This is it. The big one. The dance game to end all dance games. Or so you'd be inclined to believe based on the constant stream of propaganda coming from the apparently Konami-owned DDR Freak. But while it was pretty much assumed that this game would have been better than its vomitous prequel that came out last year (the original Dance Dance Revolution), the real question is: does DDR Konamix really have what it takes to stack up to any of the number of import DDR mixes available in Japan?
God, I feel like such a whore already. But no, I've got to press on. This WILL be a serious review. I need to know that I am capable of writing a real review, so I'm going to at least try.
So, DDR Konamix. Great, or shit? We'll see.
First, an explanation: I wanted to have a bunch of nice screenshots
of Konamix here to accompany the text, but after messing around with ePSXe
for about five seconds, I remembered how much I completely despised PSX
emulation. Sorry, but I'm too spoiled by other systems' emulators,
I guess. Or maybe I just don't like having to randomly mess around
with about twenty different options every time I want to play a different
game, and then mess around with them again, and again, and again, until
the game runs at an almost but not quite playable rate. I don't know
why some people even bother with PSX emulation, to tell the truth.
It's all very maddening.
So, anyway, without the possibility of pictures from the real thing, I decided to take screenshots from a similar, yet superior game: Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. Both games feature dancing, after all, so I don't see there being too much of a difference. Plus, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker is just about the best game ever made, so its presence on this page can only serve to benefit Konamix as far as my review goes.
Okay. So, on with the review. Now, if you're unfamiliar with Dance Dance Revolution (hereafter referred to as DDR, for my sanity's sake), the basic explanation is that it's a dancing game. The basic explanation is totally wrong, though. If you were to watch someone play DDR, odds are you wouldn't see anything even remotely related to dancing. There's a lot of words you could use to describe what you would see - flailing, stomping, slipping, falling, sweating, stinking, collapsing - but nothing really close to dancing. Unless you're watching one of those 'freestyle' weirdos, but that's not the point. The point is that DDR is NOT a dancing game. It is an arrow smashing game. You stomp on arrow panels located on the platform (or mat) beneath you, according to a predefined pattern shown on the screen, mostly in time to music that is being played. That's what DDR is.
(I'd really like to meet the guy who invented the phrase "arrow smashing
game," and shake his hand, by the way. That expression is just too
hilariously accurate for its own good.)
For all of its silliness, however, DDR has become immensely popular in both the US and in Japan. However, while Japan has gotten dozens of DDR releases for home consoles (this review isn't concerned with arcade DDR releases, just so you know), the US has gotten exactly two. The first, creatively titled 'Dance Dance Revolution', completely sucked. It was quite a mess. Many people blame the game's suckiness on the fact that Konami had faced several problems in the licensing of songs from the big-name artists (artists? pft-ha!) whose songs were present in the Japanese versions of DDR. See, licensing songs for use in America is somehow different than it is in Japan, or something. I don't know. But what it boiled down to was that Konami had to make a big decision with the US release of DDR. Would they a) show their commitment to the series and bite the bullet by paying all of the licensing fees required in order to make a great first US release with many of the licensed songs that players enjoy, thereby jumpstarting the DDR craze in the US with a solid piece of software, or b) license only a few songs, those being the cheapest and most reviled, and make a completely terrible release that is utterly horrible on its own merits, nevermind in comparison to the awesome Japanese mixes?
Yep, Konami chose to go with B. Of course.
Yet despite all odds, and perhaps because of a few misguided suppositions that "hey, if enough people buy this piece of shit, maybe Konami will release a sequel that's halfway decent!" the first US release of DDR was a major success. Konami, somehow not ecstatic about gaining an international foothold for their biggest video game series, chose to follow up this release a few months later with a localization of DDR Disney Mix.
...which, as far as I know, not one person bought a copy of. Mainly because, even as of today, the game costs $44.99. I dunno about you, but I sure as hell wouldn't pay that much for a watered-down version of a game that I had little to no interest in to begin with.
(Here's something that pisses me off about DDR Disney, by the way - the Japanese version, Disney's Rave, had something that all other DDR games have lacked - real music! I mean, Johnny B. Goode? Superstition? What the hell are those songs doing in a DDR game? They actually have merit! I'm sure Konami just made a mistake in including reasonable facsimiles of these songs in Disney's Rave - they probably meant to make and include Eurobeat remixes of both, but forgot to do so. But, were these songs included in the US version of Disney Mix? Oh, ho! Of course not!)
(As another aside, is anyone else as intrigued by the title "Disney's Rave" as I am? It brings to mind an ecstasy-addled Goofy hopping around in a poorly-lit nightclub with all of his similarly drugged-out Disney friends.)
So, with proof that (as long as they didn't go out of their way to alienate their audience) Dance Dance Revolution could be a success in America, Konami started work on a sequel. Since this new game would be a guaranteed success, you'd think that Konami would confidently splurge all of their money and talent on it, making it the biggest, most feature-filled DDR ever, with enough licensed songs to choke a horse with. If you think or have thought this way, then you don't know Konami very well.
("Choke a horse?" you may ask? Yes. Everyone knows that with enough exposure to bad dance music, a horse will eventually stop breathing on its own accord. Smart animals, they are.)
Everyone who bought the first release of DDR with the intent of supporting Bemani (Konami's line of music games) in America - and in hopes of such support leading to a second, real release of DDR - gave Konami the wrong idea entirely. Your blind devotion to that horrid game only made Konami realize what a bunch of gullible chumps you all were, and hey, if they'll buy a game that has only a few licensed songs in it, why shouldn't they buy a game that has no licensed songs at all?
Thus, they came up with the idea behind Konamix. Konamix, as everyone
could imply when the name was first announced, contains naught but "Konami
Original" songs, or songs that were made by Konami's internal sound designers.
It's easy to see why this decision was made - while licensing music from
real (so to speak) musicians and groups would be an expensive litigious
nightmare, having the game compose exclusively of pre-existing Konami music
from previous import DDR games would cost a grand total of nothing.
And, after all, why spend money on making your product a competitive, well-rounded
piece of software when your audience is willing to immediately buy just
any piece of crap you'll throw at them?
Enough history. Let's talk about Konamix itself. When looking at its flaws, it will seem obvious to the casual reader that the game sucks. So let's look at those flaws.
(It should be mentioned that these flaws will likely be only of importance to anyone who has had prior experience with any of the import mixes of DDR. Those who are unacquainted with DDR entirely, or are only familiar with domestic DDR releases - you sad sacks of shit - should probably skip to the third page of this review right now.)
1) The game uses an outdated game engine that was abandoned several mixes ago in Japan. This will be elaborated upon on the next page.
2) The game contains no licensed music, as was already mentioned.
3) The game has been dumbed-down and censored all to hell. Some examples of this include:
a) "Devil Zukin" has become "Evil Zukin," and the pentagram on her chest has been modified.
b) Cutie Chaser's graphics have been heavily messed with. The fox-girl cop no longer has a gun, the background's bloodstains have been removed, and the song's CD on the song select screen is not riddled with bullet holes, as it was in the import version of DDR 3rd Mix.
c) One song has had its lyrics removed (see next page for details).
4) The game contains more bugs than any recent release of any game that I can personally recall:
a) In screwing around with the game's scoring system ("Boo!" in the imports has become "Almost!" in this version), but mostly because of Konami of America's ineptitude, the scoring screen at the end of a song incorrectly reports the number of missed steps you received. In particular, the values for "Almost" and "Miss" are switched. You would think this to be a minor flaw that would be forgivable to overlook during testing, were it not for the fact that you see this screen and its fucked up scoring system every two fucking minutes whenever you play the game. It's called play testing, Konami. Look into it.
b) Some songs, "Era," for one, and "Look to the Sky," for another, have Maniac-level steps that are not in sync with the music. If you've ever played DDR before, you know this to be an inexcusable bug, for your success in the game itself depends on this kind of sync.
c) Edit mode has issues, namely that it's completely fucking worthless. It will not detect or load an edit made on one of the import mixes of DDR (so I'll have to stick with 4th Mix if I want to practice my Tengoku edit), nor will it allow for Konamix-made edits to be loaded and played on DDR arcade machines. Again, this is inexcusable. The whole frigging point of editing your own step patterns is to show them off at the arcade. But since when has Konami ever gotten the point with anything? In addition, edit mode will not allow for certain types of steps to be made, due to a bug. Oh, and some songs will cause edit steps to either get out of sync or not display at all during play. Funny, these flaws weren't in any of the import mixes. I can only assume that these problems were introduced due to incompetence and a lack of play testing.
d) In addition to new bugs, the game still contains all of the old ones that were present in the import versions of 4th and Extra Mix. These range from minor (glitches sometimes appear in song banners at the song select screen when you scroll too fast) to major (4-panel Solo mode is unplayable because, no matter what controller setting you use, the controller face buttons are always activated. This means that you're going to miss a lot of steps if you're in the habit of stepping on the square, X, triangle, or circle buttons while you play). There's really no excuse for this. Hey, Konami - if you're going to use an outdated engine for your game, could you at least fix all of the years-old bugs in it first?
e) When you erase a high score in records mode, a message that says "Cleard." appears. Not only is this mistake, again, inexcusable, but it also completely ruins the game. Ever hear of spell checking, Konami?
5) The game's entire promotional campaign was based on lies. Really. Say, let's elaborate.
->Why must you turn this into a house of LIES?
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