Review by Michael Kelehan
"A very mediocre mix, salvaged by online play"
Everyone's heard of DDR. Don't tell me you haven't. Even if you haven't played it, and aren't sure exactly how it works, you know there's a crazy dancing game out there... and if you haven't tried it, you should. However, there are better places to start.
First, I'll talk to the audience new to the game. Dance Dance Revolution is a very simple game: arrows scroll to the top of the screen, and when one hits the top, you press the corresponding button on your dance pad. If the arrow is longer than usual, you hold it down until it's off the screen. If you miss, you lose life; if you hit it at the right time, you gain life. Run out of life, you're done, but make it to the end of the song and you pass. That's it. It's easy to learn, but as you might imagine, it can get crazy later on... and horribly fun.
Options and Modes
Like the PS2 mixes, this has all your standard options: speed up the arrows, turn off the freezes, make the arrows appear out of nowhere/disappear halfway, that kind of stuff. Ultramix adds a Help Arrow option that may be helpful for new players, which makes some arrows flash yellow and heal you when you get them.
The Xbox version also adds a new Battle Mode, which 1-4 players can play. You can play Score Battle, where you just compete for the highest raw score, or Point Battle, which is a little more complicated. Point Battle is only for 2 players. Both players start with 16 points. When you make a step that's timed worse than the other player's (for instance, you get Great and they get Perfect), you lose a point. First to zero loses. It's fun, but of course plays no differently; you're still trying to make every step as best as you can. The only real difference is that it ends before the song is up. Both modes can be played against CPU opponents, which is just a ridiculous idea, or on Xbox Live, which we'll get to later.
Workout Mode returns, where you can track how many calories you lose while playing, along with Training Mode, where you can practice any song you want at a slower speed. New to the US is Challenge Mode (not Oni Mode), which asks you to do ridiculous things like beat a song without going above a 9 combo (a combo is when you get a lot of steps consecutively without missing). It's kind of fun, but holds no candle to the main game.
The main reason you'd want to pick up this game is the Live play. You can play Battle Mode with up to 4 players online, all with voice chat. Lag is nonexistent; if someone starts lagging, you just get their score updated later, so no worries about losing your timing because of choppiness. Konami's Xbox mat comes with an extra long headset extension cord so you can plug it right into your mat, but I'd recommend you take it off during the actual gameplay. You can turn the voices on through the TV if you want to still hear opponents talk to you while you're playing.
The usual Live features apply here. You've got your Quick Match (''throw me in a game NOW!''),your Optimatch (''let me pick what game I want to join''), Friends lists, all that good stuff. Once you join a game or host one, you've got a list of the people who've joined, and you can all chat with each other and see who's using a controller and who's using a mat. If someone's using a PSX-Xbox controller adaptor to use their Playstation mat, it'll show up as a controller, so don't immediately assume they're using a hand-held controller.
There are some notable problems with Live play. First, you can't see the names of the players you're playing against while in gameplay, OR in the Results screen. By the time the game's done, you've likely forgotten who player 3 is, and you have no idea who just beat you. To make matters worse, you're booted back to the Live menu after a game; there's no option to play a different song with the same people. Despite this, it's a lot of fun, and will eat up a lot of your time.
In addition to playing on Live, you can do other fun things online, like post your scores for all to see. It ranks you by your best score on Light, Standard, and Heavy difficulties, but not for individual songs. Individual song rankings may have been better, but it's still nice. Every month, you can download 5 new songs for $5, so if you get tired of the songs on this mix (and you will, more on that later), you can jsut hop online and buy some more. As of this writing, there's only one song pack, and in my opinion it's not excellent, but who knows what the future holds.
Comparison to Other Mixes
Here's where things get a little dicey. This mix is better than the PS1 mixes, but it really can't hold a candle to the PS2 ones. 50 songs sounds great, unless you consider than both PS2 DDRMAXes have 70 each, for the same price. You get 4 new licensed songs, but none of them are as much fun as I Like to Move It (DDRMAX) or Days Go By (DDRMAX2). The rest are mostly a mix of songs that have come out before, or remixes of those songs. None of them stand out as excellent. As far as song lists go, the PS2 mixes win hands-down, and if you're willing to import, the recently released Japanese DDR Extreme soundly beats them all with 111 songs.
I can't really figure out to whom this mix is aimed. DDR Pros? No, they've got the PS2 versions, possibly the Japanese ones as well. Plus, the challenging Nonstop and Oni modes are nowhere to be found. Beginners should definitely not start here, since it has no Beginner mode like DDRMAX2, or even the Lesson mode to teach you how to play that's been in every US mix so far. Plus, there are very few songs in the 1-2 foot range, which first timers should definitely start on if they don't want to be overwhelmed.
One can't ignore that the timing of the arrows in this game is... a little off. It may take existing players some time to get used to the new arrow timing, and then relearn the PS DDR timing when they go back. One has to wonder why they changed it at all.
This mix isn't the best there is in terms of song selection and game modes, nor is it a good place to start for beginners. However, if you have an Xbox Live and have some DDR experience, it could prove to be quite a lot of fun for you. It's also the only option you've got if you want to try DDR but don't have a Playstation 1 or 2. If you do have a PS2, though, I have to recommend that you get DDRMAX and DDRMAX2 instead of this one. Once you're done with those two, if you're still interested in the game and want to take it online, don't think twice, just buy.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/03
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