Release Date: September 12, 2008
DanceDanceRevolution has been a staple of gaming consoles and arcades for the last 10 years. It's a miracle the series has survived as long as it has, with virtually no changes made between installments other than some new songs. With the advent of the Nintendo Wii, Konami finally didn't have any excuse to keep rehashing the same game over and over again. DanceDanceRevolution: Hottest Party for the Wii delivered on this, adding several new features to the game. However, Konami seems to have gone into cruise control for the second installment of the DDR offering on the Wii. Back to its old tricks, Konami seems to have gone with some new songs and a few random cosmetic upgrades. The formula is still the same as it was 10 years and dozens of identical installments ago, so Hottest Party 2 has a difficult time standing out among the current sea of music games.
If you've avoided all arcades and home consoles for the past decade, DanceDanceRevolution is a music game where you stomp on arrows on a dance mat — the arrows correspond to four directions: down, left, right and up — in time with on-screen arrows that are set to the beats of a popular song. It's a very simple concept, but it's stuck so far, and Hottest Party 2 manages to change a few things from the standard DDR format.
The changes come in the form of a few new types of notes and two new note inputs. Most songs will throw Wiimote and Nunchuk notes at you. When these notes scroll up the screen, you simply shake the appropriate hand to hit the notes. You also have held notes, where you need to keep shaking the correct controller for a few seconds. After a while, you'll learn to ignore these notes, as the game rewards you for moving both of your hands in sync with the song's beat at all times. You build up a "hand combo" over the course of the song, and when you're not prompted to play a Wiimote or Nunchuk note, you should be shaking your hands anyway to build up the hand combo bonus. While it's the most functional of the new features, I found myself thinking of it as a "rest note" for my feet while I continued to shake my hands.
Other new note types are the double and triple stomps. These notes seem to have a sort of shield on them, and each time you hit them, they go back down a little before scrolling back up. After two or three hits, they finally go away. Hottest Party 2 also has notes that only appear at the halfway point of scrolling up, giving you less time to react. There are also a few bizarre notes, such as ones that fly in from the side and eventually settle under one of the four pads, ones that make the chart bigger or smaller, and missile notes, which you can never actually get rid of. These just fly around all over the screen and eventually zip up toward one of the arrows. If you miss the note, you lose significantly more of your dance meter than you would if you missed a normal note. Hitting the note just sends it back to flying all over the stage. It's an incredibly annoying note to constantly deal with, and it never feels quite right; I would just flail around for the correct note as it the missile note roared toward the top of the screen at supersonic speeds. Sadly, the only one of these features that works in the world of DDR is the hand motions, and as I've stated, these can be largely ignored once you get into the rhythm of any song.
With the Wii, you might expect some graphical changes to the series' usual fare of one dancer dancing in some crazy 2D background. This has been changed for Hottest Party 2, but it's not exactly an improvement. Gone are the extremely colorful and flashy backgrounds from previous titles, and in its place are full 3D backgrounds. Your dancer is placed in a poorly detailed dance floor, given a few poorly detailed background dancers, and then he dances away with standard DDR animations. Sometimes this looks passable and good, but most of the time, it looks almost frightening. All of the characters have gotten a bit of a facelift for the Wii iteration so that they look a bit more like Miis, but it's extremely odd to see your character shuffling toward the camera with a Mii "happy" expression.
The worst offender of all is the Mii character. You can put any of your Miis into Hottest Party 2 with any character's clothes. Being the shining example of humanity that I am, as soon as I had the Mii character unlocked, I put Hitler's head on the character and dressed him up in stereotypical gangster clothes. The results were hilarious, and I often had to stop playing because of how much I was laughing at the dancing Hitler.
It's difficult to not laugh when you're watching such politically incorrect figures dance to some of the music that's in Hottest Party 2. As with any DDR game, you have your usual fare of Konami bands that contribute about half of the soundtrack, which is generally the better half of the music. The other half is composed of a mix of a few master tracks and techno covers of famous songs. While some of these songs work well for a dancing game, I can't fathom how anyone thought some of the other tracks were good idea. Yes, "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice is a fun and infectious little song to listen to, but it's not a good song to actually pretend to dance to. "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls? Seriously, can people dance to that?
Making things even worse is the sub-standard quality of most of the covers. Yes, they need to be stylized to a certain point to make them better for DDR, but with Hottest Party 2, some of the songs seem to have been lost somewhere along the way. The only three that I was able to recognize were "Black or White," "I Ran" and "We Got the Beat." Half of the game's soundtrack just isn't enjoyable to listen to, let alone play.
Hottest Party 2 has a number of game modes. The main offering is Dance and Defend, where you can attack another player or CPU-controlled player by building up attacks with hand combos. These can be somewhat chaotic, but they still manage to be fun. This mode is a much-needed change to the DDR formula in order to keep the gameplay fresh.
The other main offering is Groove Arena, where you go between a number of arenas and complete challenges to climb the ladder. The last few stages only consist of one song, and there are only six tiers, so getting through this mode only takes a few hours, and none of the challenges are very difficult. As an example, one of the challenges is to "beat the song and get a 50 combo on basic."
Hottest Party 2 also offers DDR mainstays like Free Play, where most people will go to raise their scores, and Workout mode, where the game keeps track of how many calories you've burnt during your session. In a nice little nod to players of Hottest Party 1, there's an option that unlocks everything from that title in Hottest Party 2.
Somewhat disappointing is the lack of any online functionality. The Xbox and Xbox 360 versions of DDR have online play and downloadable content, so it seems like a huge oversight to have two Wii entries in the bag but to completely ignore the online factor.
In the end, there's a mixed bag with DanceDanceRevolution: Hottest Party 2. The new features breathe some life into the stagnating DDR formula, but so little of it is actually fun that it quickly devolves into plain old DDR with a few gimmicks — the game even calls them gimmicks. A mediocre song list, bad covers, some strange graphical choices, an extremely annoying announcer, and dance charts that aren't really a ton of fun result in a DDR title that feels like it's fallen a little short of par for the DDR course, and that course doesn't usually score well anyway.
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