It has got to be pretty boring working as a developer on the Dancing Stage series of dance games, simply because you are never really required to bring anything new to the table. Release after release, Dancing Stage (the European release name of Dance Dance Revolution) brings you almost nothing new in terms of advances and yet it still remains as popular as ever. Any ideas why? Simple really – it is just so damn addictive!
This is the ninth release in the popular Dancing Stage series and SuperNOVA simply doesn’t disappoint. It also marks the first time that the European and American markets actually get the same song list, meaning that for a change Americans and Europeans can actually talk the same talk when it comes to DDR.
For anyone who doesn’t quite know what I am talking about, Dancing Stage is classified as a rhythm game which gets played with a standard ‘dance mat’, basically a flattened controller consisting of nine panels, four of which mark out the basic directions of up, down, left and right. A stage consists of some or other shortened song being played while the screen gets filled by various directional arrows travelling up the screen. When an arrow reaches the bar at the top of the screen, you need to tramp on the corresponding ‘button’ with the correct timing to score a point. The better timed the press the better rating you receive, with a song ending either after you have successfully navigated most of the arrows or you failed completely in keeping up with the song.
Seeing as this is pretty much what the Dancing Stage phenomena is all about, the home console game needs to expand on it a little to make it more attractive to people at home. So as per usual, SuperNOVA comes bundled with quite a few different ‘modes’ to keep things moving along. You get the usual dance mode in which you can cycle through the various songs, playing either by yourself or challenging a second player. You also get the courses and challenges mode which usually sees you trying to complete a specifically laid out course without falling out. You also get the handy workout mode that tracks the amount of calories you burn and maintains a full stats database of all the exercise you do. There is also an option to edit and create your own dance sequences to the songs as well as a mode that allows you to practice the more tricky parts of any song that you wish to. And then there is the Stellar Master Mode.
The Stellar Master Mode is basically the single player mode for SuperNOVA that sees you complete a number of tasks in order to be granted the opportunity to face the showdown trial for which you can win a coveted VIP card. This mode gives you something to work against and also is the main way in which you can unlock most of the hidden content in Dancing Stage – which believe me is a lot!
For every song that you complete you get awarded points which can then be redeemed at the ‘shop’, basically allowing you to purchase the various locked music, characters, courses and stages. Although not confirmed, there is probably around 70 or so tracks scattered around the disc so you can be sure you have a lot to work for!
The graphics for Dancing Stage has always been pretty simple and primitive, and SuperNOVA simply doesn’t stray from this tried and tested route. As always the music tracks that don’t come with their bundles music videos get a nicely animated, bright and colourful polygonal world inhabited by some or other animated dancing character, ranging from cute little alien pixie like people to super sexy dancers and even a break-dancer or two!
As I mentioned, most of the English tracks comes bundled with their original music video which is always a nice touch (like t.A.T.u’s All the Things She Said :D) and I think that this could be the first time that we even get some of the Japanese music videos included for a nice change as well! Dancing Stage as a whole can simply be described as one heck of a ‘colourful’ experience.
Of course, what would Dancing Stage be without its music track list and as always this is precisely what makes or breaks the game. Unfortunately Konami has again insisted on injecting some American tunes into the mix which is unfortunate as most of the Western stuff simply doesn’t translate into good DDR stages. This time around I found the American mix to be particularly weak, consisting of A-ha’s Take On Me, Girls Aloud’s Biology, Basement Jaxx’s Romeo, Fatboy Slim’s Right Here Right Now, Chemical Brothers’ Hey Boy Hey Girl, (perennial favourites) Sugababes’ Bruised, Jamiroquai’s Supersonic, Les Rythmes Digitales’ Jacques Your Body and Lady Sovereign’s Hoodie. Even t.A.T.u.’s All the Things She Said makes an appearance and can be singled out as probably the worst dance track of the lot!
However, once you push past the Western stuff, you get plunged right into the stuff that does make Dancing Stage work and so popular – the light, fluffy and very up-tempo J-pop/dance scene. As always Konami puts the favourites like Naomi into the mix, but there is such a nice wide variety of tracks that you really can’t complain. The box advertises around 42 tracks in the game, but in reality there is probably about double that to be found if you know what to unlock.
One thing I have forgotten to mention is the fact that Dancing Stage continues its obsession of tacking the EyeToy USB Camera functionality on and as per usual its inclusion leaves a lot to be desired. Personally I would prefer if they stuck to Dancing Stage’s core focus of ‘dancing’, but obviously if they are to survive the constantly changing gaming environment, Konami is going to have to continue evolving their product. Perhaps the next step is a combination of Dancing Stage, SingStar and the EyeToy all rolled in one?
In any event, if you have played a Dancing Stage release before then you really aren’t in for anything new, but you will get exactly what you expect. As always, examine the dance list to see if you are going to like it but if you are a rhythm game fan I guarantee you are going to buy and be happy with this game in any case.
Recommended for any Dancing Stage fan out there.