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Dance Dance Revolution Disney Mix
Review By:  Siou Choy
Developer:   Konami
Publisher:   Konami
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Rhythm
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   10-30-01

Good news and bad news for dance game aficionados: the good news is that in Japan, there appears to be an endless number of Dance Dance Revolution games in current release. The bad news is that the 95% of the world that doesn't live in Japan is outta luck, leaving fans with the meager option of either forgetting about it and wishing they lived in the land of the rising sun, or paying exorbitantly high import prices for games whose text they'll never begin to understand. Worse, the latter option additionally requires gamers to have a special grey market "mod chip" soldered in to their already worn Playstation. The third option, generally of the "don't hold your breath" variety, is to sit around idly waiting for the developer, in this case Konami, to bring the games over to our shores. Well, ok, all you table scrap fans, here's your helping for the night: Dance Dance Revolution Disney Mix has finally arrived.

The basic concept behind DDR Disney is the same as any other DDR game: the gamer has to step on the correct arrows at the exact time that they reach the Step Zone located at the top of the screen (which is generally, but not infallibly, on the beat or some subdivision thereof). The more "correct" steps you make, and the closer to 100% on par with the game's metronomic timekeeping, the higher your score (which ranges from "good" for just off the beat to "perfect" for right in sync). Of course, if you're too far off, or make a few too many mistakes, the game ends. The sequences of arrows can get extremely fast and crazy, depending on the song and generally how nasty the developers felt like being at any given time (keeping up with the standard "normal" mode, at least in the original DDR, can be a far more daunting task than you'd ever anticipate).

Naturally, you have all the Disney "favorites", generally acting as dance DJs or bouncing around in cars, but occasionally taking to the floor themselves. So far, so what. Actually, I'm being generous saying "all" the "favorites", since the actual number of Disney characters in the game is fairly limited. Let's put it this way: with only 20 songs (some of which are the exact same song "remixed"), every character manages to appear for more than one song. And all you prepubescent riot grrrls in training take note: there is not one single female character to be found in DDR Disney.

OK, let's get to the big issue, here; the one everyone's been waiting breathlessly to hear about: the song list. And before you jump to the logical conclusions, let me have the pleasure of informing you: you might be surprised. As one might expect, about half the songs are crappy dance versions of grueling "classic" Disney tunes such as "zipadeedoodah" and "chim-chim-cher-ee", which might seem cool to the undiscriminating 4 year old, but remain as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard to the rest of us. Surprisingly, however, most of the remaining cuts are "real" sounding enough (if still somehow "off", like the almost-techno of "fire" or "night of fire" - hmm, notice a trend here?) to get older players through the game without tossing their cookies. Admittedly, there is more than a fair share of that omnipresent sense of fakeness and pandering traditionally accompanying entertainment aimed at children (at least since the mid to late 70s); but if you're dreadfully anticipating endless 128-bpm rehashes of "it's a small world" and the like, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that is, generally, not the case (though you're right, there IS a "eurobeat" version of said teeth-grinder). That said, there are several smarmy euro-styled vocals to a number of the cuts, and a truly horrible remake of "the twist".

DDR Disney has 5 modes of play: Main Game, Free Selection, Dance Magic, Training Mode, and Lesson Mode. In the Main Game and Free Selection modes, you can have the further option of playing in One Player mode, Couple mode, or (for the daring) Double mode. One Player mode and Couple mode should be obvious, but Double mode refers to the fact that the intrepid gamer will make use of both mats! If you had trouble keeping up with one controller, just picture playing the game with two!

Training mode should be equally obvious: you get to practice moving to songs without having to worry about the game ending early for mistakes. Unlike the parent DDR, DDR Disney has an "Assist" option which helps you learn timing with the aid of a hand clap or metronome. You can also choose which part of the song you'd like to practice, so if you're a great starter but have trouble finishing, you can isolate problem areas in your performance.

For those who are new to DDR games or have two left feet, Lesson Mode is of extreme importance. Here you can learn how to move your feet and get a handle on tricks that longtime DDR fans already know. A tutorial will guide you first through the basics, then into more advanced moves. There are 3 lessons, with 8 sections in each, so you can really take it slow and easy if you like.

A few major changes from your well-worn copy of the standard DDR:

- You may see the word "boo" pass by, but you lose the sneering yuppie attacking your every misstep. In fact, the "boo" has become an additional score, alongside the standard "perfect/great/good/miss" - unbelievably, ranking above the miss!

- In "free selection" mode, you seem to have unlimited continues - rather than playing the standard 3 song average, the game just keeps on going until you decide to stop dancing. It is only in "main" mode that you will get "kicked out" for poor performance. Also in regard to getting kicked out, there is a bit of an issue in that you get kicked all the way out of the game (to the point of seeing the "Disney Interactive" logo), not merely to the selection menu!

- Unison mode has been retitled as "dance magic", and offers a somewhat mean caveat: if you get enough combos to fill the combo gauge, the unlucky second player gets nailed with a vastly sped up and correspondingly difficult sequence of arrow/steps.

- The sneering mix of fake-sounding, sarcastic "compliments" and insults of the parent game has been replaced with exclusively positive messages. Even when you get kicked out in main mode for poor performance, you are told things like "you're very close! I'm sure you'll get it next time!" or "You've not shown your best dancing yet - keep it up!" My personal favorite was a smarmy sounding, overly melodramatic "Oh, no! Please don't leave! Please try again!".

- Grading is significantly easier. What would have earned you an "E" in the parent game can get you a "AAA" score here.

- The workout mode of the standard DDR game ("diet" mode here) has become a permanent part of the game. Rather than setting and working towards a given goal, you are told automatically, in whatever mode you choose, the calories you (theoretically) burned at the end of each song. Additionally, you are given an equivalent in situps, running, swimming, stair climbing, jogging, or jump rope. The base setting for this function is random: in other words, you won't see your equivalent in swimming each time. You can set it to do this, if desired, in the option menu under "sports type". However, much like the scoring, the calorie meter is way off kilter from reality...for adults, anyway. To be generous, it seems to be set to a child's higher, less demanding metabolism. It is not at all uncommon to see "workouts" of 70 calories per song (with an equivalency of running something like 400+ yards)...and this for barely moving around the dance pads!

- Strangely, there seems to be an overreliance on the X button (left side) rather than the O button (right side) to get into menus and make selections. While the standard DDR allowed you to use either, most people (myself included) are inclined to use the O button (particularly as it is located below the "start" button). DDR Disney, for whatever reason, relies solely on the X button, which can be somewhat disorienting to the average DDR veteran.

- It should be noted that among the barrage of arrows and scoring that flash by in the course of any given song, everyone's favorite corporate children's monopoly will subliminally flash the word "Disney" at random intervals (along with the names of the characters, though this somewhat less than the plug of their corporate logo). Kids, can you say "mind f**k marketing"?

HIGHS:

  • Despite the lame characters and an overabundance of cheesy songs, the game remains surprisingly fun and addictive, even for those past their puberty
  • You no longer have to embarrass yourself in the arcades - instead, you can do it at home with your loved ones watching
  • A great way to exercise without it feeling like you're exercising

LOWS:

  • Not enough songs. And let's face it, people. Disney sucks. Bad, syrupy songs; absurdly fluid, rococo animation, and lame characters. How the hell did they stay in business all these years?
  • Backgrounds are too distracting. Cheap marketing takes precedence over gameplay once again...

FINAL VERDICT:

The bottom line is this: any Dance Dance Revolution game is loads of fun, and DDR Disney Mix is no exception. But let's be honest here. Despite the surprise factor (did you really expect to like it? But you will!), it's really for the kids. There are fewer songs than the parent game, and beyond that, most of them are Disney "classics" that may very well force you into taking your own life. I mean, honestly, tell me you can actually sit through "It's A Small World", even just for the length of the ride?). That being said, the important thing here is that it's a DDR game. And if you don't want to add a mod chip to your Playstation but still want to have more than one DDR game in your collection, DDR Disney Mix should satisfy your jones until Konami sends over something better (or hell freezes over, whichever comes first).

Overall Score: 6.0

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