Dance Dance Revolution has appeared on every major system sans the Gamecube, until Nintendo and Konami struck up a deal. Instead of releasing a song list with cover songs and arcade classics Gamecube’s DDR game stars everyone’s favorite plumber on a quest to recover music keys. The newly released music keys has thrown the Mushroom Kingdom into dance fever. Of course it’s Mario and his brother Luigi who get dragged out of bed by a toadstool to save the kingdom. As you can see Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix is a change from the quarter eater in the arcades.
Most notably DDR Mario Mix has a story mode to play through. You start out at level 1-1 as you move across five worlds, claiming music keys along the way. In story mode songs start out with an easy to groove remix of the original Mario Brothers theme. Difficulty increases as each level goes by with more steps and new “surprises”. If you can’t shake it to the beat your dance meter (shown by the stars on the top of the screen) drops, until it reaches zero. Sounds like standard DDR on paper, but many stages have “surprises”. The next challenge Mario takes on, after dancing his way across a river, is to subdue an army of angry goombas. While you’re concentrating on the arrows, random goombas show up for you to stomp on. Other classic Mario enemies make appearances too. Bullet Bills, move up the screen faster than arrows, throwing players off beat. Koopa Troopas act as double steps, you need to hit them once to knock them into their shell and a second time to finish them off. You can’t simply memorize the steps for some songs, since enemies will appear randomly.
Boss battles require players to be on their toes. An early boss battle against Waluigi has bouncing fireballs being tossed around between him and one of the Mario brothers. Step on the arrow as the fire moves up to make it bounce back to Waluigi. If you miss it, the fire lights a bomb above you, wrecking your combo and causing some serious damage to your dance gauge. The battle with a giant blooper has players hit the bloopers huge tentacles, which move up screen at irregular timing. The boss battle with Bowser requires players to hit arrows on beat to build a rocket. You need to step on all three parts of the rocket in order to build it, which makes players pay attention to which piece of the rocket is appearing. There is a catch to having all of these additions over just arrows, the game isn’t always on beat. Enemies pop up at anytime, which can easily throw gamers out of rhythm. Dance Dance Revolution with Mario gives a new meaning to a dance battle.
DDR Mario Mix isn’t meant for enthusiasts. Songs on the normal mode probably won’t phase the dancing uninitiated. Past the normal difficulty is hard and super hard, which only appears after clearing a song on very hard difficulty in free mode. Super hard mode does offer a challenge, but to get to it you’ll need to unlock songs in story mode, just to play them again in free mode. It would have been a wiser idea to have the hard story mode unlocked at the very beginning. Another qualm gamers are bound to have is with the songlist. Consisting mostly of remixed video game music it’s a bit of a disappointment. There’s no new licensed songs or anything outside of the Mario universe. Music includes the theme from Super Mario Brothers 3’s floating levels (Jump! Jump! Jump!), a song from Super Mario RPG (Choo Choo Techno) and even a remix from Mario Kart Dash (Super Machine). Besides the videogame themes (that are 90% of the total music) there are some new orchestrated songs like Para Para Carmen.
Outside of dancing to the twenty five songs, DDR Mario Mix has a bunch of mini games to play. The first mini game you’ll play has goombas popping out of pipes. Think of this as whack a mole, with the DDR controller used to aim Mario and his hammer. There’s a flagpole mini game too, which has players run as quickly as they can on the left and right buttons to make Mario run (think NES Track and Field). After getting enough speed you need to hit the up arrow at the right time to jump. A similar running game has Mario run away from a giant chain chomp chasing him down an avalanche. The further you run the more coins you snag. Coins can be used to purchase green 1up mushrooms, heart potions and four leaf clovers to be used if your dance isn’t spectacular.
One thing that separates Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix from other DDR games is that it’s fun to watch even when you’re in the audience. At first seeing Mario move to the groove does seem a little weird. Seeing Bowser do an aerial (no handed cartwheel) is even stranger. At the same time it grows on you. By the time Mario performs a six step you’re already into the game. Instead of having visualizations like flashing lights or the odd flying pigs in DDR 4th Mix you have choreographed videos with piranha plants bouncing to the beat. Each video has music video quality. Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix is also in full 3D unlike DDR titles that have sparse graphics. While DDR doesn’t really need to have great graphics to be fun, the level of visual improvement found in Mario Mix is a definite plus.
The story mode can be completed in two hours on normal mode, which unlocks many songs to play in free mode. If you want to unlock everything you’ll need to play EX story mode, which gets unlocked after you beat story mode on normal difficulty. Compared to other DDR games that offer a wide genre of music and over seventy songs Mario Mix doesn’t have the same quantity. Quality wise Mario Mix is fun all around with some new concepts to bring in newbies to the dancing revolution.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 2
Since there is no English language option, people without knowledge of Japanese could find themselves in minor trouble when explanations about the stages come up. This may lead to unnecessary stage fails. With a little patience and possibly redoing a level or two to understand the rules of a stage gamers can breeze through this game.
Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix is US bound in either October or November of 2005.
+ Pros: Simply put it’s fun game that takes uses the mechanics of DDR.
– Cons: It’s sure to attract a new audience to Dance Dance Revolution, but it doesn’t cater to DDR freaks with a small songlist full of Mario remixes.
Overall: This isn’t your hardcore aerobics DDR game. Instead Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix is a cheerful title that is sure to entertain gamers looking for something slightly new.