Review by CyricZ
"Konami attempts a "Dance Dance Evolution", and this is a good first step."
In terms of dancing games, those poor fans of Nintendo consoles have been left sore by the wayside this last decade. With Dance Dance Revolution tearing up arcades, PlayStations, and in the past few years, X-BOXes, it would seem that the Big N would be left behind. A small Disney release on the N64 that never left Japan, a poorly constructed MadCatz clone, and the fateful Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix were all Nintendo could count as their own. Well, it appears Konami has said "no more" with the introduction of Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party for the Nintendo Wii, the first DDR game to fully take the reins of incorporating both hands and feet into the DDR experience.
The core of DDR gameplay is in your feet. As with past entries in the DDR series, the way to play is to step to the beat. After you select your song to play, you'll be stepping on arrows once they scroll to the top of the screen. You'll be judged based on how well you step. Step well and you'll make it to the end of the song, where you'll be scored based on your performance. Step poorly and it's game over.
The true pull of Hottest Party over its predecessors is the induction of using hands on the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in conjunction with your feet. During normal gameplay, orange objects called "Hand Markers" will scroll along up the left and right arrows. Instead of stepping, you need to shake the corresponding Wii Remote or Nunchuk to hit the marker. While this isn't the first time hands have been incorporated (that was the PlayStation 2's EyeToy), it's by far the smoothest means of doing so.
Of course, being the smoothest doesn't necessarily mean it's flawless. As anyone who has developed for or played a Wii will tell you, the motion sensor in the controllers have a slight delay and aren't the most sensitive things ever, so you'll have to compensate for that as you play. Thankfully, for those who prefer to play DDR purely with their feet, Hand Markers can be turned off for individual players.
Another addition to the core gameplay is the concept of "Gimmicks". Similar to "Mush Mode" from DDR Mario Mix, this incorporates extra little doo-dads into the stepchart with the intent of tripping you up. There are objects that lower your Dance Meter if you step on them, objects you have to step on twice, or objects you can send to your opponent, among others. If these detract from the fun for you, they can also be turned off in the game's options.
Since a Wii Remote alone is no way to play DDR, you can purchase the game packaged with a dance pad that plugs into the GameCube slots on the top of the Wii. Also, if you own DDR Mario Mix, the pad that came with that is also quite serviceable. The bad news is that very few third party pads, even those that worked with the GameCube, are functional with this game. This means that until someone from a third party gets on the ball, there will be no thick foam mats or metal pads, leaving those who have played for years on them left in the cold.
There are three overall modes to play in this game. The simple "Free Play" puts you in the standard DDR setup, selecting a song, and go as you please. The "Workout" mode tracks your efforts over a period of time, and allows you to play courses that you can create for your own sense of fitness. Lastly, there's the "Groove Circuit Mode". Similar to the "Master" modes from the recent PlayStation mixes, this is a mode that takes you to different venues and asks you to perform specific songs a specific way. Of course, it's still just the same gameplay, but it gives you a sense of accomplishment to go through it.
Within each mode, there are also another set of ways to play. There's the standard Single or Multi play, where you can play up to 4 players, as long as you have the controllers. There's also Friendship Mode and Sync Mode, where multiple players play and the best or worst step is what the game reads, respectively. There's also a Battle Mode, where two players compete for the best score.
Lastly, one of the major criticisms of DDR Mario Mix was a severe lack of true difficulty. Well, it seems Konami listened, because Hottest Party presents a difficulty that is equivalent to the standard for recent DDR games. There are even a couple of nice surprises in difficulty for fans of a challenge. I won't spill the beans here, but let's just say that for a certain song, I wouldn't expect to play the same way every time.
Dance games have rarely been about photorealism or massive leaps in graphics, and Hottest Party is no different. The main focus of the game, the arrows, are simple sprites, and it's a formula that doesn't really need improving.
That said, the art style they chose for this game does take a departure from the other editions in the series. The interface itself is very rounded, bright, and cheery. Characters have been designed for a less realistic, more cartoony feel, with bigger heads and eyes.
While it's largely unimportant, I feel that one of the biggest improvements in graphics is that your characters actually have proper dance routines for different songs. Whereas old games simply had your character doing his or her own thing in the background, seemingly oblivious to whatever music was playing, Hottest Party takes the extra step. The movements fit well, too. Ballads will see your characters slowly sweeping around the stage, while speed rave songs will have them bouncing off the walls. It's a nice touch.
Far and away the most important aspect of any rhythm game is its track list. Now, I'm not the kind of reviewer that tells you "this song is good" or "this song is bad". Everyone has different tastes in music, so all I can tell you is the facts.
DDR Hottest Party gives the player a grand total of 50 songs. The thing Konami wants to stress about these songs is that every last one of them is brand new. There are no repeats. So, for those of you who like new, yay. For those of you who wanted the older songs, boo. That said, there are some remixes of older songs in this game, which can offer a breath of nostalgia in that respect.
The songs are split almost evenly between licenses and Konami Originals. The license list runs a wide range of popular tunes, most of them recent, but a few from the 80's or earlier. The point that needs to be stressed about the licenses is that they're all covers. Not a single licensed song is performed by the original artist. Now, for some songs, this may be an improvement. Unfortunately, with Konami having three mouths to feed for DDR (PS, XB, and now Nintendo), Nintendo ended up being the one cut-off from the expensive licensing.
The Konami Original list combines the efforts of long-time series vets Naoki Maeda, Yuuichi Asami, and Ultramix series composer Stillwind Borenstein. The styles run the range from ballad to happy hardcore, and most everything in between. There's not much to be said here that wouldn't be getting into personal preference for music, but don't expect to see songs by dj TAKA, Sota Fujimori, or BeForU in this mix.
Speaking of "no BeForU", sorry J-Pop fans, but there are no Japanese songs in this mix. All songs are in English. In fact, some songs are remixes of originally Japanese songs with English vocals. Depending on your preferences, this could be a blessing or a curse.
Apart from a small song list, and extra additions to gameplay that may not be welcome, the only true problems plaguing this game are largely technical. These are specifically in the terms of options and modes.
First, DDR veterans have come to know a wide array of applicable options to adjust their DDR experience. To wit, they want to be able to turn up the arrow speed. This is absent in this game. All you can change concerning your gameplay is whether or not you have Hand Markers, Gimmicks, and Freeze Arrows. Nothing else can be adjusted.
As for modes, if you read above, you know I brought up three modes. That's all you get. There is no Lesson Mode (but there is a Lesson SONG). No Training Mode. No Nonstop Mode. No Endless Mode.
It's clear that Konami put a good amount of work into this, through the revamped graphical style, new gameplay tricks, and entirely new soundtrack. That said, they may have cut out too much of the old by trying to be too new.
Still, even if you strip away all the new stuff (and let's face it, some of you will), this is certainly a solid DDR experience that we've all been waiting for on a Nintendo console. This reviewer certainly hopes that it's a sign of bigger and better things to come, making the Wii a "true brother" to the other consoles being recipients of the love that is DDR.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/25/07
Game Release: Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party (w/Dance Pad) (US, 09/25/07)
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