Dreamcast Review: DDR Club Version (JP)

Dance Dance Revolution Club Version Dreamcast
Genre: Rhythm
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
Pubilsher: Konami
Release Date: 04/27/2000

Even with the popularity of Dance Dance Revolution in the U.S. (which, admittedly, has been on an alarming nose dive since the birth of Guitar Hero), it’s guaranteed we will never see a domestic version of the Club Version series. The arcade series took the red-hot DDR franchise and mixed it together with the then brand-new beatmania IIDX to allow up to four players, with two players creating the game’s music using the IIDX DJ setup and the other players dancing to it on the DDR stage. For Dreamcast importers, this meant they had a second DDR title to sink their teeth into even though the IIDX aspects were completely dropped from the home titles. While the title might not have as much genre variety as the comparable 2nd Mix, the Dreamcast technology provides a superior experience over the Playstation versions and the disc contains a trove of early and forgotten IIDX material that players can experience few other places.

Don’t kid yourself – DDR never concerned itself with a storyline for 10 years until the console release of X last year. The series did have a mission, though, of getting players off their duff and physically getting into the gameplay by the means of music. As an extension of 2ndMix, this DDR title looks exactly like previous mix, with the exception of the menus and HUD using cool blue and purple colors instead of the hot red tones seen in 2nd Mix. All of the menus, options (sans a new vivid modifier, which has been standard in every mix since 4th), modes and gameplay is ripped straight from 2nd Mix. While each mode uses the same concept, a slight variation is provided with the game’s arcade mode, collection/all music mode (players can freely play any song previously played in arcade mode), endless mode and training mode and there are extra options that allow players to view records and game information. Sadly, Club Version isn’t fitted with extra exclusive tracks like 2nd Mix was with its preview samples of DDR 3rd Mix, but with 43 tracks, Club Version had a pretty beefy songlist for its time.

Graphics were never a huge concern in the early DDR games, so most of it was passable, yet entertaining, as some really bizarre items would fly across the backgrounds as a character danced on a layer on top of it. Unfortunately, as pretty much a shoveled port from the inferior Playstation and arcade hardware used at the time, the visuals in the game reach nowhere near Dreamcast standards. While the console really smoothed out a lot of the hardware’s blocky models, you’re essentially getting just that – smoothed out Playstation graphics. Nonetheless, most players won’t be paying any mind to the graphics and the 2ndMix interface is amusingly setup to offer menus that imitate a rotating jukebox-like setup to select discs of songs and a performance meter represented as an audio equalizer.

On the other hand, the full attention of the game’s presentation went toward the make-or-break feature of sound. All of the music pumps through at a good quality for the most part, sans some of the touchy audio balancing issues found in some of the earliest beatmania songs. The music chosen for the title reflects the theme very well with a hearty helping of R&B, house, ambient and hard beats, but considering the tracks were implemented based on their beatmania roots, players might feel a small selection of the songs aren’t really dancing material – which is a huge blow considering the home version has no traces of IIDX gameplay in it. Club Version also samples the announcer found in 2nd Mix and is honestly my favorite from any of the entries – sure, he’s unnecessary and can mutter some borderline creepy phrases, but it’s leagues better than the audible crapfest that is the DDR X announcer. Finally, while it has no bearing on the quality of the title, DDR Club Version will likely be the most unfamiliar entry in the entire series. Players looking for a score of their favorite DDR tunes will only find a few, which were implanted as transplant songs in later versions, but longtime beatmania fans will enjoy this time capsule as there are a series of staple songs on the disc that herald Bemani’s humble beginnings.

As always, players have the option to rock DDR arrows with a standard controller or using the specialized Dreamcast dance mat (which is unfortunately beginning to become a chore to find). Even in its earliest stages, DDR is pretty much the same game we play today – step on a pattern of arrows in rhythm to music as indicators scroll from the bottom and meet the stationary indicators at the top. Of course, it was a bit more archaic than the feature sets we enjoy in the games today, which means there are no speed modifiers, the scrolling is done in 30 frames per second, flat arrows are standard and more. Regardless, back in 2000, DDR was the epitome of originality and I can’t say there was a single person who I shared the game with that didn’t have fun playing it (or at least watching us make fools of ourselves if they couldn’t stand public performance). Even though Club Version doesn’t quite have the extent of content the current versions do, the fact that the title can be a load of fun has never changed. While both 2nd Mix and Club Version might not have aged very well through newer consoles, for its time, they were a load of fun.

With the DDR franchise running on the concept of always coming home from the arcades, there are actually a number of benefits of owning the Dreamcast version of Club (and even 2nd Mix for that matter). The most obvious advantage Club Version Dreamcast Edition has over the Playstation versions is the fact that the version comes packed all on one disc and is not an append disc, like the two Playstation entries that run off of the retail 2ndMix disc. Not only do the graphics receive a slight boost, but the extra storage in the GD-ROM also allowed Konami to overlay the tracks in endless mode to create an illusion that the songs “mix” into each other. The VMU usage unfortunately means no edit data from either Dreamcast DDR is integrateable with the arcade versions as the Playstation entries have been since 2nd Mix Link Version, but the feature does potentially create endless replayability in the Dreamcast version itself. For those worrying about the language barrier – there is virtually nothing in this title you won’t understand aside from a few descriptors and information entries if you can read English as the menu entries are in English and all song titles are English.

GemuBaka Final Review Score: 4 of 5

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