DanceDanceRevolution Hottest Party 3 / DDR Hottest Party 3
Wii | Benami / Konami | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
When you first start playing, you'll be treated to a nice intro and a rather slick interface. Hottest Party 3 boasts tons of modes that make it a more competent rival to the content found in the PS2 releases than previous releases in this series. Completely losing the "Groove" moniker, the game's main story mode is now referred to as "Tournament Mode". Essentially, you'll work your way up the ranks, answering dance requests and challenging CPU's to battles to prove yourself as the DDR champion! Evidently, Konami tailored this mode to eliminate the frustration that existed in HP1's story mode. So as long as you keep practicing and put your best foot forward (excuse the pun), you shouldn't have too much trouble.
Free Play Mode, Records, Training Mode, and Options are all selections we've seen before, but there are some new additions as well. DDR School is a great first choice for beginners, teaching you lessons on how to play and how to manage gimmicks and hand markers. Relaxed Mode is a very easy mode that kids and adult beginners can enjoy. If you're afraid of messing up and are still getting accustomed to everything, then you'll want to come here. But most will likely just select the Beginner and Basic difficulties found in Free Play instead.
Although not necessarily a new addition, Workout Mode has been improved in this release. For one, new records now count, and you can even measure your weight using the Balance Board. Once you do, you can consult the "Diary" option and view charts and line graphs that display how many calories you've burned on sessions over a month-by-month time frame. Additionally, the Dance n' Defend battle mode has been removed in this release, and to me this wasn't a big surprise. It didn't work as well as it promised to be, so it's better that Konami removed it. Hopefully they'll deliver a stronger Battle mode next time around, though.
Traditional DDR gameplay still exists here, but rather than just leaving it at that, the developers added tons of features to enhance the experience. For one, Mii support has returned and the models look much better than in HP2, with even more costumes to choose from. The crown system found in HP2's record mode makes a return in HP3 - green crowns represent Full Combo achievements, and golden crowns represent a record of a Perfect Full Combo. This time, you can see the crowns right beside each chart difficulty per song. This is excellent for those who play the game more religiously for high-scores and personal improvement. In line with this, the Combo counter is also now colour-coded green and gold, serving the same purpose as the crowns while you play a song.
A new feature called the Combo Appeal is an excellent way to keep players engaged and motivated towards achieving high-scores. Each time you reach 50, 100, or even 200 combos, a neat animation will play, showing your character doing a pose with some nice special effects in the background. It's a really cool feature, especially since there's some variety in having different animations for multiple songs and characters. Game customization also plays a much bigger role this time, and for the first time, the amount of choices actually resemble the PS2 releases! Not only can you adjust the arrow speed, but you can reverse the direction, change the colour, and much much more. This game is just chockful of extras and worthwhile features which help make it such a strong experience.
Graphics have seen a significant overhaul as well, and the character models, as cartoony as they may seem, are well-rendered even in HD. Anyone who claims they look like PS2 or even PSX models is just blind. The stage venues are also really well done, taking advantage of lighting and special effects to make the game even more appealing to the eye. There are much more music videos this time around, and they all look pretty good. You can always turn them off, but rather than showing a routine, it'll just show a background image a la Stepmania. So that in itself is disappointing. Once again, gimmicks serve a great purpose in challenging hardcore players, or making some of the easy charts more exciting. A new gimmick this time allows you to use the A and B Buttons on the pad as special arrows, meaning that you'll need to worry about 6 different arrow possibilities! It's an excellent feature and it can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately, it's a tad underused.
With 60 songs included in this release, the selection in Hottest Party 3 is truly impressive. When it comes to licenses, there are some classics such as Good Times, songs that appeal to the female audience such as When I Grow Up, as well as successful hits like Closer. Songs like Pork & Beans are a bit of a letdown, though because they don't flow as nicely as the other charts do. Although this can be labelled as one of the best license lists in the history of DDR, there is one major issue with them. As a whole, licenses are not as difficult as the arcade-esque charts from HP1, and this is the most disappointing aspect to the game. Many of the songs with "easier" charts do flow really well, but at the same time, you'll catch yourself thinking they could've been more challenging. Thankfully, you have Gimmicks and such features as the Reverse scroll to make things harder, but it's still a sting.
Much like Hottest Party 2, this game also boasts a really strong KO list. Lots of powerful songs with motivational lyrics and beats that infect you with a dancing mood. Songs like You are a Star and La Libertad feature chalenging yet fun step charts, while songs like Heatstroke and Freeze are just awesome all around. It's great that songs like Brilliant 2U, and Keep on movin' from the JP release of Hottest Party 2 have been included in the package, since they really are stellar songs. There's even two songs that serve as a mix of some of the KO's from the two previous Hottest Party series. (In case you're wondering, the "HOTTEST PARTY 2" mix is much stronger as a whole.) KIMONO PRINCESS and roppongiEVOLVED are two really enjoyable boss songs, especially the latter which is (arguably) the best boss song I've ever played in all of my years of DDR. PLUTO THE FIRST is the third boss song which actually originally existed in the JP release of Hottest Party, and it's definitely the hardest boss song ever made. Why they even included it without fixing the sloppiness of the chart is beyond me.
Finally, there are two more points of interest that highlight the innovative focus Konami had when they were developing this game: namely, Hypermove Mode and Balance Board mode. The former is essentially a mode designated for Hand Marker gameplay like in Hottest Party 2. However, Konami took a completely different approach this time, and while it still carries a level of innovation, it's just not as fun as HP2's system. Instead of just having two Hand Markers, you'll now have to focus on special icons from all directions. In order to pull them off, you'll need to hold the Wii Remote and Nunchuk facing the TV and swing either one or both controllers in the right direction (the latter works better). Don't be expecting this to be a whole lot of fun, even after you put in weeks of work into mastering it. Again, HP2's hand marker/combo system was far more intuitive and had better interaction from the player. This just doesn't feel as fun, especially since charts are very understepped,with only Basic and Difficult charts to speak of.
Although that serves as the second-most disappointing aspect to this release, Balance Board mode is what pulls the package up. This mode is just fantastic when you really get into it. It's a completely different approach, requiring players to shake their hips and perform circular motions in time with the special arrows. Players won't be bouncing up and down, but you'll experience a full body interaction. The Hand Marker system in this mode is much more like HP2's, minus the Combo meter. The responsiveness is spot-on, even better than in HP2 -- something I did not expect at all! Although the combo meter is no longer here, you can always shake the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to the beat of the music, even when you're not prompted to. Combine this with well made charts that flow well, and you've got a winning example of true innovation! It seems like Konami took a "test the waters" sort of approach with this mode, since there are no Expert charts to speak of. I can only hope that this mode makes a return in the next DDR for the Wii, and perhaps re-incorporate the Hand Combo system from HP2.
Unless you're a total cynic and/or have a strong dislike towards the franchise, HP3 is clearly a really impressive and cohesive release. It's a big improvement over its predecessors, with loads of modes and features, tons of songs (great songs I might add!), an improved graphics engine, and the fantastic new Balance Board mode. The strong focus towards customization, along with the elements that emphasize personal progression (e.g., new crown/combo system) makes for a really motivating and addicting game. Konami has not lost its touch at all -- if anything, this game proves that there's still room to breathe life into the franchise whilst still keeping with the fun gameplay. Especially if you're just a beginner or want to get into this exergaming explosion for the first time, this is the definitive DanceDanceRevolution game to get.
28/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 8/10 - Standard DDR, innovative Balance Board use, Hypermove system not as great as in HP2, licenses could've had harder charts
Presentation 10/10 - Really solid license list, lots of great KO's, character models and stages look great, cool new combo appeal animations
Enjoyment 5/5 - Excellent Expert charts that flow really well, only a small number of not-so-good ones, really fun Balance Board charts
Extra Content 5/5 - Tons of customizable features, lots of modes, 60 songs, very replayable, better Mii support, new characters and gimmicks
Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)