Review by NDS_Master

"Mario's got moves like you wouldn't believe!"

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix

Introduction

Mario is one of the oldest and most popular video game characters around. As a result of his reputation (and the sales figures that come with it), Mario has hit the shelves in a variety of games, including basketball, tennis, golf, racing, baseball, and history games. Some of these games, such as Mario Kart, make excellent games that gamers of all ages can enjoy; while others - whose names I will not mention because someone reading this probably has high opinions of games I consider lacking - are just obvious attempts at using the plumber's name to generate loads of cash.

Now Mario has yet again taken another popular franchise by storm for the exact same purpose. This time it is Dance Dance Revolution. As the first DDR game for the GameCube, DDR: Mario Mix makes major strides by allowing all system owners to get in on the action. The only question is, does Mario's face plastered to the box make this game better, or worse? I suppose that's what you are here for, isn't it?

Story

All Mario games need a storyline, no matter how cheesy it is, and DDR is no exception. With his first debut on the dance mat, Mario also debuts in an all-new storyline. A new storyline that is full of cheese. Yes, there's nothing intricate or suspenseful about this storyline, although it is definitely unique.

As Mario heads out the door of his house, he learns from Toad that the music keys have been stolen! The keys are causing everyone to be in a dancing mood, and they are causing songs all over the kingdom. Toad readily admits that his dancing skills are sub-par, so it's up to Mario to recover the keys and save the day!

Instead of playing through levels, DDR: Mario Mix makes you dance through levels. Are you stuck at a river? Dance your way across! Did you destroy Toadette's hotel? Dance it back together! Seriously, I don't know how much dumber the storyline could get. It's a dancing game after all - why do you need a storyline!?!

Even though the storyline is cheesy, I will have to admit that it does provide some humor. The characters' lines and the situations they find themselves in are so dumb you can't help but laugh. Maybe it's not what you wanted, but it does certainly add a jovial mood to the overall game play.

Controls

Dancing games require more than a controller: they require a dance pad. Since the pad comes bundled with the game, you won't have to worry about purchasing one unless you want to play multiplayer. The pad has four arrows, the A, B, and Z buttons, and the Start button. To access any of the buttons, you just need to step on them. It's the basis of every DDR game, so you will have to get used to it. The dance pad not only gives you exercise but also it is also a fun new way to play games. You may have a little trouble accessing all the arrows when you begin; however, once you get used to it there's nothing stopping you.

Game Play

For everyone who hasn't heard about DDR, I'll explain the game play to you. Whenever you want to play, you can simply select a song. Each song has its own arrows to go along with it, and the arrows will appear more frequently and in harder patterns as the difficultly level increases. Once you start a song, you will quickly notice four arrows at the top of the screen. Other arrows will come up from the bottom of the screen, and you will have to step on the appropriate arrow as it lines up with the arrow at the top of the screen.

Every time you successfully step on an arrow, you will be graded on how exact your step was. The scores range from perfect to an all out miss, and you will discover plenty of variety in between. If you hit the arrow, the stars on the top of the screen will increase, and your score will rise. If you miss an arrow, you will lose part of a star. When all of your stars run out, you fail the song.

After you finish a song, you will receive a letter grade for how well you did. The grade is based on how well you hit each of the notes, along with any combos you received (you get a combo when you consecutively hit four or more notes with a rating of great or higher). All of you scores are recorded, so you can always go back and try to beat them. That's about all there is to the game play, but you will find plenty of variety in the 29 awesome songs.

As you improve, you can change the difficulty from five levels ranging from easy to super hard. These will challenge you as you improve your skills. There is also Mush mode, where you have to step on enemies as well as arrows. It provides another aspect to the game - one that will challenge and entertain you.

DDR: Mario Mix has a few different game modes. First is story mode, which you play through to earn new songs. It has set challenges for you to overcome, and by beating them you will be able to advance. Free mode allows you to dance to any song you have unlocked at nearly any difficulty level. As a bonus, it is also two-player, so you can play against a friend. Since your friend can play at a different difficulty level, you don't have to be as good as each other to have a good time. Another advantage of the game is the ability to customize your preferences - which includes being able to turn off the annoying announcer.

One addition unique to Mario Mix is the mini-games. These games use the dance pad, but they aren't songs. Instead, they are just fun games that you can play. One of the games is whack-a-Goomba, where you have to step on the appropriate arrows to hit Goombas that pop out of tubes. Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix has plenty of mini-games, and, although they aren't that long, they will keep you entertained for a while.

Difficulty

I normally don't include a difficulty section in my reviews, as I usually opt to mention the difficulty in the game play mode. With Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix, I felt that I should make a section specific to difficulty, as this is a hot topic of this game.

Mario Mix is, to put it bluntly, easier than other Dance Dance Revolution games. Other DDR games have three game modes: light, standard, and heavy. Mario has five, but they don't stack up. Easy and normal are so simplistic they are way below even the light setting on other DDR games. Hard offers more of a challenge, making it about as difficult as the most of the light songs on other DDRs. Very hard gives more of a fight, as it is in between light and standard. Some of the songs on very hard make it to the standard difficulty level, but only a few. Super hard - the most difficult part of Mario Mix - is either as hard as standard or a little harder, though it never quite reaches the heavy difficultly level. Mush mode on super hard almost makes it to heavy, as you have to worry about enemies and arrows.

Is Mario Mix challenging? It depends on how good you are at DDR games. I can clear all light songs on regular DDR games, and I can clear a few standard songs. On Mario Mix, I was able to clear all of the very hard songs on my first or second try. Most of the super hard levels were too difficult for me, and I have a lot of work ahead of me if I want to get awesome grades on super hard. It might not be as difficult as it could be, but even somewhat advanced players will have a challenge ahead of them if they wish to master this game. On the plus side, if you know people that are really bad at DDR, the easy and normal modes are perfect for them!

Sound

This is what makes or breaks a DDR game, and the sound in Mario Mix is definitely a maker. It features 29 songs - most of them are from Mario games while a few are remixes of familiar tunes. Nearly all of the songs are fun, fast-paced, well done, and perfect for DDR. The majority of them are plain tunes, so you won't have to worry about any of the dumb lyrics that often plague other DDR games. Because they are so well made, they are also better to dance to than many of the other DDR songs. I'd like to say more about the songs, but that pretty much covers it and I don't want to ramble. After all, with remixes of Mario songs, who can go wrong?

Graphics

When it came to graphics, Konami didn't hold back. All the songs have colorful, 3-D backgrounds that are mostly of Mario dancing in unique environments. The graphics aren't the best, but they are very good. Mario's break-dancing is cool, and the environmental interactions (although somewhat cheesy because they coincide with the storyline) are also great. Solid, colorful, and fun graphics are a great addition to this game.

Replay Value

Are you kidding me? Mario Mix has awesome replay value! The game is based on having fun dancing to songs, not trying to accomplish tasks. Fun in DDR games is replaying the songs over and over, so if you buy this game you are going to have a healthy dose of constant exercise. Also, since Mario Mix keeps track of your score on all the songs at every difficulty, you will always have a challenge to beat. When you have friends over, Mario Mix is a great way to pass the time. Breaking out the dance pad is always something fun to do - whether you've owned the game for a day or several months.

Closing

It's about time Dance Dance Revolution hit the GameCube, and it did so with excellent style. Mario may seem like a cheap add-on to a popular franchise, but his appearance actually makes the game more enjoyable. Dance Dance Revolution games have always been about fun, and the light, jovial mood of Mario Mix helps achieve that goal better than any of the other DDR games out there. So what if it's not as hard as the other DDRs? It still provides challenge, new methods of game play, and - most of all - fun. Be stubborn if you want, but I'm sticking to having a great time with the world's most popular plumber.

Overall Score: 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/28/05


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