Konami hasn't released a new music game in quite some time. A few DanceDanceRevolution versions have shown up, but otherwise, Konami's Bemani line has been swallowed up in the wake of rival music products by Activision, Harmonix and Ubisoft. After Konami's first "new" music game in years, Rock Revolution, received a lukewarm response, it's not surprising that its next effort is of significantly higher quality, returning to what they've traditionally been most successful with while taking it in an entirely new direction.
DanceMasters, by a new Konami team led by Naoki Maeda, who is also juggling producer duties on the newer DanceDanceRevolution games, uses the Kinect in one of the most obvious ways possible.
I started at the menus by simply using my right arm to swing up and down, and then I crossed it against my chest to select the song and difficulty level.
The game's play mode is one of two that will be in the final release, and it's both simpler and more complex than expected. Most of play is simply moving a hand into a circle when a second circle matches — kind of like a full-body Elite Beat Agents. This element was intuitive enough but had me handling most of the motions of the on-screen dance routine.
The big twist in gameplay is pose moments. When green silhouettes appear on the screen, you have one beat to match the pose as precisely as possible. While on the Light difficulty level, you can get away with quite a bit. A glance at the Standard mode represented that pretty much every part of your body the Kinect can read (each part of the arm, your torso, and each part of the leg) has to be fairly precise for this to work.
The goal of this combination is ultimately to have players memorize routines. Ninety routines are planned, and fortunately, a "step by step" mode will be available to help. I'm not sure if this means 90 songs, with each routine only getting more precise as the difficulty rises, or a mere 30 songs with three distinct routines each.
While the Konami rep didn't know about other elements of the game, Bemanistyle, a site specializing in music games, had an interview with Naoki and discussed the ability to see the other player live on the screen and having a game-specific Live friends list. However, they wouldn't be able to do live recording and uploads (as is being done with Def Jam Rapstar), due to the number of new technologies coded into the game.
Gamers who get the Kinect and want a more challenging music game experience would be doing themselves a favor to check out DanceMasters when it hits store shelves later this year.
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