Keep on Steppin’!
If there’s one game franchise that has stayed extremely consistent over the years, it is Dance Dance Revolution. The DDR series of games are large in number, but they have never really packed a punch in terms of substance. Sure, diehard fans have always picked up any new entry bearing the “Dance Dance” moniker on day one, but for all their diligence, fans have seldom gotten more than new songs from each new DDR entry. However, the DDR franchise has been quietly evolving in the past few years, and if you’ve been away from the series for awhile, you may want to start paying attention! DDR Universe 3 is the product of the series’ current-gen evolution that began with the original DDR Universe and may have reached its zenith.
Of course, as any DDR fan will tell you, this series is all about impossible step-dancing. As arrows appear on the screen, it will be your job to step, hop, and jump to the beat and match your steps with the onscreen arrows. While this sounds like a simplistic concept, DDR Universe 3 definitely takes it and runs with it. DDR Universe 3 has exciting new modes, deep editing tools, and even some non-dance related modes that will definitely give DDR fans something to cheer about.
The main story mode in DDR Universe 3 looks a lot different from previous games. Your character will need to travel to the center of a circular stage select hub where there are several rings you can move through both vertically and horizontally. Each ring represents a different challenge type. For example, the outermost is composed of “street” challenges, where you can perform certain feats for cash. These feats can include getting a certain combo score or remembering not to tap more than one arrow (even if the game tells you to.) After you complete some of these challenges (and earn some money), you will be able to access the next ring, which is composed of battle challenges.
The good thing about the structure of the story mode here is you can choose which challenges you want to complete. For example, if there is only one song that evades you and you just can’t get it right no matter how hard you try, you can skip it for another challenge on the same ring. Then once you get enough points, you can move on without worrying about having to complete that singularly impossible challenge.
But the heart of DDR is definitely not in the single-player experience. DDR Universe 3 has plenty of ways for you to play with your friends, and the party mode has been overhauled to create fun and new experiences. Under the party mode heading, there are several different types of multiplayer DDR matches that you can play, including Bomb, Attack, Sync, Score, and Freestyle modes. The Bomb and Attack modes are the most aggressive and feature step-triggered attacks you can activate to destroy your opponent. Conversely, the Sync mode challenges you to step in time with other players. But the most fun mode here has to be the Freestyle mode, where you can step however you want to, as long as it is to the beat. The game will measure how in sync your steps were with the music and will determine a winner based on who has the most natural rhythm.
In addition to the local multiplayer modes, there are also different online modes that allow you to take your steps online. The online modes are not as deep or engaging as the local modes, but you are able to play standard matches against opponents. There is also an interesting world tournament mode that allows you to participate in a weekly international challenge. This is a pretty cool community feature, although it should be noted that the challenges are definitely intended for advanced DDR players.
One mode that has always been present in modern DDR games is the Create-a-Dance mode, which has allowed DDR enthusiasts to create their own playable routines. This mode is in DDR Universe 3 as well, but is complemented by a very deep Create-a-Video tool, which allows you to tweak what people see while they groove to your custom dance moves. You can customize the background, the onscreen character, and even the camera movement in this mode, which is very cool for those interested in creating their own unique DDR experience.
A really cool new feature is the all-new DJ mode. Unlike nearly everything in DDR, this mode has to be played with the controller. The DJ mode allows you to combine and mix tracks from the game and add your own scratches and beats to the mix. This mode is not as customizable as other DJ simulators out there, but it is a nice add-on and a great way to take a break from all the stepping.
Of course, in addition to all these new features, DDR Universe 3 has all the standard modes you might expect. There is an Arcade mode that lets you experience the classic “three-song average” gameplay from the original DDR machines, a Practice mode where you can hone your steps, and an Exercise mode where you can burn all those unwanted calories. All these standard modes work basically the way you would expect, and they are nice standard additions to the new features.
However, even though playing DDR Universe 3 is a blast, it has one big issue fans should be aware of before picking this one up: loading times. While some loading is expected, the loading screens generally appear before and after each song and even after selecting menu items, which is far too often. And when each screen lasts five to eight seconds, it can be a real buzz-kill.
The tracklist in DDR Universe 3 can best be described as standard and doesn’t deviate from the techno-infused J-Pop feel of prior DDR titles. This one features tracks like 90’s staple “Canned Heat” by Jamiroqai, The J-Pop infused “Doki Doki” by smile.dk and dancehall classic “Conga” by Gloria Estefan. The track list feels very balanced between high-energy techno and pop beats, and DDR vets will feel very comfortable with the song styling of this entry.
Overall, DDR Universe 3 is the best entry in the series so far. It has managed to take a fairly run-of-the-mill arcade-style dancing game and has breathed new life into it. There is a lot of content in this game, and DDR fans will no doubt be pleased with all the new stepping (and DJ-ing) opportunities that this title affords.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Graphics are crisp and sharp, and character animations are very smooth, but dancing backgrounds remain very basic. 4.0 Control
The dancing controls work very well, but navigating some of the more complex menus with the pad can be a little cumbersome. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music collection is very diverse and features several new techno tunes as well as some remixes of old songs. 4.1 Play Value
From creating your own DJ mixes to playing online, there is a lot to do in DDR Universe 3, and you may find yourself stepping for quite a long time! If you can wait for the loading screens, that is. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.