Dance Dance Revolution Universe boldly goes where no rhythm dancing title has gone before, making it the first DDR game to hit the new generation of console systems. Using the Xbox 360, Universe stays true to the Xbox’s Ultramix format but still manages to maintain its own identity with a fresh mix of 70-plus new songs, beefier visuals, and online modes.
What hasn’t changed an ounce, though, is the tried-but-true arrow-stepping formula that has kept feet flowing since 1998 and staying true to its title, this DDR is in fact universal in the sense it is accessible to beginners and experts alike.
Players who have never stepped up to the pad before will find solace in the game’s Basic Edition, which holds a dancer’s hands through a number of lesson modes and tutorials. On the other hand, at the push of a button, novices and experts can jump straight into the eye-crossing frenzy of the game’s more difficult levels as well as have access to the full buffet of game modes.
In essence, Universe copies the setup of Ultramix 4 with completely redone presentation, bringing in the power courses (tunes mixed into a nonstop course of nearly 10 straight minutes of game play), relay modes, an expanded quest mode, challenge mode, multiplayer party modes and online modes. The party modes throw in the usual array of multiplayer modes, quadruple pad dancing and more, which also carry over into the game’s exceptional online capabilities that feature leaderboards and downloadable content.
Unlockables and achievements tally mostly through the game’s quest modes, which features a map of the United States and all of the territories players can conquer through the art of dance. By entering a state, players will then have unlimited tries to meet a pre-determined criteria and success grants them currency and access to special events and competitions. Thankfully, the quest mode in Universe isn’t limited to one player, allowing buddies to join in on the quest to dig deep for the game’s decent chunk of hidden songs.
Universe features more than 100 minutes of music and the title brings forth a ton of original music that is sure to please fans of electronic. Very few of the title’s tunes fall into the mainstream category, bringing out the fresh change of pace most music games (many of which have been other DDR titles admittedly) have been lacking recently.
Konami really opens the vault for Universe, featuring throwback tracks, a few recent pop hits, a number of original tracks from low-key electronic artists and some great Konami video game themes that really add variety and flair to the song list. A sprinkle of a few DDR original tracks and exclusive remixes are there to remind players they are playing a DDR title, but, much like in the Ultramix titles, the list is so unique to the version, it doesn’t seem like you are playing yet another arcade ported Playstation 2 game.
Konami made the most use out of the Xbox 360 hardware by pushing video effects and trippy visuals that nearly burn straight through the retina. Colors explode everywhere and the characters look very detailed and crisp with fluid dancing animations, but this is seriously the first DDR title where I found the backgrounds and animations to be so distracting I had to turn them off. Coupled with the fact the HUD is changed in some modes and the step rating/combo indicator is relocated, enlarged and animated even more, the fantastic visuals unfortunately come across as an occasion hindrance that obstructs a player’s view of the scrolling arrows.
As a DDR enthusiast, it’s great to finally see more songs feature oni (“demon”) difficulties, including in songs that never had the difficulty option when it originally appeared in arcades, most notably in Johnny Desire’s version of Hot Limit of DDR 5th Mix’s long version fame, where the lyrics are so indiscernible, people make the joke of “We drink Ritalin” as being part of the chorus. The difficulty really throws some tough step charts at expert players that should keep them satisfied, and if not, the challenge mode features some truly brutal stipulations that should illicit many a curse word.
However, as a minor irritation, when selecting the oni difficulty in game play, when players switch songs, the game automatically defaults the difficulty back to beginner instead of heavy and if players forget, they’ll have to suffer a beginner step chart or end the current song and go back through the menu. A minor point to make, for sure, but it still makes for an irritating exercise for expert players.
Elsewhere, aside from an ear-grating announcer (which I also turn off), the sound and control of Universe is just as tight and pleasing as ever. The pad controller, which features a cord thanks to Microsoft’s proprietary policy, works just as well as any other dance pad bundled with a DDR game. By scraping up four pads, Universe steps in as the Xbox 360’s answer to a fun multiplayer party title. Unfortunately, to make the multiplayer modes work on foot, players are going to have to pony up for more pads or hope they have friends with extra dance pads.
Players worried about Universe being a mere Ultramix upgrade won’t have to worry anymore. The game’s featured songs are 100 percent original to the title and thanks to downloadable content, Universe should have players occupied for quite some time (or until the next version is available). Through edit, online, party and challenge modes, the title makes for the most enjoyable entry into the series Konami has released to the United States in the past couple of years.
Dance Dance Revolution Universe is rated E10+ (Everyone 10+) by the ESRB for Lyrics, Suggestive Themes.