Harmonix’s Dance Central is arguably the biggest stand-out title for Kinect at the moment. It executes its premise well and features the type of polish that gamers have come to expect from Rock Band developer Harmonix. Konami’s Dance Evolution (aka Dance Masters) is, for all intents and purposes, the J-Pop alternative to Dance Central. Well, it would be, were it not for the fact that it’s simply not as much fun to play…
For a game that purports to be an experience brimming with high-quality dancing techniques and the like, the motions that Dance Evolution requires can feel a long way away from actual dancing. Granted, I’m not the world’s most seasoned mover and shaker (nor will I ever be), but comparatively, Dance Central’s focus on performing actual dance with consistent rhythm exists in stark contrast Dance Evolution’s actual gameplay.
Instead of dancing, it feels like you are continually participating in rounds of ’statues’ – the classic kids party game in which you sharply pose yourself into a non-moving ’statue’ for fear of moving and being caught out. Here, statue variations are served up in short bursts and you must follow suite; the result is more mimicry than rythmic strutting, as you mirror the suggested shapes on-screen in the vain hope that your movements will resemble some semblance of well-paced dancing.
All the same, it’s completely feasible that one could learn the actual dance patterns (in fact, there is a training mode in place to practice your moves); it’s just that the effort required to form a coherent and flowing routine without having to stop to check the requested on-screen position isn’t really much fun. There is also an online mode included that was unfortunately deserted upon my efforts to find a session with a fellow dance master.
What is arguably just as important as the dancing, however, is the music. With this being a Japanese-developed game, there is ostensibly a healthy level of J-Pop music in place that spans a few different genres with a fairly decent amount of tracks. For Western audiences, it’s appeal will no doubt be fairly niche, but for the J-Pop new comer, the sound is at least catchy, up-beat and appropriately cheesy and so serves its purpose well enough.
The strangest thing about Dance Evolution is how it places your Kinect-read image into the game setting, as if you were something of a lowly back-up dancer to the main digitized star. In some ways, it’s a fun novelty to behold, but at the same time, it doesn’t look very good at all. Your image will have that jagged cut-out thing going on, and you’re so awkwardly placed to the one side of the main dancers that it feels as if it was thrown in as a lazy, “Yeah, I guess we can do that” type of decision.
Dance Evolution is not necessarily a bad game – at the very least it’s functional and as a progression for the Dance Dance Revolution series it’s certainly heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, in light of quality offer by its main competitor – namely Dance Central – Dance Evolution’s attempts come off as somewhat shallow in comparison and unless you have a particular yearning for the style of music and dance routines featured, Harmonix’s take on motion-dancing is a far safer bet.
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