DanceMasters Review

By Matt Cabral - Posted Nov 30, 2010

Konami's high-energy entry into Kinect-controlled dancing brings the proven DDR formula to Microsoft's motion-sensing tech. Its old school approach should please dance mat masters, but may leave newcomers frustratingly tangled in their own limbs.

The Pros
  • Like DDR, but without the need for a floormat
  • Cool use of Kinect's camera to put you in the game
  • Frenetic pace will appeal to fans of the genre
The Cons
  • Intimidating to wallflowers
  • Tracks will be unfamiliar to most
  • Will not actually teach you to dance

DanceMasters Review:

Long before Harmonix’s Dance Central started creating living room Lady Gagas, Konami’s enduring Dance Dance Revolution series had gamers strutting their stuff on in-home peripheral pads and elaborate arcade cabinets. Determined to catch up with the totally controller-free trend, the developer’s recently brought its unique brand of two-stepping to Microsoft’s gamepad-phobic hardware. Smartly sticking to its DDR DNA, DanceMasters doesn’t so much compete with Dance Central, but offers an alternative to Harmonix’s teach-you-to-dance approach.


Dances To A Different Beat

Unlike Dance Central, arguably the best title in Kinect’s launch line-up, DanceMasters tasks rump-shaking gamers with hitting prompts rather than actually learning head-to-toe choreography. The closest thing it can be compared to is--not surprisingly--DDR; however, instead of stomping on dance mat-mapped directional arrows, DM has you hitting on-screen hand and foot targets, matching silhouetted poses, and mimicking flourishes with your arms. It’s essentially like playing DDR, but with your entire body.

This, of course, translates into fast-paced routines, demanding strict timing and undivided attention. Don’t expect helpful Dance Central-like cues to appear on-screen before they need to be executed. Just as those up, down, left, and right arrows travel across DDR’s screen with dizzying speed, DM’s moves don’t wait for the hesitant wallflower. That said, Kinect does a decent job of tracking your moves when you can keep up.

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This decidedly hardcore approach is both DM’s greatest strength and weakness. Those who’ve spent years mastering the mat will have little trouble acclimating to its frenetic pace, but newcomers might find its tutorial-light approach daunting. If you’re in the latter group, plan on failing-out a lot, as the title’s unforgiving nature doesn’t exactly cater to the casual demographic Kinect targets.

Sure, DM does have a tutorial, but it’s a separate affair from the individual numbers, so once you’ve completed the training, you’re tossed into the deep end. This generally means those with two left feet will spend some significant time on the trial-and-error treadmill, memorizing--rather than learning--each song’s steps. Again, while this might frustrate anyone accustomed to Kinect’s hand-holding launch titles, seasoned fans of Konami’s sweat-breaking series will find themselves in jazz-hands heaven.


Can't Name That Tune

Speaking of pleasing their core audience, Konami’s also ripped DM’s tunes from DDR’s song book. Expect lots of eurobeat, R&B, and j-pop from artists you’ve never heard of, unless, of course, you’re iPod‘s no stranger to NAOKI-topping playlists. You won’t be getting down to any Gaga, but that doesn’t mean the music won’t move you.

On the contrary, while mostly unfamiliar, DM’s 30-plus tracks do a great job of putting you on the virtual dance floor. Perfectly complementing the urgently paced routines, the energetic track list should even have the heads of spectators bobbing in time.

On top of essentially bringing the classic fast-footed franchise into the Kinect generation, DM also brings some play-extending features. In terms of multiplayer, two participants can shake their moneymakers locally, while four can compete online. The first option is fun, but only if your gaming space accommodates four flailing arms and legs (plan on collisions and broken lamps if you’re playing in a crammed space).

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to “bring it” over Xbox Live because the virtual dance hall was always empty when we visited, which is not a great sign for DM’s online legs. The game’s coolest feature is its ability to put players among the background dancers in real-time. It’s both hilarious and helpful to see yourself stumbling through a song while the surrounding Michael Jackson-wannabes pull off flawless presentations. Even better, up to two versions of yourself can be recorded and uploaded, allowing three (including the live one) versions of your drunk monkey self to tear things up.


The Last Dance

As a direct competitor to Dance Central, DM takes second prize. But judged as a Kinect-fitted DDR--aimed at the franchise’s faithful following--it succeeds in removing the dance pad from Konami‘s famed foot-loosing series. Newcomers should probably stick to busting their virtual moves on Harmonix’s more forgiving dance floor. However, anyone whoever wore out a dance mat or drew a crowd in a DDR-friendly arcade, will no doubt dig breaking it down in DanceMasters.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?