Release Date: September 16, 2008
DanceDanceRevolution X represents the 10th anniversary of the second-largest step in making music and rhythm games as popular as they are, just behind Guitar Hero and well beyond, well, anything else, really. The series remains a moderately popular phenomenon, especially among the simulation circles who have avidly enjoyed open-source clone Stepmania, advanced derivative In The Groove, or the five-panel alternative Pump It Up.
All together, DanceDanceRevolution has enjoyed almost 150 different releases worldwide, including TV plug-in games and even a non-interactive DVD game, across most every console since the first PlayStation. However, complaints have leveled at the series for numerous years now, as it has failed to significantly reinvent itself since 2001's release of DDR Max. Unfortunately, this tradition has continued right to DanceDanceRevolution X, whose limited gameplay enhancements curtail its appeal and show that Konami hardly even cares about the series anymore. They still have some creativity left and at least care somewhat about the fans ... even if they don't seem to know who the main fandom of the series is anymore.
DanceDanceRevolution X is mechanically pretty much identical to every release before it. Arrows move to a line, hit them when they hit the line, and don't hit Charged Arrows (another screwed-up implementation of In The Groove's mines mechanic). That's it. If you played In The Groove even once, you've played DanceDanceRevolution X in most senses. All that is different is the song list and the style, really.
Unfortunately, style is a massive weakness in DanceDanceRevolution X, when it should be a strength. You see, Konami apparently decided that the best way to renew the game was to renew the looks ... into a style that doesn't fit the actual game at all. In six words: DanceDanceRevolution is not Street. Six more: Why Did Konami Try This Look?!
Replacing the colorful hodgepodge of colorful backgrounds with generic "urban" designs that feel directly ripped from MMO music game Audition produces a result that does not match with most of the music. The same can be said of the interface, featuring enough browns and grays to impress your stereotypical title of the current generation of games. Then there are the characters, long a part of the series' style and whose dancing makes up a critical part of what goes on behind the arrows. Seriously, what happened to the characters, Konami?
Ugly, that's what happened to them. In the name of restyling the characters, the neatly fashionable outfits that have often defined the styles of many of DDR's little background characters has been replaced with ugly, rather creepy outfits that fail to capture what initially made them appealing. Female characters' dance moves tend to emphasize Britney Spears' pop-slut moves, while males just sort of move, but with no real purpose.
These ugly characters, "street" stages and interface changes seem to be entirely intentional, to which the game's central play mode, "Street Master," can attest. Pick an episode based on a character, and go through a linear list of scenarios while "enjoying" various gimmicks and pining for the quality and branching options of the central modes of previous DDRs. Cringe at a horrifically written plot that makes the fan-beloved group of background characters look like talentless hacks. Wonder how the song difficulty ratings repeatedly don't match the actual charts, until you figure out that they changed the scale to be from 1-20 instead of the traditional 1-10, with flashing 10s for the absolute hardest song, or even In The Groove's 1-13, which was perfectly consistent with DDR's old system.
All of this, and you don't even unlock the songs you play through for the standard Game mode! The Street Master mode only provides alternate costumes in return for your hours of annoyance. To actually unlock the songs, you go to the method established in DanceDanceRevolution Konamix and just play songs in Game mode until everything is there.
Joining Street Master mode is the Party Zone, which consists of basic network play (LAN only) for up to eight players. Was it too expensive to bother with using the online servers that Konami already had in use for previous DDR games? The game also touts support for the EyeToy camera, though not nearly as involved as that of some previous efforts, and a plain records and statistics file.
The song list makes up at least a little of the difference in overall quality, with several pleasant surprises and a surprising lack of annoying songs. One of recent DDR regular Tatsh's character songs from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann shows up with the video of the series' epic first opening, along with re-edits of Butterfly and several other classics from the earliest DanceDanceRevolution mixes. Sadly, the remixes don't quite match up with the originals, but they remain fun and a neat twist that catches a tiny bit of the wonder from previous releases.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, is MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This," a classic dance track with some classic dance moves attached. The step charts for this song haven't held up as well, and are only made worse by some of the videos being incorrectly synchronized to the music, resulting in the (mostly accurate) steps feeling off when they're actually not.
With unattractive graphics, a decent song list, and no real innovations, DanceDanceRevolution X is pretty much your typical DDR mix, for better or worse. By now, you probably either like the series or you don't, and you know it. Nothing is going to change your mind here, and DDR X is definitely not the weakest release to come out of the series. It does, however, remain unimpressive and not necessarily worth the full sticker price.
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