eye, Rhythms Inside, and Top the Charts. Previously featured in the Japanese release of DDR Hottest Party, DOUBLE TORNARD also makes its first appearance in North America and it's really really sweet to finally have it (thanks again, guys!). There are probably only one or two really disappointing songs, but otherwise, it's easy to have a positive attitude towards nearly all of the KO's in the game.

    Now that we've covered the songs, let's talk about the actual step charts for a moment, beginning with Classic mode. Flow has been upped once again, making the awkward stepping from HP1 and HP2 more or less a thing of the past. There are plenty of memorable ones, including Battlefield and crushcrushcrush. Surprisingly, some of the weak license picks actually have good charts, too. Even though I don't think Need You Now should be on here at all, the chart for it works. With the exception of maybe four or five songs, I have little qualms to express on the step charts featured in this game.

    The execution for the charts in Choreograph Mode ranges from really weak to superb. The chart for "Plastic Beach", for example, has you using both feet to jump on all four of the buttons on the mat, and even directs you to walk off the mat and jump back on at the right moment. Other highlights for the licenses include "So Fine" and "Animal". The KO charts are typically deeper in nature, but these too are mostly enjoyable to play. "Rhythms Inside" has probably one of the best ones; same goes for "Seasons". Usually, the songs that get you out of the "pad-only" mindset and force you to use the space around you are especially fun. 

    Furthermore, a good number of charts contain slightly more deep segments where, although you're not obligated to perform certain moves in order to score, doing them anyway leads to a more fun experience. Plus, it also aids in memorizing the routines, which leads me to my next point. In this mode, Expert uses the Difficult chart but with no arrow or hand marker prompts to guide you. All you have to go by are the dancers themselves (except for in NY Evolved where you basically have no help whatsoever), but that's not a bad thing. It's a fun approach (especially when you aim for AAA's), and I'm really glad they decided to do that.

    Choreograph Mode makes use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in a great way, and one of the reasons why it works so well is because it demonstrates significant evolution from Hottest Party 2's Hand Markers. The fact that they're both different ways of playing, though, means that you still have reason to go back to HP2 if you were as fond of that game's system as I was. Undoubtedly, it's far superior to the terrible Hypermove Mode from the last game.

    But now, how does Balance Board support stack up in comparison to the last game? This time, Konami added new "Hopping Arrows" that direct you to step on and off the device. When you add this to the hip-thrusting and controller-punching action that already existed, you'll find the charts in this area feel more aerobics-oriented than before. Expert mode is still missing, but considering that the charts have become deeper in what they expect from players, it's not missed as much as it was last time. What I loved about some of the Balance Board routines is that they would sometimes correspond to the choreography in the background, as was the case with The Way U Move, A Geisha's Dream, Magic Parade and Animal. Overall, Balance Board incorporation in DDR is still fun to try out.

    What else is there to say about the way it's presented? For one, the flashy combo appeal animations that appeared in HP3 are still great to have, but they've pushed them even further by having additional detailed animations take place in the background. Character models look a lot better now when you look back at the other three games, and although I've gotten used to the smaller-sized models, I'm glad the dancers are at normal size now. The colour-coordinated combo counter and record crowns also come in handy for completionists, and the Options are just as robust as last time. One of my biggest complaints on the matter of presentation is the drastically low number of dance stages. In a huge step backward from DDR Hottest Party which featured a total of 50, DanceDanceRevolution features less than 10 altogether. Mind you, it looks like a lot more effort has been put into these stages than almost any other stage they've included before. But still, I've personally always enjoyed the variety of having different environments to play on, so I was kind of discouraged by that. 

    Is it the best of the Wii DDR titles? At the end of the day, I think it all depends on what kind of player you are. On one hand, this game features some of the best charts in the series, fantastic KO's, a few good licenses, better Balance Board support, improved data support and a fun new Choreograph Mode. At the same time, this game also has the worst license selection out of all four games, some of the charts are still underwhelming, and Gimmicks are no longer present. If you still haven't tried DDR, I'd recommend getting Hottest Party 3 first, then moving onto this. If you've purchased any/all of the other Wii offerings, you should know that the flaws do not outweigh the positives. Despite some head-scratching design choices, DanceDanceRevolution is a great entry into Konami's well-established franchise that's more than likely worth your money.

27/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Standard stuff with some refinements, new Choreograph Mode works really well, improved Balance Board support, Gimmicks removed
Presentation 8/10 - Suffers from a weak license list, memorable KO's once again, looks visually impressive with lots of flashy effects, less dance stages
Enjoyment 5/5 - Really fun integration of Hand Markers, individualized records encourages personal progression, step charts are very pleasing overall
Extra Content 5/5 - Choreograph adds variety especially with memorizing Expert routines, stronger Mii support, robust options, new Family setting

Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8

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