DDRMAX2

DDRMAX2

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 10/8/2003 for PS2  

I admit it, I’m willing to bite at most of the stuff that comes out of Konami’s doors. I’m head over heels for the Metal Gear Solid franchise and Boktai is one of the best GBA games that I’ve ever played. Hell, I even used to play Beatmania and Guitar Freaks back in the day but one game that I could never take seriously was Dance Dance Revolution. I mean, I felt like a jackass while playing it. I’ve spent hours and hours researching it and it’s physically impossible to look cool while simulating jumping jacks. I laugh at the people in the arcades who step up to the machine with their wannabe raver gear as they select the same three songs over and over again. Oh yes, I’m a huge DDR skeptic, and then I had to go and fall in love with a DDR fanatic.

So my girlfriend is a huge DDR fan, even prompting me to dole out some cash in order to buy her some new dancepads every so often. If you’re like my girlfriend then you’ll be able to appreciate what DDRMAX2 brings to the table. Making a return are the workout, arcade, practice and edit modes. If you’ve seen the game in the arcades then you’ve seen the Arcade Mode. Basically you select three songs and have to complete them all without losing. Beating harder songs and netting higher scores will gain you points that can be used towards the unlocking of new songs. The Workout mode is a nice addition for anyone who wants to workout while playing video games. It comes with a little counter that tracks the number of calories that you burn while playing DDR. Rounding out the features are edit and practice, both of which are pretty self-explanatory. But then again, my girlfriend and I are separate individuals and we have varying ideas on what makes an excellent video game.

Simply put it’s a rehash of all of the other DDRs but this time some Western-style licensed tracks come along for the ride. It’s not that American songs haven’t appeared on previous DDR titles, just that this is the first to feature them in such volume. There are a whole host of new tracks available for the gamer, it’s just a shame that the track listing becomes repetitive fairly quickly. New to the roster are songs from Kylie Minogue, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Dirty Vegas and more. Their tracks have been specifically mixed for the game and feature music videos that play in the background when you’re dancing to them. In all there are about 60 songs but since the majority of them sound the same and many of them more or less are remixes or variants of each other, it seems like the game really only has about 20 different songs to dance to and of them probably only six or seven will be worth playing again and again. The rest of the game is virtually unchanged; the edit, workout and training modes still remain as does the core arcade play mode. Single-player action is starting to get pretty bland but the multiplayer action has just as much life as ever.

Unlike DDRMAX there are very few new gameplay additions this time around. All of the facets from the first title have made a return, including the freeze arrow, but the gameplay is nearly identical. With the exception of a mode that allows you to play up to 20 songs continuously the game is virtually unchanged. Step on the directional arrows as they reach the top of the screen, try to do your best not to mess up and hope to God that you’re in good enough shape to play the faster songs. For playing you’ll want to use a good dancepad, Konami’s first-party pad is pretty decent as are some of the pads that are available from Red Octane. Playing with the standard dual shock 2 controller isn’t all that bad but it kind of leaves you on the outside looking in.
The visuals have received a pretty nice facelift thanks in large part to the full motion videos that play behind the arrows. I was one of those people who felt that the shiny lights in the previous DDRMAX proved to be detrimental to the gameplay in that it would obscure some of the similar colored arrows. Now the video offers a clear line of separation between rendered object and pre-rendered object, allowing for a much easier experience on some gamers. If FMV isn’t your bag then you can opt to go for a still frame that is accompanied by cel-shaded dancers. The nice thing about the dancers is that you can select up to three dancers to accompany the action. Some of the arrows still look pretty bad and suffer from aliasing problems that are associated with first generation PS2 titles. DDRMAX2 won’t win any awards for excellence in the visuals department but it does what it needs to do.

Audio is a huge part of the game so you’ll be glad to know that each of the tracks have been recorded with superb quality. There’s no Dolby Pro Logic II support a la Amplitude but after hearing the clarity in these tracks, I’d doubt that its inclusion would have made much of a difference. Konami’s over-the-top announcer still annoys and grates at my nerves from time-to-time but he can easily be tuned out if you’re doing well on the track. The rest of the game sounds pretty good, as well it should seeing as how such a large emphasis is placed on the audio.

To me personally (and it varies from people to people based on their tastes) DDRMAX2 gets repetitive far too quickly. After you play through the songs the first few times and learn their patterns it becomes a monotonous game of repetition and memorization. My girlfriend insinuates that the game isn’t about memorization, if that’s true then I’d love to see someone beat the game’s uber-hard track, MAXX Unlimited, on Expert mode the first time through. Other games such as Amplitude do have a degree of memorization to them, but since you can control which track you’re traveling on there’s a level of variation from time-to-time. This is all about repetitiveness and the fact that most of the songs sound the same to each other doesn’t help matters much. Had there perhaps been a random step mode or more variety in the soundtrack I might be more inclined to boot this one up again and again. Keep in mind that Japan will soon be receiving DDR Extreme, which contains almost 100 tracks from the entire DDR series, and you begin to feel a bit shortchanged.

All right so the latest DDRMAX2 isn’t all that bad, but that doesn’t make it all that good either. Konami must be applauded for continually providing gamers with the motivation to get up and off their lazy asses and onto their feet. I personally wouldn’t be caught dead playing it in my free time but hey, my girlfriend loves it, so if you fancy yourself to be an 18-year-old girl who has an affinity for Sanrio Surprises, then this just might be the game for you.
It's more of the same so if you're a huge DDR fan this is what you've been looking for. Casual fans might want to take a pass and wait for something that has more variety though.

Rating: 7.6 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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