STAFF REVIEW of Dance Dance Revolution: UltraMix (Xbox)

Monday, December 1, 2003.
by Troy

Dance Dance Revolution: UltraMix Box art Konami's Dance Dance Revolution has been popular for years in Japan and just recently in the past couple of years started to get big in the US. The original arcade version of Dance Dance Revolution made it's Japanese debut in 1998. Konami later introduced the Dance Dance Revolution series of the home version to the U.S. And Europe in 2001. Several different versions of Dance Dance Revolution have been released for the Playstation, Playstation 2 and even for the Dreamcast. Now Dance Dance Revolution makes it's way to the Xbox with Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix.

For those of you that haven't heard of or seen a Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine here's a little description. Now after I tell about Dance Dance Revolution you will probably remember seeing some little kid at an arcade jumping about like crazy to some loud electronic music. Dance Dance Revolution is a rhythm based game where you have a dance pad on the floor with 4 arrows. The screen scrolls arrows upward, once reaching the top of the screen you have to step on the corresponding arrows to the beat of the music. Sounds pretty simple, but it can get ridiculously hard. With time beginners will soon be stepping like the pros in Dance Dance Revolution.

Overall this game is still basically the same fun and addictive Dance Dance Revolution. There are new songs and features to the game which haven't been seen before. This shows that for a game that wouldn't seem to be one that can be improved much, can still grow and make players impressed.

Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix, aka ?DDR?, is still basically the same game as I stated before. There are some new features to the Xbox version such as now being able to dance with 4 of your friends. Now just finding the room to place 4 dance pads in a room will be the first hard task. One bad thing I see with the 4 player mode is that it splits the screen in 4 spots vertically down the screen, giving players not much room to focus on their arrows. The arrows shrink down making the fast or slow paced flashing arrows hard to focus on. DDR Ultramix also features Xbox Live. You will be able to play online with people from all over and see how good the players in Japan really are. Trust me, they are insane at the game. Xbox Live will also give you downloadable song packs so your collection of songs can keep growing and you can keep testing your dance skills.

Now for some of the different modes in DDR: Ultramix. In the past, some of these modes have been available in the console versions of the games. With DDR: Ultramix you have a lot of the same modes but slightly different. A list of the modes in this game are Game Mode, Battle Mode, Workout Mode, Challenge Mode and Training Mode. I'll try to give a description of each mode so you will see what is available in the game.

In Game Mode, you play just basic DDR. You choose your song and try step on the correct steps at the right time. Pass and you get to choose your next song, fail and well you still get to choose your next song. By passing certain songs and getting a good enough score you will unlock more songs to play. Before choosing your songs you can choose your difficulty. Difficulties are ranked as Light, Standard and Heavy modes. The elite players of DDR have given stand and heavy modes nicknames of Trick and Manic steps. The ranking of difficulties for each song range from 1 foot to 9+ foot songs. The more feet to a song, the harder it is. You will also be shown a graph of the stream, chaos, voltage, air and freeze in each song. Light mode is the best for beginners, where there will be fewer steps and less double steps. Standard mode or Trick mode, will have more steps and have a better grove for you to follow to the song. Many players use this to show off their freestyle dancing to the game. Heavy or Manic mode will be lots of arrows coming at you and your feet will seem to be moving a mile a second. Warning, heavy mode can cause severe loss of breath and soreness in your legs.

You can reach a settings menu in the game after choosing your song to change the speed, boost, appearance of arrows, turn, other settings such as little arrows, flat, solo and help arrows, scrolling of the arrows where they will scroll up or down, and choose to have freeze arrows in the game. Now you may see some of this and wonder what each of those modes and settings mean. Well if I were to tell you ever single description, you would be missing the fun of finding out first hand. I will explain the freeze arrows though. There are two different type of arrow steps, Single, Double and Freeze also know as holds. Single steps are when you just have to step on the arrow and release. Double arrows require you to step on two arrows at the same time making you jump and land correctly. Some songs will have you jumping to double arrows so much you'll think your on a trampoline. Freeze arrows however require you to step and hold down on the arrow till it tells you to let go. Also in game mode you can choose to play 3 different modes, Single, Versus and Double. Single is just a one player game using the standard 4 panel dance pad. Versus will require two pads or if you have a lazy friend they can use a controller to play. You and your friend will basically just be playing for the fun of it or you might play just to see who does better. Double is where the more experienced players come in. You will be using 2, I repeat 2 dance pads to play. This will be a total of 8 arrows for you to keep up with. This can be quite impressive to see someone do not just successfully but with skill and style.

Battle Mode has been changed a little from previous versions of a similar mode. In Battle mode you can play against a friend or against a computer player. Two different battles are available, Score Battle and Point Battle. In Score Battle, the highest total score determines who wins the round. Getting higher combos of consecutive steps and better accuracy will give you a higher score. In Point Battle, step accuracy of each arrow determines who wins. Be the one to have better accuracy such as perfects and greats instead of boos and misses. All players will have to play on the same difficulty of the courses in order to keep the scoring fair. You can battle against one friend, two friends, or any combination of human players and computer players up to 4.

Workout Mode allows you to input your weight, and choose to play till you've burned an amount of calories you choose or to play for a time limit you determine. DDR has been picked up all over as a great workout game to lose that weight and get fit so it makes since to have a workout mode in the game. You can change the difficulty of the courses you will play in this mode as well.

Challenge Mode is not something new to DDR, but with Xbox live experienced players will goto do the challenge mode and see that it really is something new. Challenge mode use to be that you would have to keep from missing more then a certain amount of steps. If you got a low enough accuracy on the step you would lose a life bar. In the Xbox version, you will find that it will not be this way. You will have objectives to each song they give you. Starting in a practice level you will have 6 challenge per level. Challenges will be not your ordinary challenges. I'll list the challenge as written in the practice level challenges to give you an idea of what you will be facing.

  • Challenge 1: Clear this stage without getting any Boos on your step timing.

  • Challenge 2: Get a full-combo of all the arrows. Full-combo means stepping on all arrows with Perfect or Great timing.

  • Challenge 3: Get a full-combo of all arrows. This stage will be in Sudden mode, where the arrows are only visible on the upper half of the screen.

  • Challenge 4: Clear this stage with your dance gauge full. The dance gauge will be low when you start so be careful. The dance gauge will blink when it reaches maximum.

  • Challenge 5: During gameplay, the number of greats, goods and almosts must not exceed the number of perfects at any time during the entire song. Boos are okay, but get too many and you will fail.

  • Challenge 6: Get a full-combo of all arrows. This stage will be in sudden mode where the arrows are only visible on the upper half of the screen.

As you can see the challenge mode now makes things interesting in the game. Other challenges further into the game will require you to play badly during the song. You will have to not get more then 9 combos in a song and if you just miss to many arrows to keep from going over 9, you still can fail from doing so badly. Another challenge I ran across was where the steps to the song were not in sync with the song and you couldn't get lower then a certain accuracy on the steps. This will really show who is good at DDR and those of course that are good at passing, but not accuracy.

Training mode is not really a training as such, but will let players go through the entire song without failing. Unless you reach the end and didn't hit the steps right and lose all of your life meter. This will allow players to get a chance to try and get use to stepping accurately.

Something else new to the DDR series is Edit Mode. This is where players will be able to create their own steps to the songs in the game. This I feel will be a popular mode among long time fans of the game. There have been people making their own steps to songs online for pc versions for a while now. Now players can enjoy the same feature but now on their Xbox. Ok, I will try to sum this up now since I still have the visuals and audio to go over. Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix also has a Records feature. The game will keep your best scores recorded and your workout chart recorded. The workout chart is pretty neat. It will tell you how many calories you burned on what day and month of the year. So fitness nuts will be able to keep track of their lost calories, all due to a game.

The visuals in the game are pretty much the same as all other DDR games. You do have some customization available to you though. You can change the arrow shapes in the games, which to me seemed like a nice feature, but in the end would probably throw me off. The dancing characters in the backgrounds are some nicely animated cell shaded models. They do tend to get a little annoying by their over happiness glow about them. Also in the background you will find bright colors and shapes flying about that will make your parents have flashbacks of the 60's. During some songs, those bright colors and dancing characters will be gone, and replaced with actual live videos. To me, these features have always given DDR an unneeded eyecandy. The flashing backgrounds I find have always gotten in the way of trying to see the arrows, since the arrows are also flashing different colors. When trying to keep up with lots of arrows scrolling at high speeds, it makes every difference being able to focus on them better with less distraction. With all that said, the graphics really aren't anything to impress, but they aren't needed to be. With a game where your main graphic is arrows, it's ok to let it slide a little.

Now this game is all about Gameplay, and the Sound. The game features enough songs to get your heart pumping and your feet moving when you buy it. Once tiring of these songs, which may be hard to do, you will be able to download more off of Xbox Live which is a plus to the replay value of this game. The audio quality is top notch as it should be. Along with the songs, you will have announcers complimenting you when you do good, and hazing you when you do bad. You will be able to choose between having a male announcer, female or a mix of both. It's nice to hear them compliment you, but hearing the hazing can get irritating after a while and will end up making you hate them for good. The game has a nice equalizer available in the options menu. You will be able to turn a reverb effect on, as well as setup your low, mid and high sounds. If wanted you will be able to turn the sound effects, voice and music up or down to your liking. The sound effects have been changed just a little from the previous DDR games, but I think for the better. I remember getting complaints about the annoying sound effects from my roommate and friends in the past. Now I believe those have been replaced with sound effects they will not be so annoyed with. Overall, the sound was done nicely in this game and that is exactly what I expected from Konami.

Why mess with perfection? Konami have done an excellent job again with their Dance Dance Revolution Series. I plan to keep on playing this series till I just can't anymore.

Overall: 9.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.6 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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