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October 20, 2003
Dancing Stage Mega Mix - Review
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Some of the song collection.
It’s no surprise that Konami are one of the dominating figures in the games industry today, given their bestselling games such as the Metal Gear, Silent Hill and Pro Evolution Soccer series. On top of this however, they have further popularity with their games for the niche Japanese market, particularly with music and rhythm games with custom ‘wacky’ peripherals. This includes games with guitars (Guitar Freaks), drum kits (Drummania), and dancing mats (Dance Dance Revolution or DDR), just to name a few. At first these games were deemed as too strange for the western world, but some have gained sufficient popularity in the arcades so that they’ve been ported locally to home versions. Dancing Stage Megamix is the latest title in the Dancing Stage series (known as DDR to non-PAL territories), and the first Dancing Stage title for the PS2 in Australia.

Dancing Stage Megamix shares similar gameplay to the previous Dancing Stage and DDR titles. It’s a music-rhythm game where directional buttons must be pressed in time with corresponding arrows scrolling up the screen. A dance meter (similar to an energy bar) fills up when you successfully complete strings of dancing steps; step on the wrong arrows at the wrong time however, and it will decrease. If the dance meter gets all the way to empty, it’s game over and time to choose an easier song! Fortunately all songs have several difficulty levels, so you can enjoy every song no matter what skill level you are at.

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Selecting the Vs Mode.
The standard game mode in Dancing Stage Megamix is the arcade mode, where you select a set number of songs (default is 3) and dance through them sequentially. For the home version, extra modes have been added including endless, lesson, workout, training and edit mode. Workout mode is a little different to the others, because it lets you input your age and weight, and then structure a ‘workout’ set of songs to dance to, and then after dancing calculates your calories burnt (and then compare them to the equivalent time jogging or swimming). The Edit mode is a useful one, because it lets you edit and save your own sets of arrows (steps) for a particular song onto your memory card and share them with friends. Some DDR machines in arcades also have ‘edit slots’ (essentially PS2 memory card slots) which you can use your memory card with (with saved Dancing Stage Megamix edits) to use your custom steps for certain songs!

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The backgrounds are quite cool.
Dancing Stage Megamix is one of those games that people either love or hate; and most of the haters tend to hate it because they’re too embarrassed to give it a try in front of others! I’ve found though that once you finally get a DDR-hater to start dancing, they never look back. So, the gameplay is addictive, the sounds and visuals are rich and true to their arcade counterparts, and it features songs from today’s hit artists, including Kylie! (*drools*). And given that you get a dancing mat included in the price of the game, there’d be no reason not to buy this game, right? Unfortunately it’s not the quality of the game which is its major drawback, but rather the lack of quantity…

The game contains 27 songs (+1 bonus song), which to casual gamer might sound like plenty; however DDR fans may find this number quite a bit lower than expected. Current arcade DDR games and even the recently released DDR Max (for PS2 in the US) have somewhere along the order of +70 songs, which makes this release quite pale in comparison. To make matters worse, Dancing Stage Megamix contains primarily ballad and love-song style songs, and misses many of the ‘classic’ songs present in other DDR mixes (although this does depend on your personal taste). Because of this, I fear many DDR fans might be best hiring this game before buying, given that it really is lacking in song content. (Note also that the back of the box originally had ‘65 songs’ labeled, but has been stickered over with ’28 songs’; quite a shame, really).

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Checkout out the workout.
The visuals in Dancing Stage Megamix are nothing special for the PS2, but are vibrant, fluid and true to its arcade counterpart. Backgrounds are now full-motion video rather than the polygon dancing figures of PSOne Dancing Stage Games, and run at a smooth constant 50fps. An extra visual addition to this version is a ‘karaoke’ mode, where the new licensed songs, including ones by The Cure and Elvis Vs JXL have their lyrics displayed on the screen so that you can sing along if you feel the urge. This feature will be lost on most gamers due to the fact that they’ll be concentrating on the arrows rather than the lyrics, but it may come in handy when you’re sitting out and waiting your turn (and possibly trying to put the other player off depending on your singing talents!).

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Counting the calories burnt.
Audio is what Dancing Stage Megamix is all about, and it doesn’t disappoint; again being true to its arcade version with the music quality. The majority of songs have catchy tunes, although there could be a better mix to the genres such as the larger song libraries on the more recent Max and Extreme mixes. All of the arcade commentary is present too, and there are enough sound and volume sliders to set up the volume just as you’d like it, even including ‘delay’ sliders (in case your speakers are obscenely large distances away from your television).

So is Dancing Stage Megamix worth your hard earned pennies? It depends on what your DDR experiences are; if you’ve played it once or twice before and want to take it home, then you should run out and grab it now. It’s fun, addictive, hard to master, and will (hopefully) get you fit at the same time! For the more hardcore DDR fan (who knows the difference between the angelic and standard mix of ‘Healing Vision’, and perhaps the precise BPM changes in Max300), you’ll be bitterly disappointed at the lack of songs, and the lack of difficulty of those present in Dancing Stage Megamix. To these people, I’d suggest to perhaps import the latest Japanese release of DDR Extreme, but chances are you already have ;)

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSVibrant visuals which do the job without being overly special .
SOUNDLicensed extra songs add a fresh breath to the series.
GAMEPLAYAddictive, healthy fun in a ‘different’ kind of game.
VALUE28 songs?! Only 1 bonus song?! Please sir, I want some more!
OVERALLDancing Stage Megamix is a great, beautifully presented game, which could have been so much more if only it had more songs. Again the PAL territories have been given a cut-back version of the better US and Japanese versions, so fans might be better off looking offshore for a more concise DDR game. Casual gamers however may find more than enough enjoyment contained within though, but a hire-before-you-buy is advised.

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