Review by Arcane Azmadi

"What kind of pathetic feebs do they take us for?!"

Dancing Stage Megamix is the first Bemani series game to be released on a home console in my home territory of Australia (known as the arse-end of the video gaming world as far as releases go). As a hardcore DDR fanatic (at least we don't get completely shafted in the arcades) I leaped at the chance to own my own personal dancing game, so I could dance freely without having to pay for it, or trek in to the nearest arcade (in my case, a 20-minute train ride at least). So I bought it, took it home, stuck the dance mat to my bedroom floor with gaffer tape and started it up.

(I assume that readers here already know what Dance Dance Revolution/Dancing Stage is. If you don't, DDR is a game where you step on the four arrow buttons on a pad in sync with the arrows scrolling up the screen in front of you and, ostensibly, in sync with the dance music which plays. If you have no rhythm, timing, balance or coordination and miss or mistime your steps, you lose your life bar until you get booed off. If you demonstrate kewl dancing skills, you complete the song and get a score. Dancing Stage is the European adaptation and translation of the series.)

Dancing Stage Megamix has a lot going for it initally. As well as the normal arcade mode (which you can fully control from the options menu) there's a really useful Practice mode, a Lesson mode for beginners (pretty lame for anyone apart from a beginner though) and an innovative idea called Workout mode, where rather than scoring your steps, the game counts the calories you burn as you dance. Although initially most of these modes are hidden, they are mostly unlocked by the simple act of playing a bit- I unlocked them so easily that I don't even know what I did to do so. Anyway, I went straight into the arcade mode, prepared to dance until I dropped and made a rather disturbing discovery.

Is this some kind of cruel joke?!

I'm a pretty good dancer, capable of doing about 100 songs from my arcade's DDR Extreme machine (less than half of the songs on offer). Imagine my shock when I went scrolling through the song selection menu and found no more than 26 songs available. I was appalled. To make matters worse the song selection was pretty rubbish. A bit of play unlocked the hidden 27th song -MAX 300, which I'd partly bought the game for after I heard in the store that it was there- but 27 songs is not good, no, not good at all.

There are a number of songs new to the series from the likes of Kylie Minogue and S Club Juniors, but I was disappointed with these completely- none are harder than a 4-step heavy, meaning I can do them virtually in my sleep (not that I'd necessarily want to- I wouldn't dance One Step Closer or The Lovecats if you paid me to). When You Look At Me is okay and A Little Less Conversation is good for one or two goes, but the rest are lame. The mix of traditional DDR songs was a letdown too. Although there are a few really good songs like MAX 300 and Tsugaru, most of the list is lame stuff like Remember You, Shake UR Body and I Was The One. What's worse is that a lot of the good stuff is ''good but OLD''. PARANOiA KCET (clean mix) and Brilliant 2U (Orchestral Groove) are NOT cutting edge, and even the awesome might of MAX 300 has been superseded in the arcades by the even more awesome MaxX Unlimited and The Legend of Max (which aren't here). Of course, modern classics like Tsugaru, Drop the Bomb (System S.F mix) and Crash! help make up for it, but couldn't we have had PARANOiA Evolution instead of KCET? Or a few more true classics like Afronova, Drop Out and Can't Stop Falling in Love (speed mix)?

When you look at the song list as a whole, it reads like an slap in the face to European/Australian gamers. There is absolutely no dj TAKA, no BeForU, no TaQ, no tigerYAMATO and the only RevenG song is Tsugaru (which is actually RevenG vs De-Sire). There's virtually no Naoki and the only trance song in the entire game is Vanity Angel (which, while good, doesn't hold a candle to So Deep). The goofier music (such as Saint Goes Marching and Burning Heat!) is absent, and there are NO songs with Japanese vocals (I can't tell with Sweet Sweet Magic- the lyrics are indistinguishable). And if they wanted more ''Western-style'' music, couldn't they have at least included Super Star? It's like they're dumbing down DDR for our market- less songs, less variety, less of the unique music we all love (and less difficulty- although there are a few really tough ones and the difficulty of MAX 300 is legendary, especially without a bar to lean on, most of the songs are pretty easy).

Am I making too big a deal out of this? Dancing Stage is a game about music. A bad music selection completely wrecks it. No, I am not making too big a deal out of this. The good songs which are present aren't made any less good to dance by being in a substandard game, but the game itself needs more than just these few songs to be any good- for $4 I could dance all the good songs in this game on a superior arcade pad, and still have room left for Little Bitch.

As far as the rest of the game goes, it's generally satisfactory, although not enough to save the game. The general graphics and the song videos are good- the videos are actually more active and entertaining than the ones in DDR Extreme (which are getting extremely repetative, probably due to arcade unit storage space). Workout Mode is good for a novelty, but won't actually keep your interest for long, largely because the lame song list makes it hard to find enough music to burn sufficient calories. The Practice Mode is brilliant, allowing you to go over the entire song after you finish it to evaluate every step you made- it really helps when trying to pass MAX 300. I haven't messed with the Edit Mode- I've never seen the point, but with this few songs, I might have to try it anyway.

Although it's the best dancing game available for the non-importing Australian gamer, this means nothing- at the moment it's the ONLY dancing game available to the non-importing Australian gamer. I doubt the uncoming release of Dancing Stage Fever will do much to rectify the situation- why don't Konami just scrap Dancing Stage altogether and just give us the same DDR Max 2 they released in America? Well, beggars can't be choosers I guess. If this is the ONLY console dancing game available to you... well, even then I'd only recommend it if you either don't have access to an arcade version of DDR or absolutely MUST be able to dance in your own home. I have a lot of fun with this game on the songs I like, but... compared to what we should have got, I feel insulted and neglected, like I only paid for half a game. A poor, poor, POOR man's Dance Dance Revolution, only at a full game's price. No, that's not good.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/03


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