A new era of DDR
Let’s have a quick history review, shall we? Konami created the Dance Dance Revolution series in 1998 and by 2002, there were at least six entries in the main series. I’d gather that this meant DDR was pretty popular, but you would never hear Konami say that too loud. At some point, however, someone realized the magic that was DDR needed to come into the modern era. So, everything that was related to the first five entries in the series — with the exception of the song wheel and difficulty categories — was thrown out in favor of a complete overhaul. DDR Max was the result and with it comes a mixed bag of modern and old DDR.
Graphically, Max represents the beginning of a new era. Sure, it resembles current DDR games because they use the song wheel, but the colors became a little brighter and the little touches used to illustrate the different difficulties and categories are emphasized more. The interface is much easier to read, though the addition of the Groove Radar still has some ways to go here. It’s not exactly helpful in providing digestible information that helps make quick informed decisions. That’s a complaint that still stands today, so much so that I tend to ignore the meter altogether. Also, the foot rating is missing and song difficulty rating numbers have yet to come (that’s not until Max 2). But the song wheel has been freshened up so it looks a lot better and is a little more palatable.
Musically, the selection is among the best in the series. The one thing about Max that’s notable about the music is the lack of a Paranoia mix. For a series trademark song, its absence is immediately noticeable, and quite frankly, drags the mix down a few notches. There’s a few throw away songs like Share My Love and Dive, but overall it’s quite a few excellent choices thrown together to make a good song list. The variety is nice and it feels like a good fresh start for a series that had a lot of repeats in the first five games.
I don’t go back and play 6th Mix often, mostly because I can’t deal with a lack of Paranoia in my life at this point. As a DDR old head and one who owns the American version as well as the Japanese version, I applaud the change up that Konami pursued. It was a bold move that paid off in the long run: DDR still looks like a lot like this form, even with at least eight more games under its belt as a series. Sometimes, a change in pace is needed to keep the dance groove going.
DanceDance Revolution trivia
* DDR Max is the first game to feature a 10-foot difficulty song. Max 300 was officially the first 10-footer in the history of the series, though it wouldn’t receive its official rating until Max 2 was released.
* Max 300, the boss song of the mix, features 573 steps in its Heavy difficulty chart. 573 is known as the Konami number, a number that relates to the romanized pronunciation of the company’s name.
* Max is the first DDR game to feature the Light/Standard/Heavy difficulty scheme, dance point system, speed mods, Extra Stage/One More Extra Stage and freeze arrows. The difficulty scheme would stay in place until the release of DDR SuperNOVA in 2006.
* Two songs introduced in the mix, Flash in the Night and Follow Me, are the only two songs in the series that do not have an official foot rating. These two songs were introduced in 6th Mix, which is the only mix that does not use the foot rating system. They have never appeared in later mixes, which gave official Konami numbered ratings to all songs.