411MAX: News News Revolution 01.16.03

Hi, guys! I have no time for a wonderfully witty opener. So…consider the column open, and ON WITH THE NEWS!


TOP STORY: Dance Dance Revolution Extreme Announced For The US!

It may be a week late, but it’s still the most important news story of the week. All the next-gen consoles could have been releases YESTERDAY, and this would still be the top story. Those who know me shouldn’t be surprised.

Anyway, it’s official! After rumors had been circulating the web for a while (with me supplying them from time to time), DDR Extreme has officially been announced by Konami for a US release. The announcement comes with eight screenshots that can be found through the link above, and it gives away a LOT more than what is said in the press release. So, based on the press release and the screenshots…

HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW

–There will be at least 100+ minutes of music.
–All five difficulties will return. (Beginner, Light, Standard, Heavy, and Challenge.) Most songs will only have four, while some may support all five.
–The interface will be a fusion of Extreme JP and Party Collection JP. It will have Extreme’s colors, and the ability to select characters like in Party Collection.
–Like above, dancing characters are back, and there will be 60 of them.
–Oni Mode returns after being absent from MAX2 USA.
–Nonstop Mode also returns, but probably in a limited capacity.
–Brand new mode exclusive to the US version! Titled “”Mission Mode”, players must complete specific objectives in order to pass. This will most likely be similar to “Challenge Mode” (found in 4th/Extra Mix JP and Ultramix), but with the name changed as not to confuse players with the “Challenge” difficulty.
–Four songs have already been confirmed: A Stupid Barber, Can’t Stop Fallin’ In Love -Speed Mix-, Mobo Moga, and Sweet Sweet (Heart) Magic. Also present will be Roulette (song wheel spins until it hits a song), and Random (song is unknown until it starts).

All of that has been confirmed through images or words straight from Konami’s mouth. Now, I offer some predictions…

WHAT WE CAN REASONABLY EXPECT

–The song list will most likely be around 70 songs, as per the last two US mixes. 100 minutes of music roughly equates to 66/67 DDR-length songs, so we’ll most likely get that amount.
–There will probably be repeats, but not as many as were present in MAX2 USA. That game was more of an “introductory” mix for beginners, considering WHICH songs were repeated (songs from older, out-of-print PS1 games). As for what songs will be repeated, I’m going to bet that Matsuri Japan, Still In My Heart, and Tsugaru will be brought back to introduce their Challenge remixes to the U.S. I could be wrong, but it’s not that far off the mark. I’d also bet that feeling of love, Vanity Angel, and Xenon will return for other reasons.
–With A Stupid Barber confirmed, we’ll most likely see Scorched Moon and un deux trois as well.
–The Extra Stage will most likely be the legend of MAX, the third song in the MAX series. The One More Extra Stage will most likely be Dance Dance Revolution, a self-titled song that contains step recognizable step patterns from older songs.

DON’T EXPECT THESE!!

–Don’t expect a 100+ song mix like the JP version. The JP version of Extreme is more like an “ending” mix. Interest in the game is winding down, so they put together a gigantic, blowout mix to “end” the series, or at least put it on hiatus. With the American audience still into the game, there’s no reason to create a mix like Japan’s version. Besides, the song lists are different anyway!
–For reasons stated above, don’t expect MAX. [Period].
–Expect a LOT of the Japanese vocal songs from Extreme JP not to make it over to America. Expect some, such as songs by Sana and Be For U, but not that many. Considering this is an American game, loading the thing up with songs most Americans can’t understand is a bad move.

And there you go. Hopefully I know what I’m talking about here!

The game is slated to release this Fall, so we have plenty of time to speculate and argue about things we know nothing about! I’m personally going to take a back seat from all of that this go-around and be surprised. Personally, I can’t wait.

(Credit goes to DDRFreak)


A Marvelous Move

Guess who’s getting into video games more? If you guessed Marvel Comics, you must be psychic! Or you read this story on another site. To which I say SHAME ON YOU!

Anyway, Marvel Enterprises Inc. is going to increase their influence with games that feature their products. Ames Kirshen will be the head of this new department, and will work with others to increase licensing relations with other game publishers.

They also released a list of upcoming video game titles that feature Marvel characters. Not surprisingly, most of them are going to be based off of upcoming Marvel movies.

Spider-Man II Movie (Activision, Summer 2004) Eh. The first game was okay. Let’s hope the second one is better.
The Punisher (THQ, Fall 2004)
If this is a first person shooter, somebody kill me.
Fantastic Four (Activision, 2005) YAY! The Flaming Torch! The Thing! 2005 is now officially too far away!
Iron Man (Activision, 2005) Leave out the cheesy theme song, and this will probably rule.
The Hulk 2 (Vivendi-Universal, 2005) Hey, another dozen levels of killing the same enemies over and over again!
Marvel Universe MMP (Vivendi-Universal, TBA) MMP? What’s that? Massively Multi-Player? Musically Mastered Pancreas? More Meat, Please? Wow, this game has some stupid and terrible names.

(Credit goes to Games Are Fun


Konami’s “Goal” In China

Going back to Konami for a little bit, they have officially announced that they will enter the Chinese market. The first game title they picked to release is World Soccer Winning Eleven 7. They’ve picked that game because of the popularity of sports games worldwide, as well as the strong worldwide sales of their soccer franchise. Add to that the fact it’s sold well in territories like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea, and you have yourself a winner!

Here’s hoping the Chinese are into this game.

(Credit goes to Gamespot)


New X-Box Live Download For Armed & Dangerous

Not the most creative title in the world, but it still works!

For those who have an X-Box copy of Armed and Dangerous and X-Box Live, you’re in luck! There’s a new mission available for download! Entitled “Summer Home” it’s your job to stop the King’s troops from attacking a “summer retreat”.

The download doesn’t cost a dime, so take advantage of it if you can!

(Credit goes to Gamespot)


Censorship Over Miami

Boy, GTA has turned into some whipping boy of the industry in terms of content, huh?

According to an article in the Miami Herald, Miami’s town council, in which three out of five are Haitian-American, has given pre-approval to a pass a new ordinance that would restrict minors from buying games with violence in them unless they get written permission from their parents. This ordinance had been inspired by the GTA: Vice City/Haitian lawsuit.

The other two members voted against this ordinance simply because it’s too vague. What violence are we protecting our kids from? Realistic violence? Cartoon violence? All of the above? A game could be rated Teen, and if a 14 year old rents or buys it, the retailer still gets fined. That goes against the First Amendment. The other Haitian members countered with “We don’t believe the First Amendment was written to protect those who want to incite violence.” Then how come they didn’t have a problem with violent games BEFORE they caught wind of the controversial statement?

This kind of reminds me of Washington state’s law to ban the sale of games that show violence against cops. Because of it’s vague nature, WarioWare: Mega Microgame$ was banned because of a monkey that throws banana peels at oncoming cop cars. We could very well have games like Virtua Fighter banned from minors, as well as other games that depict violence against humans. Something tells me that unless this ordinance is modified to an extent, it won’t last more than a week.

(Credit goes to Gamespot)


And…that’s all I got. Cheat! takes a back seat this week, considering my time is limited. So, lets go straight into the…

Encore Extra Stage Weekly News Recap

Nothin’ says lovin’ like HAIKUS!

Resident Evil
4 exclusive after all!
Or is it? We’ll see.

Gran Turismo 4
Released before Doom 3 is?
No one knows for sure.

Sammy makes a game
With vampires in the west.
I laugh ’till I cry.

Two New RPGs
Suikoden and Ys VI. Cool!
Konami’s busy.

Chrono Break is now
No longer registered as
A Square patent. Dang.

The Phantom revealed!
And it looks really ugly.
I mean, SUPER BAD!

All their publishers
Were revealed, then taken down.
Phantom’s gonna fail.

Nintendo is WHAT?
Losing faith in the GameCube?
I don’t believe it!

The PSP might
Do more than just play games? Crap.
Hello, N-Gage 2.

DDR Extreme
Released for the US! Yay!
Gonna be awesome.

Marvel is gonna
Be more involved in their games.
New division up.

Miami Haitians
Want to pass an ordinance
That is very vague.

Hey! Are you confused?
So am I. Read the others
For more info, man!

A bit short on the haikus, yes. Here’s the reason why…


Commentary: The Import Review Connection

Every once in a while, I’ll get a new import game for my lovely, lovely import PS2. And when I do, I’ll review the thing and let you all know my opinion. These reviews are not your traditional reviews as seen on the main pages, so they won’t be as long. but they’re decent enough to let you know what to expect. So, this week, we’re gonna look at…

DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION EXTREME (Sony Playstation 2)

In honor of the US Extreme being announced, we’re going to look at probably the biggest, baddest DDR mix of them all: DDR Extreme. The arcade version was the largest yet, packing in 241 individual songs from every past arcade mix, a small section of “new” tunes, and several dozen crossovers from other Bemani games. It was sort of an exclamation point on the DDR series as a whole, and a way to semi-retire it while Konami set to work on other projects.

Considering the scope, NO ONE knew what to expect from the home version. So when it was revealed that it would have 100+ songs, people flipped. When a lot of the original arcade Nonstop and Oni courses were kept in, people swooned. They declared this the best home version simply because it had the most songs. Never mind the thing had 43 repeats from previous home versions. Never mind they complained about the SAME repeat songs on US mixes. (It’s different because it’s Japanese!) But is this REALLY the best version of DDR? Lets take a look…

MUSIC

There’s no question that this version has the most songs out of any DDR version. You start with 86 songs, and can unlock an additional 25 as you play, bringing the grand total up to 111. Songs labeled in green are first appearances in the game, but there are only 17 total.
Red songs are the “special” songs like the Extra stages and the “Survivor” songs. And only 5 out of the six were completely new in the arcade version. (The last one is exclusive to the home market.) Yellow songs are the Bemani transplants. Songs from Beatmania, IIDX, Beatmania III, Para Para Paradise, Guitar Freaks/Drum Mania, Keyboard Mania, and Mambo A Go Go all make appearances here, and easily dwarf the “completely” new content. Songs in blue and purple are classic tunes from the arcades and home. There are forty songs total, including all the Paranoias, all the Trip Machines, and all the MAXes that had been previously released. Songs in orange (Orange?) are Bemani transplants that are exclusive to the home market. They only come from Beatmania IIDX/III, however. Finally, there are a few pink songs (Pink?!?) that are home exclusive and completely new. Some of them appeared on MAX2 USA, while others haven’t appeared anywhere as of yet. As for the genres of these songs, everything is covered. Rock, rap, Latin, trance, R&B, Soul, Disco, J-Pop, Eurobeat…you name it, its in here. Something for everyone.

Now as much as I want to love the 100+ tunes, as much as I want to praise this thing to the moon and back…I have some problems with the list. First, there are only 22 songs from the arcade version that are completely new. (There would have been 23, but Seniorita didn’t make the cut.) Add in the six home-exclusive new songs, and the total comes to 28. That’s 28 songs out of 111 that have been recorded specifically for DDR Extreme. All the other songs have been transplanted from other DDR mixes or other Bemani games. Now don’t get me wrong, I love many of the songs in the game. But just like the arcade version, Konami doesn’t seem to think that the mix could survive on the weight of new material. They brought many songs in from other games that people love to hear over and over, but that doesn’t change the fact that only 28 songs are completely new. I mean, songs specifically recorded for MAX2 are nearly DOUBLE from this list.

Also, there are only seven licensed songs included. Seven. Out of a possible eight from the arcade version that were new. Perhaps licensing issues occurred, but I find that amount to be a bit disappointing from an arcade version this late in the game’s history.

My last complaint is that…the song list is too BIG! Yes, we are always clamoring for a game that has tons of songs on it, but the game’s song list is WAY to large to tackle. It’s almost like an overload to the senses as you figure out which song you want to play. There are so many that I want to attempt that I can never find time to play them all in one sitting. That, and filling out the high scores turns into work more than having fun.

Still, there are many songs that are awesome to play. I’ll pick about 20 to constantly whore when all is said and done, so it’s not all bad.

Music: 8/10

GRAPHICS

The interface this go around is based on green, and is a treat to the eyes after dealing with the darkness found in MAX2. They are also the cleanest out of the PS2 mixes thus far. The background movies are beautiful and creative. Plus, picking an older song will have classic animations flying around as background movies to bring back a sense of nostalgia.

The dancing characters also make their triumphant return in their first Japanese mix since 5th Mix. There are 58 characters in all, and can all be unlocked by playing the Nonstop courses. All the characters are cel shaded, and can be accessed from the Options menu for play later. Then again, since when do we pay attention to the graphics when dancing?

Graphics: 9/10

GAMEPLAY

If you’ve played the main game modes of DDR on the PS2, you’ve played main game modes here. They haven’t changed too much in comparison. You have five difficulties to choose from (Beginner, Light, Standard, Heavy, Challenge) in three song sets. If you get a AA on your last song on Heavy, you can play the Extra Stage, which is the legend of MAX. And if you’re good enough to pass THAT, you get the One More Extra Stage.

Different in this version is to pick any song you want to be your Extra Stage. And different in the home version is the fact that you can get to the One More Extra Stage through any song, instead of just from the legend of MAX. This means you can pick an easy song like Forever Sunshine, breeze through it, and then go to Dance Dance Revolution as if it was a major accomplishment. That’s kinda funny, actually.

Both Nonstop and Oni modes make an appearance to liven things up. Nonstop courses are four songs long, and have two sets of difficulties. Many of them are groups of songs from other Bemani games, like a Dance Maniax nonstop, or a Beatmania nonstop. There are also a decent set of Players Best and Random nonstops for some added challenge.

Oni Mode is the famous mode for pros that have you going through excruciatingly long courses with only three chances to make a mistake before failing. There are 30 separate courses here, including several transplants from the arcade. However, there are two courses that have been officially RUINED by putting the super-hard song MAX. [Period] at the end of them. They were hard enough in the arcades, and now can’t even be enjoyed at home because of just one song? That’s just evil Konami. EVIL!

Finally, there is Endless Mode, which has you dancing until you fail, pass out, or both. Luckily, you can edit which songs and which difficulties appear, as well as a wealth of other options. So you won’t accidentally run into any of the MAX songs if you don’t want to.

Gameplay: 9/10

MISCELLANEOUS

Its very hard to play this game through to the end of the unlocks. Not because it is hard in difficulty, but it is hard in the fact that this (along with Party Collection) might be the last DDR games seen out of Japan for a while. A mix this big with so many old songs and so many hard songs gives us a lot to do for a long time. No other mix has as much to do as this one. But what happens if you do as much as you can? What happens when you finish the game? Unlock the last unlock?…Fans may be left heartbroken at the fact that their beloved franchise may die in the territory it was birthed in. And I believe that’s a sad proposition.

Luckily, the game is FAR from dying here in America, so we’ll easily be seeing new games come out here. However, it’s still a bit sad to think the origin of the series might be going, going…gone…

Misc: 6/10

THE 411: I like this game. I LOVE this game! Much like I love every DDR title I own. However, don’t get this if this is your first outing into import DDR. You’ll be overwhelmed too quickly for your own good. But if you’re an import DDR fan, there’s no reason for you NOT to have this mix. No reason at all. It may be the last chance to see an arcade-perfect translation on a home console.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5


Plugs & Shills That Pay The Bills

News You Can Use

Gamer’s Hangover Report — Cory Laflin
Cory’s pissed that the Chiefs lost, gives us some news, and provides us with the BEST MST EVER! At least the best he’s put out. One of these days, we’re going to have together and do a co-MST of some kind. All we need is the right fodder, and it’s a GO, BABY!

Clap Hands, It’s News Happiness Time — Chuck Platt
MY FAVORITE WRITER is angry with Sammy, wonders what the new Nintendo hardware is, and comments on what the hell the next GTA will be. It doesn’t matter WHEN it is. It’ll still play the same. It could be GTA: 25 Million B.C., and you’ll still drive Mastodons, club people, steal drugs made out of dino poop, and pick up hookers wearing leopard skin tube tops. Yet the controls would still be the same.

Mid-Week Mid-Boss News Report — Lee Baxley
Lee has officially resurrected the anime portion of the column, and while it’s not called the Hump Day, it’s still awesome. Plus it looks better than all the other reports, and makes us other guys jealous and inferior at the same time. TEACH ME HOW TO BE AWESOME LIKE LEE! I’LL WASH HIS CAR FOR A WHOLE MONTH!

Thank God It’s Thursday News Report — Bryan Berg
Bryan proves why he is better at this than any of us by analyzing Nintendo plans, Sony plans, and Microsoft plans with amazing detail and great points. More of us should be like Bryan Berg. Except the “liking the Jets” part. I’ll stick with my Redskins and my Joe Gibbs, thank you very much.

Reviews You Can Use

I-Ninja (All) — Alex Lucard
This is the funniest review I’ve read in a long time. See what ninjas are capable of! It may surprise you!

Space Channel 5: Special Edition — Me, Myself, and I
One of my favorite games, and I have the honor of reviewing. Give this one a look-see. It’s probably the best review I’ve ever done.

Columns You Can…uh…Use

Retrograding — Alex Lucard
Alex1 goes through the twelve months of 2004 and picks one game per month that he feels will rock our worlds. All except for December. December sucks right now in comparison to the rest of the year. But, that’s what E3 is for, right?

The Angry Gamer — Liquidcross
LC confuses me with the title first off. (Things That Should Not Bew? Huh?) Then he runs down some of my favorite Nintendo characters for no reason other than to garner cheap heat from guys like me. Oh well. To each their own.


Parting Thoughts

Thus ends another Friday, and now I can retire to bed. These news report writings are LONG!

Until next time, don’t mistake aliens for humans, and vice versa. Save one with the X button, and the other with the O. Then you’ll be a news reporter, my son.

Alex Williams