Dance Dance Revolution has become more than a phenomenon and much, much more than a simple fad. It’s actually become a total movement. Initially taking Japan by storm, DDR’s slow but steady invasion of the globe has established a solid following of fans. Placed in music videos, commercials and mainstream magazines, as well as spawning numerous dance contests around the country, the game appeals to even the most skeptical observer because it allows players to develop their own individual style of play. But for those of you who are intimidated by the dancing dynamos in your local arcades and pizza parlors, never fear, because Konami has released Dance Dance Revolution Max for the PS2, allowing you to get your groove on in the privacy of your own home.
The mechanics of gameplay for DDR Max are relatively unchanged from other titles in the series, so newer players need not worry about having a certain amount of familiarity with the previously released games. Basically, you wait until the scrolling arrows that are measured in time with the music (or steps) line up with the transparent set of arrows at the top of the screen. Once that happens, you press the corresponding direction on the dance pad or controller. Failing to achieve this task in rhythm to the music releases a chorus of boos and jeers, and if it continues for too long, ends your game immediately.
However, there are four major additions to the initial gameplay that distinguishes DDR Max from its predecessors. The first is a modification of the difficulty levels. Players now have a choice between Light, Standard and Heavy difficulty, with the maddening Oni mode awaiting players good enough to unlock it. Choosing a difficulty level affects the number of steps placed within each song. It also affects another addition, that of the groove radar. Veteran DDR Players are used to the foot rating, which indicates the intensity of a particular song. DDR Max’s groove radar provides even more detailed information, listing things such as the overall density and irregularity of the steps, number of jumps in a song, and number of freeze steps. Newly included in this version, freeze steps require you to keep one or both feet held onto a specific arrow for a prolonged period of time. Even more strenuous are freeze sections, which will actually pause the arrows onscreen from an undetermined period of time before continuing.
Aside from these additions to gameplay, DDR Max hosts the same features of the previous games. There are lessons for novices to learn the basics of the game, such as where to place your feet and how to get used to the simplest pattern in the game. Training mode allows you to practice your steps for any one of the songs in the game, which is sometimes good to help you pass particularly tough tunes. For budding choreographers, there’s an edit mode, which lets you create your own routines to songs that you can save and play for your friends. Plus, the ever popular workout mode returns, tracking your calorie expenditure during your dancing sessions. It will also track and provide charts of your aerobic progress over a period of time.
Veterans to the series will notice some graphical changes to DDR Max. The most immediate change is the removal of the dancing characters that have been scattered throughout previous games, but were prevalent throughout Konamix. Although there are moments when these characters will pop back in from time to time, they have been replaced by even more colorful backgrounds that are reminiscent of club videos. With large bursts of color, light shows and video streaming through the background, DDR Max gives you the feeling that you’re at a nightclub on a dance floor with every song. Observers will enjoy these graphics the most, as players will be concentrating on hitting the arrows at the right time, which can still get lost at times during the most vivid backgrounds.
Musically, however, this is the richest DDR game to date. With at least 70 songs available to players, featuring remixed tunes from previous games as well as new songs, players should be able to find at least one song that continually gets stuck in their head. But DDR Max doesn’t just give you every song and let you choose. Instead, it offers about 20-30 songs at first, allowing you to unlock additional songs with play. While you’ll receive bonus tunes for good play, in a creative twist, you can also receive some songs if you fail. Along with these new songs, you’ll also receive track information on the song, the DJ, and the edition of DDR that it was first featured in, among others.
Simply put, DDR Max features the same addictive gameplay of the previous games, but with a lot more options. Considering the sheer number of songs presented, the game more than makes up for itself value wise, but if you then throw in all the specific choices you can add to a round of dancing, you’ll find yourself in DDR Nirvana. Dancers and fans of the series shouldn’t be caught dead without this disc inside their PS2, and even the most rhythmically challenged gamer should give it a shot. They’ll probably find a new favorite for their collection.