Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3 is the latest version of the DDR series to come out on Microsoft’s Xbox console and the tenth home version overall. This version features the Xbox Live gameplay from Ultramix 2 along with new modes including Freestyle mode and Quest mode. The game includes nearly seventy songs total as well as the ability to use the downloadable song packs from previous versions of the Ultramix series.
The question this time is less “Is this more of the same?” and more “How is it going to get new fans?” As with any game series, fans of the series are likely to pick it up no matter what while new fans are always a good thing to gain. With the addition of a beginner’s mode, Workout mode and various Party modes, does DDR Ultramix 3 do everything it sets out to do? Also, what about online multiplayer? How does that hold up?
The graphics in DDR Ultramix 3 are bright and crisp and the inclusion (dating back to Dance Dance Revolution Max on the Playstation 2) of music videos helps break up the almost psychedelic graphics from time to time. There’s an issue because the graphics are almost too intense at times, especialy in the middle of a difficult song, to the point where it’s sometimes hard to keep track of the arrows rushing to the top of the screen in the midst of the explosion of color.
It’s not always a problem but is a problem just often enough that if you don’t have the step charts memorized you can lose out on a song pretty quickly. Beyond this, the only major issue with the graphics is a noticable amount of slowdown while loading a song. It’s only while loading, but it shows that the engine powering DDR Ultramix 3 has just about reached the end of the road and that it’s time for a new engine in the next game (DDR SuperNova, just announced for arcades).
The characters used in the game animate quite well and the music videos play without any slowdown at all, and everything definitely is aimed at keeping you interested in what’s on the screen, which isn’t bad at all when it comes right down to it.
The first thing that should be mentioned about the music in this game is that there’s a large variety, and in addition to that, any song packs that you’ve purchased online for Ultramix 1 or 2 are playable in this game as well.
This brings us to one of the most important parts of DDR, the song selection. Unlike any of the arcade versions and many of the home versions, most of the songs in DDR Ultramix 3 seem to be American and American club-based in nature, as opposed to the Japanese and Europop songs that dominate the other versions. Part of this is due to the fact that most of the songs are found in the song packs that are available online at $5 a piece for five songs. Pretty much all of the ‘classic’ DDR songs are available here and with fifteen packs available, that’s nearly $75 just to get the songs. While it’s understandable that they want to give people the ability to customize what songs they want, it’s still a bit of a disappointment.
At any rate, you have over fifty-five songs to start, with many more being unlockable. The selection of groups only underscores the growing popularity that DDR has achieved in the United States with groups from Moby and the B-52s to Good Charlotte and the Black Eyed Peas making appearances. A small selection of Japanese and Eurobeat songs round out the selection.
The sound quality is quite good also, espcially on a surround sound system with the bass beats coming through loud and clear. Sometimes, as with any of the DDR games, the announcer can get in over the music, but for the most part the beats translate true which helps the game along immensely.
The controls in a game like Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3 are two-fold. You can use either the Xbox controller or for those who really want to play the game the way it was meant to be played, a dance pad.
The game itself comes either with or without a dance pad. The dance pad offered by Konami is relatively decent for beginners, although as any serious DDR player knows, if you really want to be good at the game, you need a good pad. This requires anything from purchasing one from one of many retailers (Red Octane, for example) to making one yourself. This can cost anywhere from $70 to $300 for a good pad, but the cost is generally worth it when you consider how much better you can be on a solid pad. The joy of hitting a triple-note sequence without the pad sliding on the floor is nearly priceless.
The controls in either case respond quite well, and there’s no real lag on hitting any of the buttons while dancing. The only true issue with the controls is more due to the changes implemented in Quest mode, as it can get a bit confusing. This reviewer had the misfortune of blowing all of his movement points by accident and being stuck in a situation he couldn’t dance his way out of. This was more of a minor quibble than anything important, however.
The basics of DDR are simple: a song plays, arrows travel up from the bottom of the screen to the top where they meet another set of arrows. When the arrows meet, you step on the same arrow on the dance pad. It generally sounds a lot easier than it is, but can be a lot of fun and is a great workout.
Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3 is the third Xbox title in the series and has incorporated most of the elements of previous titles as well as a few new ones. One of the first things you’ll notice on starting the game is that unlike many Xbox titles, your profile is tied in to the controller port. This is only a minor hassle which involves moving the controller or gamepad plug to another port to change players. When you create your profile you can tie it into your Xbox Live account as well as choose which on-screen character to use and input your weight and height for the workout mode as well.
Once into the main menu there are twelve options ranging from Game Mode (the standard DDR game) through to a demo of Karaoke Revolution Party. As stated in the previous sentence, Game Mode is the standard DDR mode where you play a certain number of songs and attempt to pass them. You have a choice of either four or eight panel modes (which requires two dance pads) and then you choose your difficulty mode from Beginner, Light, Standard or Heavy. At that point you pick your first song from the list, changing the difficulty if you wish, and off you go. The rankings still range from AAA through E in the Japanese grading style and there’s really not a lot of changes here. Some of the songs will play full-motion video in the background, but for the most part, the look is the same as pretty much every other DDR game on the market.
Next is Party Mode which is aimed more at multiplayer than single player and consists of six modes. The first is Attack Style for up to two players. The goal in this game is to build up certain presses of each directional arrow to launch attacks at the other player in an attempt to lower the opponent’s arrow bar at the top of the screen. Lower it too far, and the game is over. You also have the ability to play recovery attacks on yourself as well as the capability to block attacks from hitting you as well as blocking your opponent from making attacks.
The next mode is Bomb Style, where up to four players play a ‘Hot Potato’-style game. Each player has to hit a 5 Combo in order to pass the bomb to another player while the song plays. If you are unable to hit a 5 combo in a set time or have the bomb when the song ends, you lose. The next party mode is Quad Style, which involves up to four players playing on four dance pads for a total of 16 panels. In single-player mode, this is the ultimate test of dancing skill, even more than playing doubles mode. Sync style is next, and is also for up to four players. The goal here is for everyone to stay in step together. You have to get Great or Perfect on each step and an O.K. on freeze arrows or you’re out. Score Battle is pretty self-explanatory, as the winner is the one who has the most points at the end of the songs. Point Battle sounds similar, but involves your accuracy while dancing. The farther your step is from Perfect, the more points you lose, with the winner being determined by most points at the end of the song.
One of the odder modes in the game is Freestyle mode, where you have no arrows, no rules, just dance to the rhythm of the song. Points are given at the end for Effort, Accuracy and Style, although it’s not quite certain how these points are figured out. It may have something to do with the one who dances closest to the rhythm of the song, however.
Quest mode involves going from place to place in the United States and dancing with your goal being to hit a certain number of points. Each song played in each arena is worth a certain number of points as well, and the game style is in non-stop mode, although you can quit out of any song at any time.
Workout mode is exactly as it states, and allows you to have an aerobic workout for a length of time or until you’ve presumably burned a certain number of calories. You can also use Workout mode in any other mode by the use of a toggle switch. The game also keeps count of everything you’ve done in workout mode.
Challenge mode is where you attempt to pass a series of challenges, which range from things such as pulling a perfect combo in a song, to not hitting more than a certain number of steps, which challenges you to actually miss steps in a song. Xbox Live is next, where you can not only have any of the multiplayer matches online, but can also enter chat rooms and see where you rank compared to the best in the country. This is also the area where you purchase and download the song packs. Training mode is next, which can help you pass a certain song with any setup you want. This can make you a better DDR player, help you reach the next level of a certain song, or a combination of the above.
Edit mode is for those who think that the songs in the game just aren’t hard or creative enough, as you can create your own step patterns to the songs. For even more fun, you can create personal step patterns and invite other people to try to pass them. Last of the game modes is Jukebox mode, which allows you to simply listen to the music without dancing, in case you really want to hear Butterfly one more time. Options and the aforementioned Karaoke Revolution Party demo top off the list.
While there are a solid amount of songs in Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3, a large variety of the songs seem more aimed at new players to the series and a more mainstream audience than those who have bought previous versions of the game. The addition of new multiplayer modes and the Quest mode is nice as well, but many of the more hardcore DDR crowd are primarily into it for the songs available, and with most of the songs being significantly different in theme than the other titles, they are likely to be less than impressed.
For someone new to the series or someone who listens to more contemporary music, this is a great introduction to the series, incorporating a large number of multiplayer and party games, Xbox Live functionality and a large number of songs to give the game more of a sense of fun.