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Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 - Wii Review

Game Info
Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2
 / 
DDR Hottest Party 2

Wii | Benami / Konami | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Dance Mat; Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Classic Controller; GameCube Controller
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Review
9th May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

In September 2008, Konami unleashed DDR Hottest Party 2 onto the market, a game that did more than just commemorate the 10th year anniversary of the popular franchise. Really, it left a lasting impression upon those who took the time to see all the work that had been put into the SKU. After many, many months of playtime, this same game is up for consideration over a year following its release. Thanks to its solid gameplay elements, DDR Hottest Party 2 enhances, innovates and brings life into the DDR franchise without spreading itself too thin.

    As soon as you wind up on the Main Menu, you'll quickly observe that Konami wasn't content with "just the basics" this time around, which is also reflected in nearly all other aspects in the game. The main "Story Mode" has returned under the new name "Groove Arena Mode", where players climb a digital tower filled with dance battles and song requests that take place at different venues. Clearly, the developers paid attention to the comments people had about the difficulty of the Groove Circuit Mode from the first game in the series. Although some may miss the challenging drive, players will feel more encouraged by their progress in Hottest Party 2's new mode, and it really was for the best that the difficult requests were toned down. It was so challenging, in fact, that the developers added in a User Support feature that would allow you to unlock everything on your save file from the original game. It's an excellent feature for those that may have had trouble unlocking certain songs like tokyoEVOLVED. 

    Alongside this, the standard options of play are still here such as Free Play, Workout Mode, Records and Options. Konami also added two new gameplay modes previously unseen in DDR Hottest Party. The new "Dance n' Defend" mode is an interesting attempt at creating a proper Battle Mode like the one you'd see in the PS2 releases, but it feels a bit clunky. The game also features a new Training Mode, a first for the series! Players can now better acquaint themselves with any of the step charts in the game. Thanks to an assortment of assistive functions including the metronome, the excellent handclap feature, as well as quarter-measure guidelines, it's an excellent addition to say the least.

    On the subject of new features, this time around, Konami decided to implement Mii support (which was apparently "eagerly-awaited"). It's a nice feature for sure, being able to place your Mii's face on the body of the normal characters in the game, but they still could look a tad better. In addition to being able to see your Mii dance, the game also features 3 new characters, bringing the total number of playable characters up to 15. These characters aren't just random additions, though; they're cartoon representations of NAOKI, jun, and U1, three songwriters that are well-known for their contributions to DDR games! All characters feature new costumes as well and most are actually spiffy-looking. New gimmicks are also brought to the table in this release, including the Minimizer gimmick which will shrink your screen when accidentally stepped on. It's great to see Konami experimenting with these gimmicks as they do add challenge and fun into the mix.

    The presentation values from the first game have also undergone a notable improvement thanks to the new graphics engine. Dance stages have a stronger appearance and are more lively this time around, thanks to such things as lighting effects, electric sparks, pyro flames, and even confetti. Character models have also improved this time around and they definitely look less grainy and a lot more smooth. Additionally, choreography for the dance routines has greatly improved over what was seen in the original. The characters do a great job at incorporating real dance moves that suit each song's rhythm and feel. Songs like Settin' the Scene have impressive routines that go extremely well with the song choice, and it really shows a lot of work on the part of the developer. The new engine has also paved the way for music videos, another first for the Hottest Party games! There are a couple issues with it, such as the fact that only 3 songs take advantage of this new feature and the fact that you can't turn them off but it's definitely a start.

    Finally, focus towards presentation also allowed Benami to focus in on a few other minor details that improve upon the setup found in the preceding title. The announcer's speech is more controlled this time, and you won't find him harassing you to keep playing every few seconds. Text size for the timing evaluations has also been fixed, looking larger and much more encouraging than the less forceful text seen before. Like in DDR Hottest Party, once you reach 100 combos in a song, arrows you step to will have a special bright effect as they go over the Arrow Meter, except this time it looks brighter and even more flashy than before.

    Certain aspects of the in-game menus have also been improved. Thankfully, settings save after you leave the Options menu, meaning you won't have to change your settings everytime you boot the game up. Although the first Hottest Party title had really basic options to toy with, the sequel does a whole lot more. In addition to speed modifiers, there are also some other options to customize gameplay and this is really appreciated. So that there's no surprises this time, Gimmicks for each song appear right beside the song banners. The development team also took the liberty of assigning the 1 and 2 Buttons to jump straight to Options and the Dance Stage changer (respectively) which allows for a lot more convenience. With all of these improvements, one can see how much work Benami put into this release to make it even more presentable.

    It's hard to say how the typical person will respond to the song list in DDR Hottest Party 2 since it's such a mixed bag affair, much like the original was. First, let's talk about the licenses in this game. There are some excellent choices from artists like Michael Jackson, Rihanna, and even Nelly Furtado. But don't go in expecting to see a game full of licensed tracks because a majority of the songs are covers. Some renditions are "meh" when you compare it to their originals as is the case with Umbrella. Some will have a more mixed response such as the covers for Feel Together (Ben Macklin) and Call on Me (Eric Pridz). But the cover for Makes Me Wonder is just universally bad, and has got to be the worst cover I've ever heard. 

    That being said, some of the remixes make songs sound a whole lot better than they otherwise would have been. The Duran Duran/Justin Timberlake song Nite-Runner sounds great with a faster BPM, and a more electronic/robot feel to it. I Ran sounds a whole lot better too, and Konami was right in claiming that this new cover "surpasses all expectations" because it really does. Not all of the licenses are covers though, as there are some original recordings of songs like Tribulations that were kept in tact! Excellent house songs such as D.A.N.C.E, and even Red Alert by Basement Jaxx definitely help round out the license selection and they make up for some songs which may not have as much appeal.

    Sure the license list may not be as strong as the first game, but where the original went wrong, Hottest Party 2 makes up for tremenduously, and that's in its selection of Konami Originals. Whereas the first game was overcome with songs that sounded so similar, the KO selection in Hottest Party 2 has an excellent sense of variety, hailing from such as genres as trance, ballad, electronic, hip hop, R&B, rock, J-pop, and more! The songs themselves are very memorable and come from both classic and new song artists, containing vocals that impress and backbeats that excite. There are a couple songs with inspirational lyrics such as We Can Win the Fight and Unity which hone in on battles against racism, as well as songs that encourage perseverance as is the case with jun's R&B song, No Matter What and the smooth ballad, Open Your Eyes. Even the boss songs are excellent: the infectious, upbeat instrumentals of SILVER DREAM, and even the nice classical music vibe found in osakaEVOLVED. Konami really deserves a lot of praise for what they did here as the KO's are what make the game that much more enjoyable, and they help with whatever issues one might have with the license selection.

    With nearly all the songs in the game, though, one thing is definitely true: the game has some really fun step charts! Many of the game's songs have Expert and even Difficult charts that flow very nicely without abusing such things as gallops (with one or two exceptions). Expert charts contain advanced techniques that will surely challenge more advanced DDR players, but there's also a small number of Expert charts that can help someone adapt to the Expert difficulty for the first time.

    So, what else is there to say about the game? Well, I've saved the best part of the game for the very end as it's deserving of a special focus all on its own. Alongside the new graphics engine, Benami has also incorporated a better Hand Marker engine, with "five times more motion" than the hit-and-miss system that existed in the original! Hand Markers are no longer treated to be something on the side: this time around, there's a much greater emphasis towards it, especially in regards to scoring. The AAA system is approached a whole lot differently than any other DDR title before it, offering a heckuva lot more content (months worth!) in the long run for completionists. It brings a whole new level of challenge for those that may find some of the Expert charts to be a bit easier and it makes for a more enjoyable game for almost any DDR player! 

    Hand Markers take time to develop, and that can't be stressed enough. Just like when you first started playing DDR, you saw yourself progress over weeks and even months of practicing and perfecting your skills. It's the exact same case here where players who stick with it will see themselves get better and better, and it's extremely rewarding if you stick with it! It's clear that many charts were made with Hand Markers in mind. In some cases, an awkward step on a foot-only chart can be rectified simply by playing with Hand Markers, and it's something you'll notice over time. Thanks to the new Hand Combo system, charts take a whole different dimension, offering more fun and replayability for all!

    The advanced Hand Combo system essentially has you shaking the Wii Remote and Nunchuk throughout the entire song, not just when Hand Markers appear on-screen. The system has you shaking the controllers in time with the beat to build up the Hand Combo meter located underneath your Dance Meter. For every hand marker you nail correctly, you also get a multiplier bonus, resulting in a large bonus at the end if you get all the Hand Markers correctly. Although there's a bit more to it than this, the system is truly innovative and breathes life into the standard DDR gameplay most have come to expect.

    DDR Hottest Party 2 may have some flaws that bring it down a bit such as the covers of some of the licenses. But in the end, it's all made up for by the excellent KO selection, and a stronger presentation focus. Not to mention, too, whole new Hand Marker system that makes charts much, much more enjoyable! It would be a mistake to pass DDR Hottest Party 2 as a normal "run-of-the-mill" game in the franchise. Whereas Guitar Hero and Rock Band may be getting a bit stale due to their lack of innovation, the Hottest Party series is proving that there still is a sense of "revolution" that can still be achieved in DDR games (and music games in general). Hopefully more will take notice of the work done with the game's Hand Marker system and give the developers the praise they deserve!


26/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 9/10 - Standard gameplay you'd expect, step charts are anywhere from excellent to sloppy, Hand Markers are very innovative
Presentation 8/10 - Stronger visuals, stages are more eventful with special effects, stellar KO's, mixed licenses, dance club feel
Enjoyment 5/5 - Hand Markers make it an absolute blast to play, step charts are really fun and challenging, good multiplayer
Extra Content 4/5 - Two new modes, Hand Markers take time to learn, new characters and stages, can last months

Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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