Dance Dance Revolution: SuperNOVA Review

Dance Dance Revolution: SuperNOVA the first new DDR game in the United States to appear as both a PS2 title as well as an arcade release since 2000.  Featuring over 70 songs including a number of licensed tracks and a few new game modes, this game is seen as the swan song on the Playstation 2, with the Xbox 360 getting a new DDR game within the next few months.  Also, for the first time ever, the US version of the home game will be available before the rest of the world gets it. 

With the addition of the new modes including Stellar Master (the first-ever “Career” mode for DDR), will the final PS2 DDR title live up to its reputation? Or is it past time to pass the torch to the next generation of console gaming?

One of the themes of DDR SuperNOVA is that if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.  DDR has, in many ways, stayed exactly the same over the past five years and the past few PS2 releases.  Much of what was there was already polished and finely tuned although it was beginning to push the PS2 to its limit, especially graphically.

While a complete graphical overhaul isn’t in the cards until the Xbox 360 and PS3 get their turns at DDR, Konami has apparently gone in and tightened the graphics engine and the graphical issues from previous titles aren’t in SuperNova.  In fact, they’ve even added a few new graphics as far as the dance arrows go, new characters, and incorporated new music videos for some of the songs which can actually sometimes be more of a distraction than anything else. 

Graphically speaking, however, SuperNOVA is rock-solid, and there’s absolutely nothing that detracts from the visual experience.  What isn’t broken remains that way, and a few things that were broken are now fixed.

One of the most important things of any music-based game, especially SuperNOVA, is the music available.  Konami has continued the trend started in some of their earlier games by moving further away from the core of Konami original songs, Jpop and Eurobeat to include many more licensed American tunes.  New to the series is the fact that not one of the songs has apparently been in any previously-released console, although a few appear to be from previous arcade versions like Freckles.

SuperNOVA begins with a core of 32 songs, with a total of 74 total songs available for home play, and the other 42 songs are unlocked through gameplay.  There are also five songs which are only available for online play, bringing the total to 79 tunes.  They range from the old DDR favorites Captain Jack through to American bands including Fall Out Boy, Franz Ferdinand and Kelly Clarkston, and even ’70s and ’80s tunes by David Bowie, Lipps, Inc. and Cyndi Lauper.

For those new to the DDR craze, the songs can be very easy to get into and friendly for the newcomer.  For those who are used to hearing a lot of Naoki and B4U there might be some disappointment, especially since only a few of the songs have appeared in any form of DDR before.  A solid core, however, are brand-new titles from the arcade version of SuperNOVA.

Overall, the sound and music quality is quite solid although, as stated before, the song choice may turn some fans off.  However, if the songs are given a shot most of them should appeal to a wide audience which is probably Konami’s goal here.

The controls for SuperNOVA are the same that DDR has had ever since its launch in the mid 1990s.  Arrows will flow from the bottom of the screen to the top corresponding to directional presses on the dance pad (although one can cheat and use a controller as well).  When the arrows hit the top, step on (or press) the correct arrow for points.  X and O both select menu options, while Select is generally used to back out of menu options as is the Triangle key while using a controller. 

Nothing here has really changed, and there’s not much that really should be changed to begin with.  One thing I personally have wanted since the series’ inception is the ability to have a Dance Pad plugged into one controller port while a controller is plugged into the other. This way one can dance while using the controller to go through the menu options as selecting some of them with the dance pad can be awkward at best.  Still, outside of that one thing the controls are very solid and polished.

The game also supports the EyeToy camera for a few modes, but as I do not have that device I was unable to review that functionality.  One other thing needs to be mentioned here.  While SuperNOVA is available as a bundle with an official Konami soft dance pad, and many third party pads are available, if you’re anything other than a beginner at DDR or want to seriously improve your skill you’re going to want to look into purchasing a better pad.  Options range from thick soft pads from RedOctane through a number of third party metal pads.  Be warned, though, as the soft pads can range from $70 to $100 and up while metal pads can range from $150 through $300 and even higher.

For those who have played DDR before on the PS2, there are only a few changes in SuperNOVA.  All of the original modes including Game Mode, which is the same as Arcade, a workout mode and practice mode all make their comebacks as does edit mode.

New to the series, however, and most notable are the additions to Advanced mode and the new Stellar Master mode, which is a solid “career” mode and a serious advancement over what was in Extreme 3. 

Advanced Mode is exactly what it says: Gameplay modes for those who have mastered the basic dancing motions and are routinely killing seven and eight foot songs if not nine-footers.  When you first go into this mode, only Course and Battle are available while the other modes must be unlocked in Stellar Master mode. 

Course mode is an update to the old “Nonstop” or “Oni” modes.  After selecting your style and character, you choose either Normal or Challenge meter.  Normal is basic nonstop play, where you play through all the songs in a row without stopping.  This is for the ones with a lot of stamina, obviously.  Challenge mode is the same as “Oni” mode giving you four lives to play with.  Each life is lost by hitting anything below “OK” on your steps.  Lose all four, and the ride is over.

A number of courses are available as well as the ability to create your own course of up to ten songs.  Again, many of the courses are unlocked by playing Stellar Master mode and this also applies to songs, characters and even some options.

Battle mode is like a combination of DDR and a fighting game.  You play against either a human or computer opponent and build up an attack meter.  Once the meter is full, you launch an attack against the opponent ranging from turning on any of the normal game options (Sudden, Dark, etc.), or shifting the positions of the arrows at the top of the screen or even lowering them down, giving you less time to prepare for the note.  Also, Shuffle is automatically turned on so that you can’t cheat by watching the other player’s pattern.

Endless mode, which allows you to see how far you can get playing songs continuously with pre-arranged breaks but no breaks in between songs, is available via unlocks.  Like Nonstop, this is only for those with a lot of coordination and stamina.  Survival mode is also unlockable and is like a combination of Endless mode with Challenge mode added to it.  To make things even more difficult, there’s Combo Challenge mode, which forces you to run a combo for as long as you can without stopping.  You stop the combo and you stop the game.

Stellar Master is where everything comes from in this game.  Stellar Master is an update to Dance Master from Extreme 3, but re-tuned and updated to make it more enjoyable.  There are a number of Stellar Joints, and each joint has a different song selection, different Showdowns and different trials that must be met to unlock the challenges.

Depending on which joint you’re in, the trials may range from something as simple as “complete any two songs on Beginner mode” to something like completing 3 songs with an AA or better on Expert or Challenge difficulty.  A Showdown will unlock once you complete a certain number of trials.  Showdowns vary, and each one generally requires you to complete 4 out of 5 different challenges, with a total pool of seven or more challenges available per Showdown.  These also vary in difficulty from “complete 10 steps in 30 seconds without the beat” to completing a song with different arrows moving at different speeds. 

Completing the various Joints, trials and Showdowns will allow you to purchase songs, characters and various modes in the shop.  Completing any song in any mode other than Training or Workout nets you a certain number of shop points.  Each item to unlock requires a certain item to be complete in Stellar Master mode, so players will end up spending a lot of time in this mode to unlock everything.

Online Play is really the only dim spot in the gameplay this time around.  You can go online and set up a mini-tournament against other players, or play head-to-head to see who can get the better score or the most combos.  While there’s an Internet challenge, there’s really no way to just play a particular song or section of songs and turn in your score.  Given that the game can also be played with a PS2 controller, there’s not really anything to keep someone from cheating and using their controller for every song thus pushing themselves higher atop the ratings.  Hopefully in the future something will be done to where the game will know if a PS2 controller or a DDR pad is inserted, perhaps on one of the titles for PS3 or Xbox 360.

SuperNOVA really ups the ante as far as replay value and just overall game value from previous incarnations.  While it has just about the same number of songs as the various DDR Extreme titles, all of the songs are new to the PS2.  Beyond that, the new Stellar Master mode really adds to the gameplay as it pushes you to your absolute limit while playing DDR and will probably make you a better player as you try to attain various goals there.

It’s a great party game, and the decent Internet play will help things along.  This game can easily last someone a good thirty to forty hours, and that’s just playing in general.  Fans of the genre can easily spend two to three times that amount in this game trying to unlock everything and trying all of the different modes in the game.

This is a solid purchase for both fans of the genre and people wanting to see what this whole “DDR” thing is about.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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