Inside Pulse 12

Review: Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 (PS2)

Game: Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2
System: Sony Playstation 2
Genre: Music/Rhythm
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment (Japan)
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment America
Released: 9/28/05

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when Konami puts out their now yearly offering of Dance Dance Revolution out on the PS2. We in the dance games community have looked to the fall for the past few years as a miniature holiday of sorts. Well, those that don’t piss all over the American games for being “too American” anyway.

But this year, things are different. Much as Konami would not like it to be so, DDR is no longer the only game in town. Earlier this June, Roxor partnered with RedOctane to release their In The Groove game on home console, which takes everything that makes DDR…well, DDR, and tacks on a few extra things to make it seem new and original. (Look ITG fanboys, that’s me being NICE about what they’ve done. You don’t want me being mean…) With that said, it DID contain 76 songs, and an enjoyable twist on the typical “song course” mode. Then only last August, Mastiff published Adamiro’s Pump It Up for its first home console release. Having a different control scheme, 101 songs, and what I consider the better “house band” in the form of Banya, it was a force to be reckoned with.

Both of these releases offered their own different spins on the “dance genre”. That, coupled with the problems and general apathy among the hardcore crowd towards last year’s DDR Extreme, we really weren’t sure if Konami would be able to create a sequel that could fix said problems AND stand up to the new threat of competition. So Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 has a lot to live up for in regards to many groups of fans. The question is: does it?

(NOTE: I’m going to be spoiling a TON of unlock information in this review, as there’s no way I can write an accurate one without going into it. So if you wish to continue, prepare to be spoiled.)


MODES

The first thing you’ll notice when you browse the initial mode menu is that the traditional “Game Mode”, the mode that’s been standard for every DDR release up until now, has been CHANGED! That’s right, the three-song, combined score mode no longer exists. The NEW main mode is “Dance Master Mode”, an expanded version of “Mission Mode” from EX1. You progress through the mode by completing missions on a grid. Each mission completed will unlock more missions on the grid, and completing certain missions will unlock brand new sections and content. But for those who still want traditional gameplay, fear not. “Free Play Mode” allows the same gameplay everyone is used to, but removing any and all stages in the process. Hence the term “Free Play.” You can also partake in some EyeToy gameplay carried over from the last game here as well.

For those looking for a challenge, Konami moved all the related gameplay under a specific banner: “Advance Mode”. Under here are four “sub-modes”; one you start off with, and three more you’ll have to unlock during the course of the game. “Course” contains a special merging of both the “Nonstop” and “Challenge” gameplay modes from the previous game. Here, you’re able to play any one of 25 different courses in four different ways. You can play with the regular life bar, or the four-life “challenge bar”, and either under the “Normal” or “Difficult” difficulties. This allows for 100 different ways to play, not even counting the fact you can create TEN different courses of your own, and that you can add mods to nearly all of them. Long story short, Nonstop and Challenge have been PERFECTLY merged, allowing you to play any course with any of the previous options, rather than having them separate.

As for the other three sub-modes, there are THREE different versions of Endless Mode gameplay! For starters, there’s the classic “Endless”, allowing you to play as long as you can without having your lifebar deplete to zero. (You can also modify what songs appear and what songs don’t appear.) Next up is “Survival”, which takes the Endless concept, and combines it with the Challenge life-bar. The Challenge rules apply here, and you CANNOT recover any of the lives you’ve lost. Finally, if you thought THAT was murder, you might want to stay away from “Combo Challenge”. In this stage, you MUST keep your combo going at all costs. If you miss even ONCE, its game over. (And who says that DDR games offer no challenge anymore?)

One of the big additions to the game is the “Online Mode”, a first for PS2 gamers. After logging on, you’re finally able to take on fellow DDR players head-to-head, as well as taking part in several online rankings. But what I think is the best feature of this mode is the “ranking courses”. Every week, Konami makes new courses available, and players are ranked on their performances. There’s also a limit as to how many times you can play a specific course, so you only have a limited time to perfect your performance.

Workout Mode, which got the shaft in the last game, returns in its full glory in Extreme 2. Just like MAX2, you’re able to either play songs individually, or play special “workout courses” tailor made for the workout experience. Training Mode also comes back, and the option to slow down the song has been added back, after being dropped from the previous game. (There’s still a problem, however, as you can’t HEAR the song when the pattern is slowed.) Lesson Mode returns, being the game’s tutorial mode. Edit Mode also comes back, with a couple extra cosmetic options that will please longtime fans. (Like adding foot ratings!) Then there’s “My Room”, which acts like the “Information Mode” from previous games, but organizes the information into several different categories. Finally, there’s “The Shop”, which I’ll get into later.

There’s plenty here to keep you occupied; much more than I’ve seen from previous offerings. With FIVE dedicated gameplay modes, and quite a few sub modes under those, it’s going to take a while to see all the game has to offer.

Modes: 8.5/10


GRAPHICS

When looking at the graphics for this game, I consider it a “step forward, step back” type of deal. In regards to the overall interface, Konami has definitely “stepped forward” with tweaking items here and there in order to make it easier to navigate. The main menu has detailed pictures of all the modes when highlighted, and quite a few select screens have items added back that were removed from the last game. But in order to do this, Konami took a small “step back” in how things were presented before. One look at the song selection screen in Free Play Mode will prove this point completely. The song wheel now functions as it did back in the MAX/MAX2 era but has received a graphical overhaul to make it look incredibly slick. All difficulty ratings are present at once on screen like the last game, but are now once again represented as “feet”. The “Groove Radar” also makes a comeback, displaying ratings for Stream, Air, Chaos, Voltage, and Freeze. It’s a “best of both worlds” type of thing, and it’s sure to make everyone happier. The only thing I don’t like about the general interface is the fact that song courses are still selected the same way as EX1. It’s still somewhat confusing to find the course you want to play without knowing what order the courses follow.

Another “step forward” includes the background movies. For the past three mixes, we’ve been subjected to largely the same types of general background movies. They were usually random snippets of computer animation, and got pretty boring after seeing them again and again, time after time. For EX2, however, the movies have been DRASTICALLY improved. Many of the movies follow a brand new style, as 2D objects are constantly traversing through a 3D environment. Every song you play has a brand new set of movies attached to it, and 90% of the time, the movies are completely unique to the song you’re playing. Nothing pleased me more when I fired up “Irrissitiblement” for the first time, and saw the “tree and flower field” background image began to animate as I started playing. And having the cityscape from “My My My” constantly expanding was a nice touch as well. Even debuting songs from past Japanese mixes have brand new movies associated with them for this particular mix. But for those importers who can’t live without seeing Alice and the cherry blossom tree in “Sakura”, or seeing the laid-back car vignette from “Candy (Heart)”, have no fear. Many of the classic movies from the import games have been “remixed” into these new movies. I tell you, I’ve played many of these songs before they’ve officially debuted in America, but these new movies made these songs feel new again.

The “step back” in this regard would be the dancing characters. I’ve always said that as nice as the characters are, they seem to be nothing but “window dressings” that offer nothing to the actual gameplay, and EX2 more than proves it. For starters, the characters look WORSE than they have in the past two previous games. There may be more characters, and four brand new ones at that, but they all look as though they were ripped directly from the PS1’s DDR Konamix. I commended Konami’s cell shading in the past couple of games, but to revert the characters to this stage NOW is questionable. Especially considering how characters on the Ultramix series look nearly photo-realistic in comparison. I mean, you’d THINK the PS2 could model something close to that, right?

Still, no matter how wonderfully nice the background movies look, or how slightly disappointing the characters are, the graphics still suffer from the main flaw plaguing them since Day 1: you’re probably not paying attention to them all that much. Your attention will most likely be focused on the arrows and not what’s behind them. And if you ARE looking at the background, you’ll most likely falter during your stage. It’s a shame, too, as these new movies are a great improvement over past games. And without some sort of a “movie viewer” that doesn’t require you to play the game, some of these great graphics are going to get overlooked.

Graphics: 7.5/10


SOUND

Once again, your typical DDR game is made or broken based on the songs it contains. This is especially true amongst the hardcore crowd, who constantly whines and complains that there are too many “mainstream” songs to bring in new people, and not enough “good” songs from past Japanese mixes. While I find their argument to be INCREIDIBLY flawed (after all, “good” is a very subjective term), this game’s song list has caused many of the haters to quit their whining. After many years of waiting, Konami finally dished out many songs the veterans have been waiting for.

This game contains 74 playable songs, the highest amount of songs to be included in a US game, and tied for the second most amount of songs included in a DDR mix worldwide. Of these 74 songs, only ONE has been playable on the US PS2 before. 67 of them are brand new to the US PS2. 55 are brand new to the US period. And 23 of them are new to DDR period. Talk about a large amount of new material, eh?

Songs are split into five colored categories, two of which you’ll start with at the beginning. Songs in white are the game’s licenses, and all are available at the beginning. Ten of them have already appeared in Japan, and many of them are fan favorites. We’re finally seeing “Butterfly (Upswing Remix)” and “Captain Jack (Grandale Mix)” this side of the Pacific, as well as our first E-Rotic track (In The Heat Of The Night), and four tracks from the Japanese arcade version of Extreme. Next up are eight exclusive licenses. The one most people will recognize is “Get Busy” by Sean Paul, and it includes the official music video; the only license to do so this time around. Other recognizable artists include Fatboy Slim with “Wonderful Night”, and The Chemical Brothers with “Block Rockin’ Beats”. But after that, the rest of the licenses seem to consist of lesser-known trance and techno tracks that not many people would recognize. Granted that these songs are really good, but I’m surprised Konami would go that route. One thing I will say about the new licenses is that many of them seem to trail off at the end, and I don’t like it all that much. Outside of that, and a couple standouts like “Spin Spin Sugar”, the new licenses are really nice.

Finally, there are five new Karaoke Revolution crossovers on this list. But before you think that they are EX1 quality, let me confirm that these mixes are much better and tolerable. In fact, “Crazy In Love”, “Oops…I Did It Again”, and “Play That Funky Music” hardly sound remixed at all, only with different vocals. And for the songs that ARE remixed (“Genie In A Bottle”, and “I Will Survive”), they were both done VERY well. They don’t sound “overly done” like the remixes from the last game, and are both easier on the ears than their original tracks.

The other four categories contain Konami originals. The green category contains brand new songs to the US series. There are 36 songs total to obtain here, but you’ll only start with ONE. (Yep, you start with a grand total of 24 songs out of the 74 total. You’ll have to unlock the rest through Dance Master Mode.) Veterans will recognize quite a few classics here, along with “un deux trois”, “Can Be Real”, “Twin Bee -Generation X-“, “Daikenkai”, “sync (for EXTREME)”, “Sexy ‘Planet”, and a host of others. There are also a healthy number of songs that originally debuted on the XBox in this country, including “Infinite Prayer”, “Colors (for EXTREME)”, “air”, “Quickening”, and “Sweet Sweet (Heart) Magic”. As an extra incentive, several of these Ultramix debuts contain brand new Challenge step patterns that weren’t available before. (Some appeared in Japanese arcades, others appeared in the Japanese DDR Festival as Heavy steps). There’s also a host of songs that we’ve never played before. Several of them are completely original (“Passion of Love”, “In Your Heart”, “Polovtsian Dances and Chorus”), while others are debuting from the beatmania IIDX series in Japan. (“Love Is Orange”, “Make A Difference”, “Maria… (I Believe”). There’s even an instrumental version a song from the 11th version of IIDX, which isn’t even CLOSE to coming out for home consoles yet. (And I believe there’s a pretty good reason as to WHY it’s an instrumental. Look it up.)

Songs in yellow are repeats from past games. Luckily, there are only seven this time as opposed to 21 and 20 from the past two games respectively. As stated above, only one has been playable on the PS2 thus far. The other six came from DDR Konamix. There are some nice fan favorites, including the original “Paranoia”, and “Burnin’ The Floor”. “Brilliant 2U” and “Dynamite Rave” also return, both including special Challenge step patterns. Songs in blue are more of the famous “Challenge Remixes” found in the past two games, explaining quite a few of these repeats. There are six of them, and they all only contain Challenge steps. Finally, the red category contains all the game’s “boss songs”. For those expecting another “Max” or “Trip Machine” remix, it turns out Konami is taking a break from them here. In their stead, you’ll find “Paranoia Survivor”, and its remix, “Paranoia Survivor MAX”. These are easily two of the most difficult songs in the game, and the latter contains a Challenge step chart that many consider to be the most difficult steps ever to appear in the series. In all, it’s a MASSIVE song list, containing a large amount of great songs and fan favorites. Consider me impressed.

Unfortunately, though, I cannot give this category a 10. You see, “Sound” doesn’t relate completely to music, and the main offender here is the announcer. It’s the same announcer that appeared in the past three games, and once again, he doesn’t have a lot new to say. There are NO new comments during actual gameplay; only when a song is loading, when unlocking new sections in Dance Master Mode, and when you go online. It was cool when he made his debut in DDRMAX, but now he’s getting old and tiresome. If Ultramix 2 can have an entirely new announcer script, why can’t this game?

Sound: 9/10


CONTROLS & GAMEPLAY

The traditional four-panel gameplay remains intact and unchanged. You hit the arrows in time to the music with your feet, and you’re graded on each step. (Perfect, Great, Good, Almost, Boo) Your combo increases on every string of Perfects/Greats that are unbroken. And the better you do, the higher grade you get. The maximum grade you can get without getting a full combo is an A. Full-comboing with Perfects and Greats nets you a AA, and getting all Perfects in a song gives you a AAA. Freezes arrows are also present, giving you OK’s for all successfully held, and N.G.’s for those broken off prematurely.

Speaking of step grading, there is finally an option to turn on the “Marvellous” grade, normally reserved for song courses, for regular play. And speaking of cool options, the option to turn off the corner buttons during play is BACK. So the basic controls are back to their original responsiveness. I’m sure this is going to make a lot of people happy.

It’s also been said that the “Perfect Window”, or the amount of time you’re allowed to obtain a Perfect step grade, has increased again. Honestly, I haven’t seen that much of a change. Although I managed to score a Heavy AAA on the song “air” on my first attempt, I’ve been getting about the same scores I usually get. It’s not that big of a deal.

Most every song has four difficulty settings: Beginner, Light, Standard, and Heavy. The interesting thing is that more songs than ever have an extra “Challenge” step pattern, including some of the classic songs. Along with the six “Challenge-only” songs, there are thirteen that contain extra challenging steps. And believe me, some of these get REAL difficult.

As stated above, EyeToy support is back. This adds two “hand targets” on either side of the regular four arrows, and you must wave your hands over the targets at the right time. Songs come with their own “Hands & Feet” difficulty, as well as adding targets to each additional difficulty. (There’s also a special “hand-rating” of either 1 or 2 that goes with the 1-10 “foot-rating”.) This is truly the most innovate gameplay mechanic that’s been added to the genre, and I’m glad it made its return. Unfortunately, this feature has been scaled down a LOT from the previous game. Before, there were several dance modes and mini-games that took advantage of the camera. Now, the only modes that have been carried over are the “Hands & Feet” mode and “Watch Me Dance”. Hell, you’ll never even know the EyeToy options EXIST unless you have one plugged in while entering Free Play Mode. It really stinks that Konami buried this mode, and I hoped it would be expanded more instead.

There’s a new mechanic available called “Dance Points”. Available every time you play a song in the many modes available to you, there is a “dance points counter” next to your score. Depending on the song you pick, and the difficulty level you are at, the counter will increase for every step you hit correctly (and possibly decrease for misses). At the end of the song, the points you earned will empty into a bank, which you can use to purchase items in The Shop.

The Shop is a new concept to DDR. Instead of unlocking songs and courses through simply playing song after song, you’ll be buying all your unlocks from this store. And you will be using this store quite a bit, as you only start with the bare minimum of songs, courses, and other items.

All your unlocks will be acquired by playing Dance Master Mode. The mode itself contains several different mission types. The regular missions have yellow borders, and usually consist of simply clearing a song (with or without mods). Red borders indicate “boss stages” and will earn you trophies, plus unlock additional sections on the grid. Green borders contain missions with song courses; the first time any DDR missions involved courses to begin with. Then there are blue-bordered missions, which contain some incredibly whacked-out challenge that’s pretty difficult. to accomplish. Completing each mission opens the path to more missions, and will cause more items to be unlocked in the shop.

You can make songs and courses appear in the shop by encountering them on the grid. Passing the mission where the new song/course is will make it available for purchase. Also, other items will appear once you fulfill certain conditions. For example, new character costumes will become available once you play as them in DMM for several missions. New arrow skins will also appear in the same way.

But what is really interesting are the special “hints” you can buy. These are clues that can help you gain more points, and access hidden missions in the process. The regular hints give you alternate conditions for certain missions. If you meet those conditions, you’ll open new paths. There are also “extra arrow” hints, which reveal stages that have an extra arrow that’s hidden from sight. Hitting them will net you more points.

A small gripe I have is the fact that you technically have to unlock a song “twice” before you can play it. First when you unlock it from DMM to the shop, and again when you purchase. And some songs can take a while to FIND, let alone play, especially if you’re not that good of a player. Still, Konami gave beginners a “back door” in regards to unlocking items for Free Play and Advance Mode. The more missions you play, the better the chances that songs you haven’t played yet will magically show up in the shop. And to be honest, although I may not like it much, I feel like I’ve earned every unlock I buy. Anyone can play a game for several hours and unlock all the material that way. But unlocking all the songs/courses/etc in Extreme 2 actually feels like a worthwhile accomplishment.

Another gripe involves the “content” of the missions. Don’t get me wrong; there are some creative ones to play along the way. But most of them are simply playing a song from beginning to end. Last game’s Mission Mode had much more variety in terms of mission content, and it was only half as big! But, on the other side of the coin, completing a regular song in DMM will save the record as if you tried it in Free Play Mode. That’s a nice touch I’ve seen previously in the import beatmania IIDX series, and I’m glad it transferred over.

Moving on to Online Mode, players are matched up randomly after picking their difficulty level. Songs are picked at random, and the winner is the player with the highest score. I’ve played a few matches online, and I must say its pretty entertaining to take part in these versus matches. But there are some problems I’d like to address:

For starters, it takes FOREVER to connect online. Maybe I’m just too used to XBox Live, but waiting three-to-five minutes to connect is annoying. Next, there are quite a few matches that are uneven. If you pick your difficulty as Light, there’s a good chance you’ll play against people on Standard and Heavy. It happened to me, and I picked up some REALLY easy victories in the process. (I feel really sorry about that as well.) You can fix that problem by picking “Same” for your difficulty, but then you never know what difficulty you’ll get! And with your song chosen at random, you’ll never know when Paranoia Survivor Max on Heavy will appear. (Paranoia Survivor appeared once for me, and I nearly had a heart attack until it came up on Light.”)

So with these brand new modes, there are some growing pains that come with them. But there’s still plenty of enjoyment to be found, and the controls are very responsive to boot.

Controls/Gameplay: 7/10


REPLAY VALUE

Holy hell, there’s a ton to keep you busy here. Even if you never touch Doubles Mode, there are just short of 300 step patterns for you to play spread over 74 different songs. There are 192 missions to complete, and quite a few secrets to uncover in the process. You’ll have access to 25 official song courses when all is said and done, and you’ll have four ways to play each. That’s ONE HUNDRED SEPARATE COURSE SCORES TO EARN! If you have access to online play, there are brand new ranking courses every week for you to try. And of course, there’s earning dance points to use in the shop.

You are going to spend WEEKS to unlock everything and fill up your records. I swear, there’s something new to do every time you play. And the song list definitely makes the game something to look forward to.

Replay Value: 10/10


BALANCE

There are areas where the game is perfectly balanced, and other areas where the game seems off-balance.

Balanced areas are easy to point out. The difficulty curve of the song list is nice and smooth, despite what the idiot purists would have you believe. The difficulty seems to center on the 7-8 range once again in regards to Heavy/Challenge steps, but don’t let the numbers fool you. Many of the new songs are a bit more difficult than their difficulty level hints at. One look at “Injection of Love’s” gallopy gallops of fun-ness, or “Seduction’s” eight-note runs of death will see to that. Plus, there are FOUR 10-foot step patterns on Single to try, which outnumbers the last three games COMBINED. Good luck!

The difficulty curve in Dance Master Mode is also pretty good. You start with missions on Beginner, and as new sections are unlocked, they slowly grow in difficulty. You’ll progress from Light songs, to Standard songs, to Heavy/Challenge songs in a timely fashion, allowing newer players to ease into the difficulty curve quite nicely. And while the veterans have complained that they have to play Beginner/Light missions for a while, the curve really does work. I speak from experience, as working with the curve, I was able to pass the Paranoia Survivor Heavy mission after not being able to pass the song months. I will say, however, that the last two areas of DMM seem to spike a bit in difficulty once you get to the Heavy songs.

As four unbalanced areas, I’m looking at the song courses. No, not the difficulty of the songs in the courses, as they are adjustable to a degree never seen in the game before. I’m talking about course length. Most of the courses in the game last from 4-6 songs. Barely any other courses last longer than this. There are only two courses longer than six songs: one with eight, and one with TWELVE. I wish there was some more courses that were in between these two extremes, and not just the courses I’ve edited myself.

The unlocks in The Shop are also priced funny. Songs and courses are priced reasonably as you go along, but other items like alternate costumes for your characters are WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…

…AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…

…AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…

…AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY overpriced. Picture 4000 points for a song, and 200,000 points for a costume recolor? WHAT?!? I’ll be married and have two kids by the time I finally unlock my first costume! There’s also the fact that you don’t “keep” the arrow skins you buy. You buy it from the shop, and then when you want to change it, you have to buy the ORIGINAL arrows back. Sure, it only costs 100 points, but its still annoying as hell to do.

So balance issues in this game are exactly how you look at them. They’re fine difficulty-wise, but stink in other areas. So technically, the “balance of the balances” is just above average.

Balance: 6.5/10


ORIGINALITY

As much as the Konami has changed the game to make it the most unique DDR experience to date, there’s nothing truly new and innovative included in this game to make it very original. Sure there’s DMM, but the mode is basically a repackaged Mission Mode from EX1 with lots more to do. Online Mode is new to the PS2, but then again, its not the first time DDR was able to be played online. There’s nothing super-groundbreaking going on in Extreme 2, but there is a large amount of fine-tuning and polish it its place. I feel like I’m playing on the most refined engine the game has ever had. But when all is said and done, I’m still hitting four panels in time to the music in a variety of situations.

Originality: 5/10


ADDCTIVENESS

Those who know me know I love this game far more than I probably should. I play it in massive spurts, I become incredibly sweaty, and I down 2-3 bottles of Gatorade per run. There’s just something about being “involved” with a game’s music on an interactive level that I find incredibly appealing. Extreme 2 is no different.

In fact, the new DMM and Online Mode have really been engaging me lately. Usually when I turn on the game, I head straight into the “choose your song, play for grade” mode forsaking all others. When playing EX2, I’m going into these modes and having a blast. The subtle learning curve found in DMM has really engaged me to play harder songs again, and to try and push my body to the limits I could go at around a year ago when I was at my prime. And with this new energy, I then go into Online Mode and challenge other players! Free Play has remained largely untouched, and I’m shocked as hell. Never before has a DDR title truly engaged me in such a manner.

I’m addicted all right, but in a way that’s new and inviting. Wow.

Addictiveness: 9.5/10


APPEAL FACTOR

This version has seen some radical changes done to its main gameplay mode, and quite a few tweaks here and there in regards to other gameplay modes. Many songs were included that would appeal to longtime fans of the game, and the new shop extends the unlocking process quite a bit. This game certainly does appeal more to veterans of the game; much more so than past versions.

But I can’t help but think that some of these changes might turn players OFF from playing this game. I know some players who want to have all the songs in front of them the moment the game is turned on. Only starting with 24 songs is quite a blow, and being REQUIRED to go through a mission mode in order to unlock more can be even more tedious.

There’s also the fact that many gamers won’t be able to enjoy all the modes this game has to offer, considering they all require extra hardware. Not everyone has an EyeToy, and not everyone has the means to connect to the broadband-only network. (And I’m sure very few people have BOTH.) So there are quite a few experiences that will be lost on those who just don’t have the means.

Still, I have to take into account that home version sales for the DDR franchise exceeded one millions units across all games and platforms in America alone last year. While some believe the fad is dying down, it seems to me home versions are better than they’ve ever been. So there might still be a chance that new players will flock toward this game, and existing players will adapt to the changes immediately. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, though.

Appeal Factor: 6/10


MISCELLANEOUS

There’s a feeling I’ve been getting about this mix the more I play it. The feeling is a good one, so no worries about that. There may not be much that truly revolutionizes the series here, but there is a nice, healthy dose of “evolution” in its place.

For the first time, there was no Japanese arcade game model for this version to follow. There was no Extreme 2 in Japan, meaning this game could go in any direction it wished. And it did. The main game mode no longer resembles that of the arcade game. Instead, it resembles some of the other games I’ve played on home consoles. Other modes have been altered and tweaked to provide new levels of enjoyment, and to give players of all skill levels a challenge. The look of the game is the best I’ve seen it on the PS2, with background movies and interface design rivaling that Ultramix 2 in some cases.

What started off rocky with EX1, Konami is continuing with EX2. They are finding new ways to evolve from the rigid arcade set-up, and giving us new experiences while not detracting much from the original formula. Sure there are some bumps along the way, but what I see is progress. Slow, steady progress from game to game that doesn’t leave the series in a state of stagnation. Konami actually listened to the fans somewhat this go around, and it shows with items dedicated to the veterans. (Hell, these days, there are probably a lot more veterans than even I think there are.)

The series doesn’t have to be overhauled. The series doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. There shouldn’t be a jack-up in difficulty, or piling on mod after mod after mod. The game may have the same formula, but its changing right before our eyes. It’s growing away from the arcades, and into something new. Something fun. Something…evolved.

Miscellaneous: 8/10


THE SCORES

Modes: 8.5/10
Graphics: 7.5/10
Sound: 9/10
Controls/Gameplay: 7/10
Replay Value: 10/10
Balance: 6.5/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 9.5/10
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
TOTAL: 77/100 VERY GOOD