originals\ Sep 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Return of the Dance!


With my feet placed firmly on the metallic, several thousand dollar dance mat, I hit “Start” with confidence. The only problem was that this was my first time playing Dance Dance Revolution, and having firm feet was the last thing I needed. With sweat, tears, and more awkward movements than a circus balancing act, I attempted to complete the first song I selected.

I failed.

Several games (and several dollars) later, and my feet were looser, quicker, and getting in tune with the world’s most successful arcade music game. Dance Dance Revolution was exactly that – a revolution. It was the pinnacle of mainstream gaming, and brought Average Joes back to arcades (and malls and movie theater game rooms) for one last round of coin-op entertainment.

Our addiction was sublime, but it didn’t last forever. After several dozen arcade and console iterations, consumers began to tire of the genre. And with the arrival of the much less exhausting Guitar Hero series, gamers found a new music series to spend their money on.

Isn’t it ironic that, just as the music game craze ends, the dance craze is poised to return? Much like the way boy bands came back around years after New Kids on the Block retired, dance games were never really dead: they were merely hibernating.

In-Sync or ‘NSYNC?

If Dance Dance Revolution was like the Rolling Stones of video games – big, boisterous and full of life – then Just Dance would be akin to a modern boy band: ultra-repetitive and hugely overhyped.

But its marketing campaign was undeniably effective. Using a mixture of home video footage and clips of people playing the game, Just Dance went on to sell more than two million copies worldwide.

This either proves that consumers will buy anything they see (if only they had visited GameZone first!), or that every game needs to be promoted using clips from America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Whatever the case, you can be certain that Just Dance is part of the reason why there are so many dance games being released right now.

From Frequency to Dance Central

You might not think that a studio as prestigious as Harmonix – creator of Rock Band, Karaoke Revolution, Frequency, Amplitude and several other music games – would want to get in on the dance craze. But as it turns out, this developer had been waiting for just the right moment, which came the minute Kinect was unveiled.

Dance Central is the resulting product. Unlike the previous dance titles, which used a mat, a silly controller, or some Wii remote-shaking mechanic, Dance Central takes full advantage of Kinect, allowing players to actually dance along with the game.

Sales figures have not yet been released (it’s too soon for that), but the Metacritic average, 84%, is a good sign. As one of the more creative Kinect games, Dance Central should be able to groove its way to mainstream success – even if the commercial is absolutely ridiculous:

Space Channel 5 Called, Wants its Moves Back

Make no mistake: without Konami, we wouldn’t have the music genre. Few people realize that Guitar Freaks paved the way for Guitar Hero. Long before Rock Band came around, Drum Mania hit Japanese arcades (and a few American locations). Konami made a keyboard game, too, and although SingStar leads the world in karaoke game sales, Karaoke Revolution was the first to accurately measure a player’s vocals.

That said, DanceMasters – Konami’s “me too!” dance game of the moment – looks like the next Just Dance. Promoted as a game where you can “dance freely” by moving your “body to the rhythm and pose,” DanceMasters is a far cry from Dance Dance Revolution.

Worse, it looks like a Space Channel 5 knock-off with Lady Gaga at the helm:

The Metacritic average (66%) doesn’t help.

Another Revolution

By the time you read this, the latest DDR – annoyingly promoted as one word, DanceDanceRevolution – should have arrived in stores. What will the latest iteration, developed for Wii and PS3 (but oddly, not Xbox 360) bring to the dance floor? PS Move support (so players can flail their arms while moving their feet) and the ability to record yourself and upload the video to YouTube.

From a marketing standpoint, this is a brilliant way to speak to the Just Dance consumer. But for everyone else, this is squirrel crap (which, for the record, is just as smelly as dog crap, only smaller).

The Wii version sounds rather predictable, and considering that the 360 doesn’t have a shakable wand of its own – and the fact that Konami just released DanceMasters – it makes sense that DDR is skipping Microsoft’s console this time around.

Besides, most Xbox owners would argue that they’ve had enough of the series.

Another Revolution Already!

At E3 ’09, Konami teased attendees with an eight-button dance mat that had the potential to redefine the series. Similarly, Konami touted the idea of bringing DDR to the Wii Balance Board – an impeccably smart move that could have brought a fresh batch of innovation to the over-priced peripheral.

Nearly 18 months have passed since that time, and Konami seems to have scaled back its plans for a true Dance Dance Revolution. Will that ever change? I sure hope so, ‘cause I could really use an excuse to exercise.

Louis Bedigian has been writing about games and entertainment since 1999. He joined GameZone in 2001 and has worked for Radish Creative Group as a videographer, editor and production assistant. He is also a staff writer at Benzinga.com, The Trading Idea Network.

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