As much as I hate to admit it, Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution
is an unstoppable juggernaut. While arcade mainstays like racers and fighters were dying down, DDR was rapidly gaining an audience, an audience that would help it survive for the better part of a decade. With each and every entry Konami has done little to change the formula that hooked millions, but has at least tried to cater to fans by adding more songs and minute features that help them get the most out of their game. DDR Extreme
tries to continue this tradition but a few hitches prevent it from being the all-encompassing game that DDR addicts have been yearning for.
Konami promised that Extreme would be the most definitive DDR title to-date and it took every measure to ensure that it would live up to its word. For starters, it features the largest track listing of any home ‘Stateside release. There are more than 65 tracks available for you to dance and groove to, more than any previous entry, and the song variety is just excellent. The designers took great care to handpick the songs so that they wouldn’t overlap with the songs in the other DDR games. This is a huge boost because I’ve always knocked the franchise for rehashing the same songs over and over again. That’s not to say that there aren’t any repeats in this entry, it’s just that there are much fewer ones, giving you more bang for your buck.
To coincide with the new release Konami decided to utilize a new interface for its song selection screen. In the past the game had utilized the small panels on the right side of the screen in order to display the song title while pushing all of the info into the bottom left corner of the screen. The designers removed that little chart that told you how the step difficulty and how much air you could expect. Instead, the game utilizes an archaic rotating system that looks similar to the interface found in the first DDR game. It’s clunky, uninformative and less attractive than the interfaces found in the previous entries. Personally I preferred the interface found in DDRMAX2
as I found it to be both attractive and accessible.
It’s a little disappointing to see that Konami hasn’t added any new features to spice up the gameplay. The last real change to the franchise came in the form of the freeze arrow, but that was three games ago. There’s not much that you can do with a game that relies on the dance pad as its means of control, but there must be something that the designers could do to spruce up the action a bit. My girlfriend had a friend who used to play DDR and Para Para Paradise
at the same time because he liked the challenge presented by playing them simultaneously. Extreme has a feature similar to this but it’s barely developed and needs to be fleshed out quite a bit. Personally, I’d like to see them combine DDR and Karaoke Revolution to form some sort of Pop Star-ish Bemani game where you have to sing and dance at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, the game is still an addictive time-muncher, I just think it would be nice if Konami could change things up a bit. It seems like Mission Mode was supposed to accomplish this but it doesn't really bring enough to the table to do so. It's fun to try to accomplish minor goals set to select portions of your favorite songs, but it's not really worth playing over and over again.Those of you who dropped the $49.99 for that Eye Toy will be glad to know that it’s finally getting some love. They’re not barnburners, but Konami has incorporated the Eye Toy into the mini-games that comprise the Party Mode. There are six games in total, four of which require the use of the Eye Toy to operate. One of the modes removes the backgrounds and allows you and your friends to watch you as you dance. It’s fun for parties and great for people who love to see themselves on television. Coconut Dance requires you to shake palm trees using the dance pads while you use your arms to pick up the coconuts before they fall to the ground. This was a great diversion for my girlfriend and I and it seemed to provide us with the most rigorous workout of all. Hands and Feet requires you to hit the arrows with your feet as you strike floating icons with your hands. It sounds like fun but most of the songs were dumbed down so much that they’re not really a challenge. Clean the screen combines DDR with Wishi-Washi, the mini-game from Eye Toy: Play
that required you to clean the screen with your hands. This is more of a challenge and will probably only be playable for advanced players. The last Eye Toy mini-game turns the screen into a giant version of Breakout in which you use your hands to keep the ball afloat.
If you don’t own an Eye Toy don’t fret, you’ll still be able to participate in Party Mode. Your options are significantly limited, however, and you’ll only have two games available to you. Feeding Time requires you to feed animals with the dance pad while Hyper Dash is a side-scrolling game where you control the run speed with the dance pad a la Track and Field
. You’ll probably give each of these games a quick glance but they won’t really hold your attention for any extended amounts of time.
For all of you who are looking to get into shape you’ll want to hear about the revamped Workout Mode. In previous games the WorkOut mode was its own isolated mode which you had to utilize in order to keep track of the calories that had been burned. Konami has decided to rid the mode and has integrated its elements into the core gameplay. It was kind of weird at first but it was nice to free myself from the ties of the workout mode. I was able to play the Arcade mode and continue to unlock more songs while I burned the calories away. Sure I miss some of the elements of the dedicated workout mode but this process is more streamlined than the old mechanism. You’ll still be able to see your progress and compare it to the workouts provided by other strenuous activities.
There’s not much I can say about the visuals that hasn’t been said before. Aside from the cel-shaded characters that Konami added to the series in the last entry, everything is pretty much the same as it was before. There are some new music videos that accompany some of the tracks along with the Super Happy Flashy Lights of Doom. Like before, you’ll get the real music videos for the featured artists that made contributions to the game. It should be noted that there’s an especially interesting CGI video feature the chick from Silent Hill 4 in a starring role. Otherwise DDR is… well, DDR. There’s not much else I can say about a bunch of flashy arrows interspersed with Super Happy Fun Flashy Lights of Doom.
If you’re looking for something new then I invite you to tune your ears into the audio portions of the game. DDR has always had some clean and clear musical tracks but this time around they’re encoded in lush Dolby Pro Logic II. This allows the sound engineers to surround you with the music and utilize all 5 channels of a traditional surround sound setup. The audio is still frontloaded for the most part, but the surround channels get a decent workout on most of the tracks. Other than that, the audio is pretty much the same as you remember it, right down to the annoying announcer and the loud menu sounds.
My problem with Extreme is the same problem that I’ve had with all of the DDR games; it feels too much like an expansion pack and not enough like a stand alone product. I remember when I first got Beatmania for the PSOne Konami would release additional mixes that could be purchased and used with the stand alone product. I sometimes wonder why Konami continues to release stand alone games when all they’re really doing is releasing additional songs. It would be wiser to require players to buy one stand alone product and then add on to those with additional expansion packs. I doubt that it’ll become a reality but it seems like it would be more efficient and time saving than the method that they’re currently employing.
Other than that, you already know what to expect from this DDR entry. If you’re a true fanatic then you shouldn’t think twice about purchasing this game. It contains everything you’ve loved about the previous entries, coupled with some new mini-games and a bevy of new tracks to dance to. Casual fans will want to give this one a try as well as those of you who are looking to get yourselves into better shape before the holiday season.