Review: Dance Dance Revolution Universe

DDR UniversePlatform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Release Date: 2/27/07
Genre: Music/Rhythm
Players: 1-4

Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution franchise has been dropping beats for gamers to groove to for a while now on what seems like every platform known to modern man, and now it has made the next-gen jump to the Xbox 360 for the first time in Dance Dance Revolution Universe. If you’re like me when I first heard about this game, you’re probably wondering what the DDR franchise could possibly do to improve in the next-gen switch, and now after playing I can tell you that it’s really not much, which is good or bad depending on your affinity for the series. Either way you slice it though, DDR Universe is still an excellent rhythm game package as I’ll explain.

Obviously, the only prominent upgrade Universe brings to the DDR experience over the many previous games is its flashy new HD graphics engine, and it certainly sizzles the eye better than ever before. Background visualizers are as trippy and vibrant as ever, even containing a few real music videos streaming in the background for some of the songs, and now with HD support for 720p, 1080i and 1080p resolutions all of the footage and effects are crystal clear. The various dancer avatars to choose from are also crisp and colorful, sporting a slick cel-shading that makes them pop out of the screen.

Gameplay-wise, Universe doesn’t deviate from the tried-and-true DDR formula one bit, as you step left, right, forward and/or backward on the included dance pad controller in time with arrows that pass by the Step Zone at the top of the screen, just like always. Fortunately, these familiar dancing mechanics are still remarkably fun and seriously test your reflexes and overall coordination, all while helping you shed a few pounds (which I’m sure we can all use). The music too is very much in the vein of what’s been heard in DDRs past, comprised of the usual techno, hip-hop, pop and rock tunes, but with over 70 tracks from artists like Kylie Minogue, Jamiroquai, Depeche Mode, Sugar Hill Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire, and many others, there are plenty of high-energy rhythms and beats to gleefully dance to.

Because Universe is the debut DDR for the Xbox 360, Konami has taken special care to make the game accessible to any newcomers who may not have any knowledge or experience with the series by providing tutorial lessons and a barebones Game Mode Lite feature to ease beginners in with the absolute basics. My only slight concern is the somewhat unbalanced difficulty settings. Starting on the Beginner difficulty, step notes are slow and suitable for the novice but don’t take that long to become too easy, but in moving up one more difficulty to the Basic setting the speed and challenge ramp up to the point where it’s too hard too quickly.

Once familiar with the basics, you can hop on into the Master Edition menu hosting the game’s full mode roster, and man is it loaded. Quest mode is the main area of play, placing you on an overworld map of North America travelling from city to city across the country competing against other dancers and unlocking new songs and videos. For some inexplicable reason though, the developers left most of the quest mode’s objectives unexplained and in some instances impossible to even complete with songs that don’t have enough steps to meet the required scores for certain matches, which leaves the mode feeling unfinished and confusing until you work into it.

Thankfully there is much more to do than just the quest. The Party mode, for starters, serves as the game’s hub for local multiplayer in 10 fun party games, and Xbox Live support takes the multiplayer groovin’ online for up to four players, complete with player and ranked matches, leaderboards and upcoming support for downloadable song packs and other features. For the advanced player only, there is also a tough Challenge mode with 10 levels and 60 special pre-set dance objectives to try and complete, such as hitting all “Perfect” step ratings in a song or clearing a track without stepping on certain note counts or arrows. Elsewhere, the Workout mode, although having no specific gameplay, allows you to track burned calories and weight loss as you play through the other modes, and a cool Edit mode provides the tools needed to create your own dance routines and even customize background visualizers by splicing video clips together and adding in transition, camera and lighting effects to further spice things up with your own style. And finally, as with all 360 games Universe brings achievements to the DDR franchise for the first time, and for a skill-based game of this type they carry an additional satisfaction in earning as you clear songs, complete challenges and unlock new content.

Even if it has absolutely no innovation to speak of, Dance Dance Revolution Universe is a fantastic game with more visual pizzazz and replay value than any DDR before it. Being on a new platform requiring the purchase of the $80 game/dance pad bundle may be hard to swallow if you own any DDR games and dance pads on other platforms, but if you’re looking for the best dancing experience around and want to migrate your skills over to the Xbox 360, DDR Universe will surely not disappoint.

BuyIt.jpg

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!