I live in a small town. And when you live in a small town, cult favorite video games rarely generate any fans here. Especially Dance Dance Revolution (DDR from herein). In fact when I saw a DDR MAX2 machine at the arcade about four or five months ago I was completely surprised. No one was playing it naturally so I hopped on. As an avid DDR fan since Konamix I immediately gathered a small crowd. Not only was I the center of homosexual jokes from the guys but also the center of all the smiles from the ladies. It was a game I knew I had to have. The song list was promising to best even Konamix (which I thought was best at the time) and the game play seemed to remain unchanged.
When I played DDR MAX2 for the first time at home my expectations were met. Classic DDR gameplay with the best track list of any DDR game. If you are new to the series, the game plays like a dance routine. You have a dance pad with up, down, left, and right arrows as well as other basic controller keys. The object is to step on the arrow direction that corresponds with the one displayed on the screen. Successful dance steps build up your combo and dance meter which translates into more points. Mess up and your combo is broken and your dance meter depletes. Once your dance meter drops to zero its game over. If you are able to finish the routine you get a letter grade and a detailed report on your performance.
While the gameplay never really changes from one release to another, Konami always tries to please fans with added challenges. This time, Konami has added two new modes of play: Endless and Nonstop (Oni mode does not make an appearance in this version). Endless mode is exactly as it's name implies. An endless mix of DDR tracks played at random until you cannot dance anymore and get a game over. Nonstop is sort of like a course of preselected songs. Some of the courses have varied difficulty modes so players of all skill levels can partake in this mode.
Speaking of skill levels the major three, light, standard, and heavy, make their return along with a new Beginner level which sort of holds your hand through the songs. Great for newcomers to the series. Now the problem with every DDR game previous to MAX2 I had was that all the difficulty levels were pretty much cut and dry. So if you were like me and Standard became too easy, you moved onto Heavy only to discover that Heavy was way out of your league. MAX2 solves this problem by introducing difficulty modifiers to each song including turning the freeze arrows on and off. This is great for players who wish to ease their way into more difficult songs. Heavy songs are made easier, but still offer more of a challenge then Standard. Thumbs up to Konami for perfecting the difficulty system this time around.
In addition to the Game Mode, MAX2 also includes a Training and Lesson mode to help you perfect your dance moves. Want to make your own dance steps? Then try the Edit mode and compose your own dance routine with its simple to use interface. With the Edit mode replay value for this game is endless. I just wonder why it took so long for Konami to implement this feature when fans have been begging for it for years.
Now to the pinnacle of all DDR games - the holy track list. Yes, ladies and gentleman, MAX2 sports the best track list to date. Some of my favorites include Dream a Dream and In the Navy '99 by Captain Jack, Kind Lady, and Dive. Also, several American songs make their way into this mix such as Jocelyn Enriquez's A Little Bit of Ecstasy, Days Go By by Dirty Vegas, Busy Child by the Crystal Method, and Get down Tonight by The Sunshine Band. I noticed many people complained when favorites like Butterfly and Look To The Sky didn't make the cut from the arcade version, but to that I say cry me a river. You can't have everything and this track list is as close to perfection it can be.
Although this game is a great improvement over DDR MAX, there are still a few issues that were left unaddressed. Number one is I would like to see music videos in the songs more often. So far I have seen only seen 3 and if that is all there is then its a shame. This ties in with my next argument that the backgrounds they use when a music video is not available are distracting. Flashing lights and some of the animations often make it difficult to see the arrows. When they have music videos the arrows are much easier to see so it would make sense to use them more often.
Also some veteran DDR players may feel that not enough was done to challenge them. First of all there are no Paranoia's in the game. Those of you new to the series, Paranoia tracks were songs that had irregular steps and fast syncopated dance beats. They were a serious challenge no matter what difficulty you were playing on. Also, Oni mode was stripped and replaced with a much easier Nonstop mode.
Overall, I feel Konami did a great job solving the problems that were apparent in the previous incarnations. Difficulty modifiers make the game much more enjoyable and the edit mode provides endless hours of play. However, die hard fans of the series may feel betrayed with the lack of challenge the game has to offer. But with an all star track list such as this no fan can afford not to pick this title up.
- Grand Admiral