The Tribunal: Dance Dance Revolution Extreme (PS2)

Despite what you think about the series, Dance Dance Revolution has certainly found it’s “niche” with American gamers. Many arcades in the country have at least one DDR arcade machine, domestic or imported, that patrons play religiously. Home sales have reached over one million units in America, which is quite a decent feat considering the specific audiences the game caters to. And considering this probably the most “unique” of the series, we wanted to take a closer look. As you all know from our review, the game received an 8.0. But how does it fair in the…THE TRIBUNAL?!?!?

THE SESSION HAS NOW BEEN CONVENED

*The crowd gathers into the fabled Inside Pulse Tribunal Stadium*

Attention! Attention! All will come to order!

*The crowd refuses to quiet down.*

I said, ALL WILL COME TO ORDER!!

*Bangs gavel*

Oh for crying out loud! Turn DOWN the music, and stop hopping up and down on the ceramic tiled floor! They AREN’T ARROWS!

*The crowd reluctantly goes silent*

This Tribunal will now officially come to order. Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, you will stand and step forward.

*The game does so. (Hey, in our world, games stand. Deal.)*

Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, you have been brought forward by the Tribunal today for one purpose: to prove yourself to our judges, and to the world, that you are an enjoyable music game.

Now we know that we, the Tribunal, are not the first series of “judges” you’ve been tested against. You have been judged already by many patrons of online DDR and Bemani websites, mostly BEFORE you were actually on the shelves. And most of the judging was unfair, usually focusing on one feature, or one song, or a perhaps not having a certain feature or song. This lead to many unflattering rumors, and scores of untruths. This is why we felt you should be looked at more closely, if only to bring some truth to the table.

Your judges today are a unique breed, as they do not all come from the collective that is Inside Pulse. Along with myself, you have the honor of having two “celebrity judges” from various aspects of the online DDR/Bemani community to grace your presence. First, representing Orange Lounge Radio, is the host of two live Internet radio shows on Sunday and Wednesday nights. He is known as Rob, but you know him as “skie”. Next, representing DDRFreak.com, he is a well-known moderator of the often chaotic forums. He is known as Jason, or “VxJasonxV” for those low on the totem pole. I will be your third judge, and some of you may know me as “El Mullet” in the DDR community. (Quit laughing. Jerks.)

In any case, the three of us have been selected as knowledgeable experts on the subject, and it is up to us to decide your fate. Now…

LET THE JUDGEMENT COMMENCE

JUDGE #1: Alex Williams (aka “El Mullet”), Inside Pulse Games

You have 70 songs to choose from. 50 of them are brand new to the US territory, 7 are repeats from previous PS2 versions, and 13 are “upgrades” from the PS1 games (as its the first time they’ve appeared on the PS2 in the US). The giant song list also contains the most variation I’ve seen in a U.S. game. There’s a wide range of Trance, R&B, Synth, J-Pop, Disco, 80s Pop, Soul, and much more that doesn’t come to mind at the moment. I was quite surprised at the amount of variation in this mix. It is actually one of my favorite collections to date. 50 new songs is more than enough new material to satisfy even the hardened gaming purist, and I’m still glad I have access to some of my favorite older songs in retrospect. Excellent job here overall.

The in-game menus have been updated to a brand new look that I REALLY like, especially considering what could have been. (Pre-alpha screens showed an interface looking like MAX2, except puke green in color.) Although I will admit that selection in-game modifiers, as well as Nonstop/Challenge courses, is a little more cumbersome. You can only see one option/course at a time, making it harder for you to choose than the last game. The HUD when you play, however…MAN, is it SLICK as hell! The bars that obscured the top and bottom of the screen are gone, allowing backgrounds and movies to be shown at full screen. The quality of the movies have also been increased, which is very nice, as it looks as though the game is FINALLY taking full advantage of the PS2 hardware. (Previous mixes simply replicated the JP arcade graphics, which run off of modified PS1 hardware.)

Now, despite the controls being pretty responsive, there is one fatal flaw in the control scheme that could effect the performance of MANY players: there is no option that allows you to turn the corner buttons OFF during gameplay if you’re using a dance pad. What this means is that depending on what pad you are using, if you accidentally step on one of the face buttons (X and O, for example), it will register as an arrow press for the arrow it corresponds to. Depending on how you play, this could SEVERELY impact your scoring, and your overall performance.

This mix contains all the right ingredients to make this the greatest DDR home version to date. It also contains enough minor annoyances and critical flaws to make certain veterans sell their copies on the spot and go back to their imports. While I admit that the flaws are glaring, my enjoyment of this game was not hindered very much. And if you can get around the errors as I have, you’ll find a very enjoyable game with many modes to choose from. Highly recommended.

THE SCORE: 8.0/10

JUDGE #2: Rob (aka “skie”), Orange Lounge Radio

As an admitted Bemani addict, I was looking forward greatly to the release of Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, or as the rabid fans may refer to it, DDR: Extreme USA Edition. I was lucky enough to catch a preview of the game at E3 this year, and see some of the new developments for DDR, including a new interface and Eyetoy support. The interface got blasted by many DDR addicts for being so different and somewhat of a timewarp back to the original PS1 DDR and Konamix. However, looking past the song select screen, which really isn’t so bad, the game plays smoothly and beautifully in game, with full screen backgrounds and some slick new energy bars such as the new challenge mode battery gauge.

Unfortunately not all of the changes were good news for the DDR series. Somewhere along the line, whether it be oversight or intentional, a critical feature was removed from the options menu, not allowing individuals playing on dance pads to disable the hidden “corner buttons”. Unfortunately this has caused a bit of a headache for individuals who spend big bucks on a top of the line dance pad. The big bucks are spent on these pads trying to emulate the arcade experience and enhance stepping accuracy, but are handicapped significantly by this bug.

A critical part of any DDR game is the songlist itself, and while it was a bit disappointing to have repeats from old DDR games yet again, this can be forgiven with the addition of such solid licenses as Move Your Feet and Simply Being Loved. Also a pleasant surprise are some crossovers from other Konami game series. While some crossovers paid off in a good way by becoming some of the best songs on the list (“Your Rain” and “You’re Not Here” from Silent Hill), other crossovers left a lot to be desired (“Waiting for Tonight” and “Like a Virgin” from Karaoke Revolution). However, I give Konami a hearty “nice effort” for trying something different by including the Karaoke remixes, even if they didn’t turn out so hot.

The Eyetoy support has been receiving a luke-warm reception from most of my DDR loving peers, and while I initially found some of the games to be a bit silly and unnecessary, the new “Hands and Feet” mode exceeded my expectations, even if it was somewhat simple. A few days later, it finally clicked for me why Party Mode, silly games included, was such a great addition to the DDR series. Last Friday night, I had some non-gamer friends over just “hanging out”. They wanted to tease me about my Bemani addiction, so I popped in DDR Extreme USA. Suddenly, everyone was participating, laughing and teasing each other and having a great time. The gamers and the non-gamers together, we were having…you know, that thing that DDR’s harshest critics sometimes forget DDR is all about…fun!

THE SCORE: 8.0/10

JUDGE #3: Jason (aka VxJasonxV), DDRFreak

I’d like to start off by saying that while I represent DDR Freak, I certainly do not represent the majority opinion of DDR Freak users when it comes to this game.

The Good: Dance Dance Revolution just keeps on chugging. You wanna know why this game keeps getting media buzz everywhere you turn? Open your mind, and go buy it, or perchance, go arcade hopping. There are very few areas without a DDR Machine around any more. So, DDR Extreme USA, what can I really say? This game keeps the good the same, and squashes out more and more of the bad. Glitches (that people LOVE to dwell on) aside, this game continues the upward trend of the USA Console series.
The song selection is just as diverse as ever. We still have our exclusive licenses, we still have the japanese ‘Konami Originals’, and then we ever have brand new ‘Konami Originals’, which is only the second time this has happened. PS2 DDR Gamers finally have ‘Mission Mode’, which is the American rendition of the old ‘Challenge Mode’ from classic Japanese Home Versions. They give you a song, a goal, and you do it. If you don’t, just do it again. There are no ‘lives’ in this, you do not get a ‘game over’, just keep trying. The in-game graphics are beautiful. Not only are the dancing characters increasingly improved, but the Music Videos are crisp, and the interface has turned very minimalistic, and VERY sleek. Something I definately like to say.

The Bad: In absolute honesty, Mission Mode is fun, but for the most part, all the missions are just portions of songs. They’re not a 1 minute 30 second or more challenge of continuous movement Konami has been so gracious to provide Japanese players with. While a good range of 9-footer songs exist (difficulties are from 1-10) these are songs that if you have the arcade machine, are now cake to stomp through. They’re a good challenge for the new players, but for claiming that they’ll appeal to the hardcore gamers, the normal game mode challenge does not really exist.

The Ugly: Glitches. We all know glitches make or break a game, even more so on Console Versions since they can’t be ‘patched’. This game has two ugly glitches, that are kinda worked around, but you’ll only know about it if you are a hardcore member of the DDR community.
There is no ‘Dance Play’ option. For any home gamer, they turn Dance Play OFF. What this does is prevent the actions buttons (X, O, Square, Triangle) from being used during a song. Since all dance pads have those buttons in the corners, this prevents ghost stepping and other such nuisances. This option is missing entirely from the options menu. And while DDR Techies have created memory card saves with this feature turned off already, it’s not easy to download those saves and use them, especially if you have data you already want to preserve.
There is one missing song, and you can never get the ‘YOU ARE A DANCING MASTER!!!’ message as a result. Apparently, a song titled ‘Memories’ was supposed to be in Extreme USA. The data for the song exists on the Game Disc entirely, but you cannot play it directly. There’s a hacky work around, if you create an edit for it in another game (DDR Extreme Japanese Version) and import the saves into Extreme USA, you can at least play the song in Training mode. However, since that song never unlocks, you can never 100% clear Extreme USA. While that’s not the point of the game, it is disappointing to us that like a ‘you did everything, congratulations’ message.

THE SCORE: 9.0/10

The Tribunal has spoken! And now, to the final judgment…

SCORE #1: 8.0
SCORE #2: 8.0
SCORE #3: 9.0

FINAL JUDGEMENT: 8.3

It is the decision of this Tribunal that Dance Dance Revolution Extreme is a game that can be enjoyed on many levels. Now despite the high overall score, you DO have your flaws. And some of these flaws can make the game less enjoyable to some. However, considering your game’s nature, premise, and the large amount of enjoyable content found within, you can still be enjoyed by the masses. Go forth into the world, play to your strengths, and you will come out a winner.

THIS SESSION HAS NOW BEEN ADJOURNED

We now dismiss all the attendees to this gathering. But we shall require your presence again, once The Tribunal deems another to prove itself…