Review by Hsieh
Amusing, though not for DDR vets
I always find it remarkable when something new is brought to the video game world. Each time someone over at some game company exclaims, in a stroke of genius, the concept of something that will rock the world, I stare in awe at the wonderful new thing. Konami's marvelous Beatmania games were -- and still are -- examples of this remarkable ideal. Ever since my first steps on the mat, I've constantly driven myself to step harder, faster, and pull some dance moves out of nowhere -- just to see if I could get any better than I already was. It was this motivation that drove me to buy the latest rendition of Konami's franchise -- on the Nintendo Gamecube.
Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix never really seemed as if it was going to be difficult. When I first read about it in the pages of (of all things) Nintendo Power, I doubted its success with anyone over the age of sixteen -- or any DDR player, for that matter. Yet, I still managed to drag my body over to the nearest store and buy the game -- which, due to some uncertain circumstances, was locked in the storage room, which tells you how successful stores thought Mario Mix would be. So I paid a cool fifty, and went off to pound my feet to the (remarkably nice) mat, and to finally see just how good Mario was.
I was not surprised.
It seems as if the vertically (and horizontally) challenged plumber is not that great of a dancer. He can only dance to twenty-plus songs, apparently, and is unable to dance any song with a level of (old DDR-style) eight-foot-level or higher. This did not surprise me. After all, Mario Mix was marketed toward the relatively new DDR players, rather than truly "hardcore" players. So I went along with the game just to listen to the songs -- which were nice, nice, bouts of fresh air.
Before I go into the whole nature of music, however, let it be known that Mario Mix has quite a different aesthetic value to it than most other versions of its genre. Instead of the rather strange-looking dancers in the background that one has in most Bemani games, Mario Mix shows Mario and Luigi, among others, madly jumping around to the music, while racing along in various locales from the Mushroom Kingdom. These backgrounds are very nicely rendered, and are much more interesting to look at than other DDR games. Of course, once one starts to tap each arrow as it appears on screen, and then tap their feet much, much faster, one will not notice these awe-inspiring backgrounds -- but they will truly understand their value once they watch someone else play.
Mario Mix also has an interesting Story Mode. Unlike other games of its genre, Mario Mix stars a remarkably well-known character, which allows for intriguing (if not a bit silly) storylines. The Music Keys, which contain the power of all music, have been stolen, causing all sorts of havoc within the entire World(s). It is up to Mario (or Luigi) to run around and dance their way to the Music Keys (apparently, special things just happen out of nowhere when one dances in the Mushroom Kingdom), while crushing enemies in their path by way of (what else?) stomping on their head(s), tentacle(s), shell(s), and tail(s). Though most of the dialogue is trite, some of it is rather amusing, which leads to the fact that (again) Mario Mix is very different from other DDR games.
Alas, this is actually a bad thing in some parts of the game. It is known, of course, that Mario Mix only offers a total of twenty-odd songs, most of which are unlocked in Story Mode, and the rest of which are unlocked through some other means (by beating Story Mode a second or third time in a harder difficulty -- which will be covered later on). One may recall that DDR Ultramix 2 for the Xbox had a total of seventy songs, with an additional sixty covered in the downloadable song packs -- and thus, you'd think that Konami would give Mario Mix at least twenty more songs than it already has (twenty-eight), with all that music that Mario has (he has at least twenty games, after all). Seriously, Konami, what a letdown. At least the songs covered are worthy (SMB3 theme song; Dr. Mario's Fever song).
That's not all that doesn't glitter, though. One of my biggest gripes about Mario Mix is the rather easy difficulty. Yes, I realize that DDR is not everything -- the difficulty of a song, however easy, can be circumvented. But come on -- many of the songs in Mario Mix are just much too simple, if not easy, for words. The game is literally a bore when you can "double-ace" the supposedly most difficult song in the game on the most difficult level, which really isn't that difficult at all. (Now I must direct your attention to those quotes around "double-ace" -- they're there because of the fact that Mario Mix doesn't have such a grade. All Mario Mix has is A's, B's, C's, D's, and F's. And there's no such thing as "OKAY" here -- Mario's got a bunch of "PERFECT"s, "GREAT"s, "EARLY/LATE"s, and "MISS"es. Coupled with the fact that the window for getting a "PERFECT" is huge compared to other DDR games, this is a bad sign of things to come.) Somehow, I think Konami really did create Mario Mix ONLY for those new to the DDR franchise (are there that many of you?), and left some of the more complex songs to die in the development room. Good gosh, Konami.
Overall, though, I have to say that Mario Mix is (here is my cue to wince) a fine introduction to Dance Dance Revolution, that ingenious game. Newcomers to the franchise -- there seem to be quite a few of you -- will love the game, simply because it offers the basics and rudiments of the game they will hopefully come to love. Experienced players, however, will find Mario to be a sad, sad, plumber. Konami, I know you're turning a deaf ear to us, but come on -- you've got to help the Gamecube out. It needs to learn how to dance a whole lot better than it is now.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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