The granddaddy of all dance games is back as Konami's classic franchise makes its first appearance on the PlayStation 3. DanceDanceRevolution (DDR) is arguably the one game that proved that not all games needed to be played sitting down. If you aren't familiar with the DDR franchise, gameplay revolves around stepping on coloured arrows as they reach a bar on the top of the screen, with a specialist dance mat required to play. The better your rhythm and accuracy with notes, the higher your score. You can also play with a controller if desired, but this will really limit the amount of fun you'll have.
Out of the box DDR has four different skill levels: beginner, basic, difficult and expert. On easier difficulties there are very few notes to step on and most will be on a very noticeable beat, but as the difficulty increases players will have to step on multiple arrows at a time and perform more complex dance patterns.
New players might find this difficult at first, but it is very easy to work your way up the difficulties, with a helpful tutorial for new players as well. As for the experienced players, there's an unlockable Challenge difficulty mode, but if that's still too easy, the game features different options you can apply to increase difficulty such as having the arrows disappear as they scroll up the screen, scrolling the opposite way or at a much faster speed than usual. This will prove a challenge for even the most experienced players, but all in all this is one of the easier DDR games due to the lack of maximum difficulty songs.
New to the DDR franchise is Move and Step, which allows you to play with the PlayStation Move and PlayStation Eye. In addition to the four arrows to step on, you'll have four circles in the corners of the screen that you must move your hand to on time. Two players can play Move and Step simultaneously if you have two Move controllers and two dance mats or controllers, and although you can play Move and Step with a Move and DualShock 3 it's extremely awkward.
PlayStation Move is completely optional, but in order to obtain a platinum trophy, you'll need it. Playing DDR with Move is extremely responsive even in the more advanced songs that require you to hit many notes quickly. It will calibrate only once you pick the game mode but recommends recalibrating from the menu every thirty minutes, but in our tests it stayed perfectly calibrated even after playing for over an hour with two people.
Other than Move and Step, DDR has Free Play, Dance Off, Club and Training modes. In Free Play, you can pick and choose any song you have unlocked and play it at any difficulty, with scores being saved and burned calories counted. Sometimes in Free Play mode, you can even unlock new songs by meeting certain requirements. Locally, up to four players can play at one time using either dance mats or controllers, but sadly there's no online play or even online leaderboards.
If you don’t want to play with your friends but rather against them, Dance Off is for you. This takes a song and split it into sections, with players grooving to each section and the game keeping track of the notes hit. If a high enough combo is reached, the player who misses a note and breaks the combo will endure some sort of negative effect, such as invisible or misplaced arrows. This creates a fun balance of either building a combo and getting points or breaking the combo just before your friend's turn so they have to deal with the negative effect. Dance Off supports four players using either controller or dance mat.
Club mode is the single player "story" mode in this version of DDR. The idea is to emulate dancing in a club by performing multiple songs consecutively without a break. Players choose to dance from four to twenty songs in a row but do not choose difficulty; instead, the game will change difficulty based on how well or poorly you are doing on a specific song. If you are doing really well, the game will also throw in "tricks" that will manipulate the game play making it more difficult. This could include switching two arrow's place on the bar, or adjusting the speed at which arrows scroll. At the end of the series of songs, a score is given as well as burned calories and a "difficulty bar" is raised. As you progress through Club mode, the difficulty bar will increase allowing you to unlock new songs.
The last mode, Training, is exactly what it sounds like. It allows you to play songs at reduced speed with a metronome and/or hand claps to aid with timing. The major problem with Training mode is that if you decide to slow a song down to learn it, you’ll have to do it without audio, almost defeating the purpose since the audio is what provides you cues for timing.
One of the biggest problems with this edition of DDR is the lack of many old game types. In many of the other DDR games, there was something called Challenge mode, different from Challenge difficulty, which would put a player in a difficult situation such as hitting only eighth notes or skipping all the doubles. At times, this was a huge challenge for even the best DDR players. In addition, there used to be a Doubles mode allowing a single player to use two mats at once side by side for eight arrows, and the stamina-testing Endless mode would allow players to play every single song in the game from start to finish without breaks, but is missing here too.
As for songs, when the game is first loaded, it only has about fifty songs unlocked. Most of these will be hit songs from popular mainstream artists such as Lady GaGa, Kelly Clarkson and Jason Mraz, with more unlocked simply by playing Free Style or Club modes. Other than about twenty songs from mainstream artists, there is a plethora of Konami Originals recorded specially for DDR, and there's also support for downloadable content though nothing has been announced yet. The biggest downside to the song selection is that many of the classic style DDR songs are not unlocked until later on in the game.
While playing Free Play, Club Mode or Move and Step, you have the option to record your performance with the PlayStation Eye. It is worth noting that only the Konami Original songs can be recorded and shared with friends. Also, the game itself will not be able to upload to YouTube of Facebook; instead, you have the ability to save your performance at the end of the song and export the file to your PS3 hard drive, from where you can upload to YouTube or Facebook manually, which was slightly troublesome and more difficult than necessary. The videos are recorded in either high or low quality and are generally between the size of 10MB and 40MB respectively, and can be rendered and uploaded in 480p with high quality audio.
With the game comes bundled Komani's soft dance mat. While most soft mats are notorious for being unresponsive and difficult to use, this is definitely one of the higher quality dance mats that Konami has bundled with their games. It has four arrows as well as all the face buttons of a DualShock 3 pad. After about twenty hours of game play, the mat did not show signs of wear and tear and still worked as if it were out of the box. At higher difficulties it tends to slide around as soft mats have in the past, so if you are serious about DDR you will want to consider purchasing a high quality "hard" dance mat when/if they become available. At the time of writing only the bundled mat is available to purchase, meaning if you want to play with a friend, you’ll both need the entire game bundle just for the second mat unless they don’t mind using a controller.
DDR is the most fun if you have enough time to devote to reach Expert difficulty or if you have friends who are willing to play it with you. One of the biggest perks of getting skilled at DDR is being able to walk into an arcade and show off, and it remains a fun game both to play and watch making it a great party game. Be warned however: this game can be extremely loud, and jumping around on a dance mat is not recommended for anyone with neighbours living below them.
Whilst DanceDanceRevolution on PS3 has a somewhat lacking feature set for the franchise, it's still great fun alone or with a few friends. Not only can you look like a fool "dancing" with your friends, but the ability to upload and share videos online make this an excellent game for any DDR fan. For its debut on the PS3, more should be expected, but this is still a welcomed edition to the DDR franchise.