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DanceDanceRevolution II - Wii Review

Game Info
DanceDanceRevolution II / DDR Hottest Party 5

Wii | Konami / Benami | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Dance Mat; Wii Remote (pointer); Classic Controller; GameCube Controller
Related Game: DanceDanceRevolution 
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Review
10th February 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

I don't think it was possible for Konami to predict what would unfold as they brought DDR to the Wii and later made it their flagship series. The Hottest Party titles were responsible for creating a very clear divide amongst fans of the franchise that most were probably unaware of. As a means of redemption and to put a stop to any kind of conflict, DanceDanceRevolution II brings all DDR fans back together to "share the love" (pun intended) they have for the franchise without having any of this casual vs. hardcore nonsense going on. Especially in light of how confusing Konami's last attempt was at trying to bring both audiences together, I was rarin' to see how they would use what they learned from previous titles in their approach to the latest DDR release. It took a couple years of playing around to get there, but they finally got it right with DanceDanceRevolution II.

    Once you get past the menu screens, one of the first things you'll observe about this new iteration is the change in setup. In a move that differs from all other DDR titles that have appeared on the Wii to date, DanceDanceRevolution II adopts the rating system first introduced in DDR X, where songs are rated according to a 20-point scale as opposed to the standard 10. This was definitely done to draw in the crowd of DDR players who stuck to the PS2 releases for years. When encountering songs that have music videos attached to them, you now have a video player on the right of the screen with a simple space- or forest-themed in the background, which differs from the superimposition that was employed before. There's also notable change in the overall interface. Instead of being able to select song difficulty and press A to jump into a song, you now have two screens popping up asking you to specify which version of the song you'd like (a completely new feature for DDR games) and then the difficulty you want to play on. It's not very intuitive, and compared to how it's been structured all this time, it's disappointing that they were a little backwards here.

    
Reflecting their attempt to bring both audiences together, you can tell there was some slight indecision on the part of the development team as the fonts used are taken from both styles present in the Wii and PS2 DDR's. Additionally, the character selection this time around is more in line with the recent PS2 releases, with Emi taking the place of Rena, Disco taking over U.G., and so on. For the most part, I wasn't upset that they did this, especially when the outfits they chose look pretty good. During gameplay, only one character is seen on-screen, with silhouettes of that same person following along. The only thing that really bugged me about the characters was how ugly Ruby looked in this game. I can't imagine what they were thinking when they were creating her model for this game.

    Moreover, some things have carried over from the base games that probably should have been weeded out in the process, particularly when it comes to the choreography. With Choreograph Mode gone in this release, they have gone back to having actual dance routines for all songs that don't have a music video. Some of the dances actually finish before the song has even ended, while others keep going after the song is complete. In general terms, a considerable portion of the choreography was taken from earlier DDR titles, which isn't bad in itself, but when I see the characters waving at you, I couldn't help but ask why Konami brought those animations back. For the most part, though, I had little issues with this aspect of the game.

    
Interestingly enough, DanceDanceRevolution II may appear not as fully featured as, say, Hottest Party 3. Yet, the amount of content in songs and new features totally make up for the lack of Choreograph Mode and, to a much lesser extent, Balance Board Mode. As a result of this, Choreograph Mode will now only be associated with DanceDanceRevolution 2010 -- unless they bring it back -- which is probably a good thing anyway since that was such a huge saving grace for that game. On the flip side, DanceDanceRevolution II will be seen as the title that introduced full versions, finally brought Doubles Play and Challenges charts for Wii owners to experience, and in general renewed people's faith in the franchise once more.

    In many ways, DanceDanceRevolution II behaves really apologetically for the mistakes Konami has made not only with the previous title, but really with the entire run of the Wii sub-series of releases. For some, this will be a game of firsts, but for others, it's a return to the best of what makes DDR maintain the appeal that it has. Either way, DanceDanceRevolution II is most certainly a strong accomplishment, returning to DDR's core fundamentals of difficulty, addiction, speed, energy and skill.

    
So now, how's the song selection in the new release? Well, I'm very pleased to report that although the license list isn't amazing, it's a lot better than the eyebrow-raising choices they made last year. At first I thought it was a poor decision to include two Justin Bieber songs, but they totally made up for it by having surprisingly good charts. Other notable additions include "Whip My Hair" by Willow (which, if I'm being honest, isn't very good chart-wise), "Candy Girl" by New Edition, and "Beautiful Monster" by Ne-Yo. I still think Konami needs to get with the program on the artists they're picking since Rihanna and Natasha Bedingfield make an appearance yet again. In all honesty, the licenses aren't very captivating, and if I were to compare how I felt about the licenses in prior DDR games on the Wii, this list didn't hold my attention for nearly as long. But again, it's not nearly as weak as DDR 2010.

    More important than the licenses are the KO's, and this time around, they've created 17 brand-new songs for this game. As always, TOMOSUKE grabbed my attention with their wonderful new song, "Diamond Night", which features a gimmicky yet fun gallop-heavy chart. I also loved the first of the two Spanish songs, "El ritmo te controla", featuring a sound that could easily be mistaken as a song for Zumba Fitness. And as is the case with most U1 songs, "The Heavens Above" was another nice one that grew on me a lot. On the less positive side, I thought "Still unbreakable" was an interesting collaboration with Vanilla Ice, but compared to other rap KO's that have appeared in other DDR games (most notably, "Crazy Control" and "We Can Win the Fight") it was just okay. I wasn't too crazy about "Dance Partay", "In the Air", and "Summer Fairytale" either. It was hard to take each of these songs seriously, either because the lyrics were so mediocre or because the songs themselves were just boring. I'd say about half of the new KO's are actually great with the rest being decent efforts.

    
Taking on a greater presence than the new KO's are the import songs brought in from the Japanese arcade version of DDR X2, and interestingly, my attention gravitated more towards these. In fact, one of my favourite songs in the whole game, "dirty digital", fell under this category. In my opinion, it's much stronger than the other techno songs we've seen thus far like "Wicked Plastik" and "Scramble". "VANESSA" is another sweet, albeit very odd pick that sounds like a battle taking place during the Middle Ages. And speaking of strange, "GOLD RUSH" is probably the least contemporary song in the game, but unlike "VANESSA", I just wasn't feeling this one. Overall, in keeping with true DDR style, there are a bunch of happy hardcore and techno songs, with other genres like R&B being underrepresented this time around. It's not necessarily a flaw; just something to be aware of.

    In terms of the subject matter of the KO's, you still have some songs centered on love that you probably won't care much for. The song "SAY A PRAYER", for example, is pretty cheesy, and as the slowest song in the game, it definitely pales in comparison to songs from earlier titles like "Love Again" and "My Love". Thankfully, the song selection focuses a bit less on this and has some interesting messages to be taken away from the experience. I liked what they were attempting with songs like "Take a Step Forward", which carried a positive message about moving forward, but this -- like a few other songs -- is held back by only mildly interesting vocals and an unexciting chart. 

    Speaking of charts, that's another thing DanceDanceRevolution II gets right, time and time again. Songs like "I'm so Happy" are made incredibly fun by charts that work super well, and it's songs like this that solidify the addiction factor, making it as strong as ever. As per usual, some charts still make you lose your balance (e.g., "Get Back Up!"), and/or force you to resort to hopping just to manage the sudden, awkward transitions the game expects from you. Additionally, there are several semi-boring charts to be found in KO's like "Something Special" and "real-HIGH-speed", along with a small number of the licenses like "A Year Without Rain". But you know, I'd much rather have that than this undercharted business that was especially evident in Hottest Party 3's licenses.

    With the above in mind, players would be wise not to underestimate lower-rated KO's, which are actually still very fun and have interesting changes that keep you engaged and preparing for the unexpected. Just as an example of that, "oarfish" -- another great one by the team responsible for "dirty digital" -- made good use of freeze arrows to keep a medium-difficulty song very fun to play. In DanceDanceRevolution, the extremely questionable license selection essentially meant that you basically had half of a game to look forward to. And even then, some of the KO's had charts that weren't exactly the most fun to play. Here, though, it's truly exciting to boot up the game and jump into so many great -- even fantastic -- songs with genuinely enjoyable charts.

    
Furthermore, players will be forced to eat a bit of humble pie as they discover that the charts on display here are, on the whole, more difficult than what was seen in previous Wii titles. Konami has essentially gone full circle, tapping into the arcade focus that shaped DDR Hottest Party and building upon that in a much superior way. Just stemming off the subject of difficulty, DanceDanceRevolution II also has an increased focus on boss songs. While each of the DDR titles on the Wii had two or three songs, you get more than ten this time around, placed inside a dedicated menu that only becomes accessible when you complete a string of Challenge Tasks. Dispensing with all the vanilla rehashes (see: "SILVER DREAM", "KIMONO PRINCESS" and "CRAZY LOVE"), DanceDanceRevolution II features great, super challenging boss songs that are actually fun to play and listen to in spite of how grueling they can be.

    Another new feature that ensures players come away from the experience smiling is the addition of Doubles Play. This feature was long overdue for the Wii titles, and it's great to finally see it included five games later. For those who have little experience with Doubles, it will be like transitioning from Basic to Difficult all over again, but in a fun way. Some charts feature really fun transitions where it feels like you're seamlessly running across both pads over the course of an arrow stream; license songs like "Baby" and "Rocket" especially exemplify this. Other portions feel a bit clunky and a tad disorganized, thereby disrupting the flow. You might even find yourself positioned uncomfortable because of the way they've set up some of the streams. But for the most part, there are a good number of Doubles charts that are quite enjoyable to experience.

    
It's abundantly obvious that this entire game is a response to the complaints from arcade players towards the DDR games that appeared on the Wii previously. Anything less than what's seen here surely would have incurred major upset on the part of hardcore DDR players who seemed just about ready to give up on the franchise's flagship titles. So with all this in mind, it's great to see the developers worked hard to make sure both audiences were not only catered to, but were left feeling satisfied. And I have to say they definitely succeeded on that front.

    Anyone with so much as a passing interest in this not-so-tired franchise will have lots of reasons to view this title as a high point in the entire series run. The game successfully bridges gaps in ways that rival Hottest Party 3, yet at the same time, the game also takes DDR to a level previously unexplored since this franchise has appeared on the Wii. Put simply, DanceDanceRevolution II has all the foundations in place to keep players on an emotional high even months later, and while it's not a perfect game, this is probably the closest they're going to get.


28/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - A return to core DDR fundamentals, great boss song focus, many well-designed charts with a few sticklers, some great Doubles charts 
Presentation 9/10 - New interface is an adjustment, minor annoyances, songs range from decent to fantastic, better licenses, mostly good visual effects
Enjoyment 5/5 - Still very addicting, greater difficulty, exciting to have so many quality charts, incredibly fun at times, more satisfying than DDR 2010
Extra Content 5/5 - Lots and lots of songs, Challenge charts, Doubles Mode, new full versions of songs, plenty to do regardless of your skill level

Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System


Review by KnucklesSonic8



DanceDanceRevolution II



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