Up, right, left, down… nunchuk? Yeah, and it’s about time. With the rhythm genre’s recent surge in popularity, coupled with the Wii’s emphasis on getting up and moving, Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party was a no-brainer. How, though, did Konami do with this new version?
Their focus was obviously on making this a big party game on the ultimate party system. The game supports four dance pads, and can use GameCube-compatible pads like the ones from DDR: Mario Mix. While all four can choose different difficulties as normal, the new Friendship and Sync modes make the game more appealing to those on the ends of the skill spectrum. Friendship allows up to four dancers to cooperate, counting only the best score for each individual arrow. Sync is essentially the opposite: the team is only as good as its worst steps. Both modes are available in the game’s campaign mode, Groove Circuit. This is a godsend for less skilled players that still enjoy the game, as most songs can now be unlocked with a bit of persistence.
The balance of songs is designed to appeal to most groups. There are well-known classic songs like Disco Inferno and Karma Chameleon, recent hits like Clocks and Lips of an Angel, and DDR classics like Breakdown. Power steppers will cry that the game only features a couple of super-hard 10-step songs, but everyone else should be pleased with this mix.
Also added in are Gimmicks, or special steps that change how the game is played. Most, like the steps that must be hit twice or the steps that move around, are fairly simple, but ultimately unnecessary. One exception to this, though, is during the Groove Circuit mode, when Gimmick-based battles with AI bosses make for a refreshing change of pace between levels.
The biggest innovation, though, is the introduction of the Wii remote and nunchuk to the gameplay. Orange diamond symbols take the place of left and right steps at times, and players move the corresponding hand at the right time. The accuracy of this is a bit off, and while it shouldn’t bother casual dancers, more experienced ones might get frustrated. Despite some reports to the contrary, though, the hand controls can be turned off in the options menu.
However, the options menu lack many options veteran players like, such a way to change the speed of the arrows. Most longtime DDR fans like to speed up the arrows on slower or more complicated songs so that steps are spread apart and easier to follow.
All in all, DDR is still a two-dimensional game with one-dimensional gameplay. The series’ strength – being a party showpiece – is even stronger with the new modes, but the replay value suffers due to the lack of classic options and not-quite-accurate-enough motion controls. If you haven’t tried DDR before, this might be good enough, but for everyone else, Hottest Party is really just lukewarm.