By Spencer . August 10, 2007 . 6:59pm
Before I stepped on the Wii DDR mat to try out Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party, I spoke to Jason Enos from Konami. You may not recognize his name, but he’s behind many of the Bemani titles that came out in the USA. I had a skeleton list of questions I scribbled down in preparation for the interview. One of them I wasn’t sure if it was going to get a response, but all the way at the end Mr. Enos took my question about Guitar Freaks. I was pleasantly surprised he answered it. Instead of giving it a “no comment” he gave a personal opinion. But that’s at the end. Read up on the future of Dance Dance Revolution first.
For DDR Hottest Party, how long have you guys been working on it?
JE: We announced the game at our Gamers day event in January. At that point we had a very early, almost like a tech demo, just showing off the ability to do the steps and use the Wii remote and nunchuck. I would say probably a couple months before that we began really working on what's the game going to be, how are we going to leverage the Wii, what are we going to differently for the version on the Wii, the music list and what's going to go into that.
Speaking of the music list it is pretty different than other DDR games. It's not as Beatmania heavy and there isn't as much trance. Why did you decided to switch?
The Wii is like a natural fit for a game like DDR. The Wii is already encouraging gameplay that gets people up and kind of being physical. DDR is kind of like the premiere game that represents that. We're also recognizing the fact that Wii is really becoming a great family oriented platform. The whole family can get involved. Anywhere from the kid with the iPod all the way up to the grandfather.
From a music perspective we really wanted something for everybody. We actually pulled music from the last four decades. Stuff that was popular in the 70s, 80s, 90s, today and it's a really good mix. But in addition to that there is still some of that old DDR authentic flavor, in terms of the music, thrown into the music in there. You just got to unlock it.
What's your favorite song in Hottest Party?
I'm an eighties guy. I like new wave. So I really thought Blue Monday that New Order originally did was a really good tune.
I saw some new arrows in DDR: Hottest Party can you tell us how those work in?
One of the other things new about Hottest Party is that we wanted to add more party elements to the game. One way of doing that is the introduction of these new types of arrows. Some of them you actually have to stomp two times for them to count. Others you don't want to step on. They actually lower your dance gauge. Then there are some if you don't step on them they start to grow and block the screen so you can't see the screen. Also using the nunchuck and the remote there is now hand icons that come up to tell you when to do the left and right arm movements.
Gotcha. What kinds of arm movements are incorporated? Is it just shaking or is it more than that?
You have you right, you have your left. Sometimes you have to do both at the same time. There are some where you actually have to do a jump. Like maybe, if you are going left and right jump at the same time you also have to do a shake. Just like there are freeze arrows in the game there are freeze hands where you have to sit there and shake the whole time.
Do you think DDR Hottest Party is harder than maybe SuperNOVA?
It's sort of like adding a whole new dimension to your brain processing. First learning how to do the steps takes some time, but now doing the hands it’s a lot more physical and you use a lot more energy. For example, I sweat a lot more and I'm doing middle difficulty level on Hottest Party, but I can do expert on SuperNOVA 2 and it’s no big deal. Of course after a while I start sweating, but on this [Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party] it’s like whoa there is more to comprehend. In some ways it will be more difficult for even seasoned players.
That being said the game is always really well balanced. People of all skill levels can play the game. For people who just find the hand movements too awkward you can turn those off and do traditional DDR. But it gets really fun. When you play battle mode you actually take the Wii remote and nunchuck and go like this (mimics a motion where he points the nunchuck and remote towards me) and send a bunch of obstacles to another person. Then they can counter. There is a little more of using this [wii mote and nunchuck pointing motion] for a different purpose.
That's really cool I didn't get a chance to try that out before. Is it in this build?
You might have to set up multiple players before it would work. It's designed to be a mode for groups, not for single players.
I remember a long time ago Konami said the DDR Mario Mix mat would work with Hottest Party.
Is that true?
The mat that we have will come out with Hottest Party and it plugs into the bay slot for the Gamecube controllers on the Wii. If you already have the Mario Mat, which is the Gamecube mat essentially, you plug it right in and it works. I think there are a couple of other companies that did third party Gamecube mats and those should also be functional.
Let's switch gears to SuperNOVA 2. What's new in it?
First off the song list is completely different. We have a really amazing song list in this game. Stuff like Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Chris Brown, a lot of really great stuff. Also in the online mode in SuperNOVA and Extreme 2 you could basically go online and play you versus one person, but now you can play with up to four people simultaneously in a joint battle.
Sort of like the Xbox version?
Yeah. We brought it up to the level of what we can do with the Xbox. Obviously Xbox Live has other functions as well that we can't do on the Playstation 2.
We also added a new mode, well it is new, but it's kind of refining previous modes. This mode called Hyper Master Mode, it's introduced in SuperNOVA 2. Last year for SuperNOVA 1 we brought out this mode called Stellar Master mode and the fans really liked the mode. By the end of the day almost like the really core expert players were the only ones who could really play through it. So Hyper Master mode we adjusted it, toned something things and changed the design a little bit so players of all skill levels can go through it. Kind of like a progression quest mode kind of thing.
Eventually the Playstation 2 is going to start to fade away. Do you ever think you might make DDR for the PS3?
Obviously DDR is still popular and it continues to just keep growing. I think it's definitely here to stay. Right now Playstation 2 is the by far the largest install base out of all the platforms with over 40 million consoles out there. I mean it's still a great time to do DDR on PS2. And with the game being so mass market friendly the PS2 is a great console.
But we do see a lot of potential on the Wii version really expanding the audience. I think for true next gen DDR on PS3 there are still a lot of technical issues to sort out. There is no Dual Shock plug on a Playstation 3, so all of our old dance pads that people have aren't going to work. We have to sort that out and actually learn more about the Playstation 3 to be honest. Certainly it's in the realm of possibility, I'm sure. Maybe somewhere down the road, but nothing right now.
Now that Guitar Hero is so successful is there any hope for Guitar Freaks to come out?
I don't know. Obviously, Guitar Hero has done a really great job and they have a fun game. And they really have shown that the fans and gamers who want that kind of game. Konami has always has had their roots into the music genre from the beginning. Personally, I would like to see Konami take a hard look at bringing those kinds of games over. It would be kind of an interesting decision at this point given the landscape. But definitely Guitar Hero has proven that people like those kinds of games.