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DanceMasters


Back in November, I was really surprised at how entertaining and enjoyable Harmonixís Dance Central was to play. Talking me into trying out another dancing game certainly wasnít difficult, especially from the publisher in charge of the Dance Dance Revolution series (a game I often enjoyed in the arcade). DanceMasters (also called Dance Evolution overseas) is definitely Japanese pop influenced, so much so that you likely wonít recognize any of the songs unless you live there. I also hope that anyone who picks up this game enjoys J-pop because the musical selections are limited to that. Unfortunately, the structure of the game is not as much about dancing fluently as it is about striking poses that can be recognized by the Kinect camera. But more on that momentarilyÖ

dancemasters following steps

You start the game by allowing the Kinect to scan a version of you onto the screen as a backup dancer. Itís fairly low resolution and pretty ugly. They should have just used a silhouette instead. Compared to Dance Central, the practice mode to teach you how to dance is fairly dismal. You are given basic instructions on how to pull off the dance moves, but that doesnít translate to mimicking the on-screen dancer that you are supposed to be following during the actual game. You really arenít learning how to be a dancer, but rather how to strike poses during the game so it will register on the Kinect as a proper dance form during the songs. Immediately, this sucks the fun out of the game when you learn that actual dancing really isnít on the menu.

The game uses a dance gauge to determine your ability to accurately nail the moves that are being displayed on the screen. If you are accurate, the gauge will remain high and the song will continue. Arrows will sweep across the screen and you have to mimic those with your arm gestures. You also have to watch the on-screen silhouettes to strike poses and watch the feet of the dancers to hit the correct steps. The game is very forgiving on the first two difficulty levels, but you likely have to be a DDR fanatic to hit the cues on Expert level. However, the Kinect camera often fails to recognize all of your moves much of the time, likely a fault of the game. I was only able to get credit for correct moves about 75% of the time leaving the other 20% to be marked as mistakes even though I nailed them.

dancemasters fireball shooting

Thereís no important campaign to work though, just the 30 songs in the game and the grading system for the difficulty levels. Beyond the single player game, you can try multiplayer on Xbox Live if you can find anyone to play with. I was only able to find a single match despite looking for ages. Another problem with matches if that I found myself tripping over the other player on the screen and mistaking their on-screen instructions for mine. If you are into achievements, there are 40 of them to earn in DanceMasters. However, itís a pretty boring bunch of tasks. The majority of them are collection related or grade related. There are also some silly ones in the bunch like dancing to a specific genre of song three times in the row. The entire set would take a while to knock out though, likely vastly more time than you would be spending with this game.

Graphics

The visual representation of you is just hideous and poorly designed. While fluid, the character model is covered in jagged edges and looks fairly ridiculous standing behind the polished 3D model. Itís also distracting when trying to follow the on-screen instructions during the actual dances because it lags behind the other dancers. The rest of the game looks fairly good, but the environments are fairly sterile when compared to Dance Central. I did not care for the neon swooshing design for motion movements though. The game runs smoothly with the Kinect and load times arenít overly terrible.

dancemasters backup dancers

Audio

If you love the DDR series of games, you will love the high-intensity, poppy soundtrack. If you dislike the techno influenced songs in the DDR series, you are going to loathe the music in DanceMasters. Personally, I found the music to be out of touch with what North American audiences are looking for, especially after hearing the selections in Dance Central. The sound effects are also on the grating side and didnít help me get more involved with dancing.

Conclusion

If Dance Central didnít exist, this would seem like the natural evolution for dancing games when compared to the Dance Dance Revolution series. Itís basically DDR, but using the Kinect motion controller. Sadly, itís overshadowed by the much more charismatic and dance friendly game, Dance Central. Harmonix really filled the dancing genre on its head and left poor Konami holding a dated game even though is launched at the same time as DC. Avoid DanceMasters completely if you recently purchased the Kinect or received it over the holidays. And if you havenít opened that DanceMasters gift yet, see if you can exchange it for the superior Dance Central.



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