"7:30. The crowd shuffles out beneath the dimming lights. The booths at the DigitalLife convention begin to empty as Sunday closes upon DDR NYC 2005. Long, long faces stare blankly where the competition once stood, where a mere video game enraptured in flashing lights and metal led its followers on a stepwise dance that held an audience mesmerized. Yet beneath this memory of flowing color, of wonder and rebirth, a worry creeps from behind. It whispers from the shadows cast by the towering arcade ..."
7:30. The crowd shuffles out beneath the dimming lights. The booths at the DigitalLife convention begin to empty as Sunday closes upon DDR NYC 2005. Long, long faces stare blankly where the competition once stood, where a mere video game enraptured in flashing lights and metal led its followers on a stepwise dance that held an audience mesmerized. Yet beneath this memory of flowing color, of wonder and rebirth, a worry creeps from behind. It whispers from the shadows cast by the towering arcade upon a lowly setup, innocent and mute. And in the corner, in the growing silence, its voice awakens onto our ears. Its name is DDR Extreme 2.
Konami has not released a new arcade mix since 2002, a now even heavier fact as we compete on the same DDR Extreme machine for the forth year. The once treasured developer now delivers only to the console, sending DDR Extreme 2 like a belated parting gift. What once was grand has been left to diminish. And as much as we resist, casting $2000 grand prizes, building lofty platforms, and gathering praise and awe, futility breathes upon the back of our necks. It becomes clear that our efforts are faint. The waning interest in The Land of the Rising Sun has sailed across the ocean to wash us away.
Rain. Rain on Friday. A light, cold shower hardens my stroll from the A-train to the convention. Take out an umbrella. Pitter, patter. Pitter, patter. A storm of monotony falls into the gutter. How fitting, how fitting. Every DDR game on the console has been like redundant litter on the pavement. Drain the same old gameplay with new songs, filter in some unnecessary game modes, and throw them all into the $49.99 recycle bin for the next installment. This, we have endured so long that we cannot forget the lack of effort nor even care to remember.
The game modes are all still there, still rotting away: Training, Lesson, Workout, Endless, Oni… like the Javitz Center coming into view, a building dyed in ash. The walls, the ceilings, are all blackened glass dripping nervously from the rain. Amidst the dreary, overcast air, the tension surges from my stomach to dampen my skin. Open the double doors and surprise rushes forward. The light of change shines brightly into my eyes.
Dance Master, Shop, AND Online?! What a feast! I dive into the first. I remember an arcade in Canada. Boom Boom Dollar, my very first song. Quarters, quarters, quarters. And now this day has come, but then I return with fire crashing into the earth.
Dance Master Mode has failed me. My journey was not a nodal labyrinth of snail-crawling missions, lines and numbers flinging across the screen, or a pathway locked in five areas lettered from A to E. Those new to DDR will not find their way through this winding mode for ten months and those already familiar will only need ten hours. That is, if you don't fall to monotony. Pass this, pass that. Turn left, turn right. Connect the dots with molasses. And if you get stuck, for you most certainly will, you will have to purchase a hint. Yes, purchase.
New songs, modes, courses, and even new costumes and arrows are now all bought in Shop Mode with points garnered through simply passing songs. Unfortunately, everything must be unlocked through the unruly spiderweb of rectangles that is Dance Master Mode. Not only do you eventually have to purchase every hint to unlock every song, but you have to go back to the main menu every time you want to view them. Hints should not be difficult to use, let alone purchased in the first place. Moreover, Online mode is slow and woefully unnecessary. Why would you want to waste your time dancing-off against someone you can't see? Just go to the arcade or invite some friends over.
Anger. Frustration. Heard there was a sudden rule change. Did not place top 5. Left with a smile on my face as fake as the joy on a photograph. Ranted off on websites. Slept staring at the wall. Some thought my style was weird, silly and unrefined. It was, of course, ballet with breakdancing in between. But some thought it was original, not bland and not flashy, as that was my intent. I appreciate quality with the absolute fullness of the word and that which is unique. I finally realized there was something more to the experience, something that only calmness could see.
The backgrounds that haunted DDR in the past are now gone. No more flash and no more epilepsy. Smooth artwork finally flows through the scenery and actually matches the music with some relevancy. And what extraordinary songs the game has: Sean Paul and Beyonce, "Butterfly" and "Boom Boom Dollar". The song selection in DDR Extreme 2 is leaps and bounds over the previous installment and surpasses nearly every mix that has come before it with flying colors.
There is effort, a word that has eluded DDR for years. It does not matter that Dance Master Mode was weary. It does not matter that I lost. I showed my spirit and Konami has too. There is life yet in the series, and as long as we both still draw breath, I will continue to follow DDR wherever it leads. In the growing silence, I turn away and awaken. I am glad to hear its name.
Community review by draqq_zyxx (October 28, 2005)
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