I’ve been playing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) for quite some time and own most of the Playstation (1 & 2), Game Cube, and Wii offerings. I saw Dance Dance Revolution II used at GameStop and thought I’d pick it up with one of their buy two get one sales. The song list on this title is modern and features popular artists like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Bruno Mars, Miley Cyrus, Nelly, Rihanna and many more. I’ll be honest and say that this was my first time listening to some of them and I wasn't very impressed. Tweens and teenagers may appreciate the set list more than me.
The basic gameplay is still the same. You have arrows coming up on the screen, and you must step on the dance pad arrow when it lines up with the one on top. You are rated on your timing: Perfect, Great, Good, Almost, and Miss. There is a life bar that depletes as you miss steps, and when it's drained, you fail the song. There’s an announcer to encourage you or taunt you if you fail. Most songs have multiple difficulty levels you can choose from: Beginner, Basic, Difficult, Expert, and Challenge.
There are a few game modes to choose from and a tutorial (DDR School) for newcomers to the series. Dance mode lets you jump right in and dance to the songs and difficulty of your choosing. If there’s a tough song that you're determined to beat, you can do the training mode to help master it. I mostly played the workout mode that counted my calories as I danced. I set my goal to burn 250 calories a session; I’m not sure how accurate it is, but I did lose some weight playing.
I like the new option to play the whole song or a shorter version of it. Obviously, playing the whole song burns more calories. I never was a fan of the hand gimmicks from the Hottest Party series and I didn't miss having them removed in this game. The difficulty ratings have been revamped and rate songs on a 20 point scale. The harder songs have to be unlocked as you earn DDR points for completing songs and random challenges. After all is said and done, there are eighty songs in total which is more than most DDR games have been released with. (Another welcome change!)
One change that I'm not too fond of is the dumbed down scoring. In older DDR titles, getting a Good rating on a step would end your combo streak. That doesn't happen in this game and the only way to ruin a streak is to miss a step by bad timing or skipping it altogether. Consequently, I did get many full song combos, but this is doing a disservice for newcomers to the DDR scene. DDR veterans and those looking for a challenge will find what they're looking for with the unlockable songs. I didn't venture past level 13 songs on expert difficulty, and those humbled me in a hurry.
The song variety is interesting to say the least. Most of the music isn't my style but I did find some songs that I enjoyed and conversely "Whip My Hair" by Willow, and Miley Cyrus' "Can't Be Tamed" made the Top Ten Most Annoying Pop Songs of 2010. Why these songs were included I have no idea. Like many songs these days, some have to do with love or lust. Jason Derulo's "In My Head" is no exception. Natasha Bedingfield's song "Strip Me" is not talking about sex but the video takes the song title literally. Many songs have the music videos showing, and unfortunately, this is one of those songs.
I did enjoy watching some of the 80's music videos as I played. There are some older songs from the seventies and eighties thrown in for parents like myself. However, this game is clearly aimed at teens and tweens with the music selection. With some of the videos and messages I wouldn't recommend this game for younger kids. Overall, I like how Konami went back to their DDR roots with Dance Dance Revolution II. If they make a third one, I hope the music will be better.