DDR Max 2 — 2Q2014 issue

Choos­ing a sev­enth dance card

There comes a time in every long-run­ning gam­ing fran­chise when said fran­chise has to grow up. That tran­si­tion may come in the form of a new coat of paint or through a purg­ing of char­ac­ters, a reboot, if you will. But every fran­chise goes through it, and Bemani and Dance Dance Rev­o­lu­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, are no strangers to this. By the point of Max 2, the sev­enth main mix in the series, DDR had to do some­thing at the risk of grow­ing stale. So, con­tin­u­ing the trends start­ed in Max it was.

Max 2 presents itself as an inter­est­ing beast, even if you’re inti­mate­ly famil­iar with the series. There’s a new mode to play, Oni — which intro­duces the con­cept of a “three strikes and you’re out pol­i­cy” with cours­es to play — and the over­all look and feel has been upgrad­ed from the days of yore. Max 2 rep­re­sent­ed the mid­dle of a new era for DDR, begun with the whole­sale do-over of Max. There’s not much new in the way of con­cepts for Max 2, and that’s all fine and well. Since Max’s changes were regard­ed as a fail­ure and an unnec­es­sary slash-and-burn of the fran­chise, Max 2 works toward undo­ing the mess made previously.

The game does well with updat­ed aes­thet­ics. The song wheel (intro­duced in 5th Mix), the foot rat­ing (dropped in Max), Groove Radar (intro­duced in Max in favor of the foot rat­ing) and Freeze arrows return. The re-intro­duc­tion of the foot rat­ing sys­tem is the best idea that could have come from clean­ing up Max’s mess. The Groove Radar and foot rat­ing sys­tem give you all of the per­ti­nent song dif­fi­cul­ty infor­ma­tion that you will ever need. The song wheel looks bet­ter than ever since it’s now in its third iter­a­tion and Freeze arrows don’t seem to be such an aber­ra­tion as they once were in Max.

The song list is inter­est­ing mix of updates to old favorites as well as new entries aimed at adding some­thing new to DDR. Not that Max did­n’t do that very well, but Max 2 is about a greater vari­ety of songs and it shows in the fact that there’s not a new Para­noia in sight — at least in the arcade ver­sion. The home ver­sion attempts to inject a new iter­a­tion of the famil­iar song, but it’s not near­ly as suc­cess­ful as it thinks it is. Yes, Para­noia Sur­vivor, one of the boss songs of the sequel Extreme, is present and avail­able for play in the Japan­ese con­sole ver­sion, but its inclu­sion as a pre­view song isn’t real­ly nec­es­sary. And it does­n’t make a whole lot of sense. Why destroy the myth of Sur­vivor — the first 10-foot­er Para­noia — by show­ing its hand ear­ly? My prob­lem with Max 2 is illus­trat­ed by this point: The game some­times feels like a re-tread of pre­vi­ous entries, and it should­n’t. I was under the impres­sion that the rea­son for the deba­cle cre­at­ed by blow­ing up DDR with Max was to avoid just the sort of prob­lems that you’re going to run into with Max 2. Though, in its favor, Max 2 has Maxx Unlim­it­ed, which is my favorite Maxx song out of the entire bunch.

I have to com­mend Kon­a­mi for at least try­ing to right the wrongs com­mit­ted with Max’s well- mean­ing phi­los­o­phy of start­ing over. It just feels a tri­fle like Max 2 is slack­ing into old habits. Max 2 may not feel like it’s cheat­ing on its diet start­ed by Max’s slim­down but by hav­ing a few extra songs, Max 2 isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly push­ing the plate back like it should and it shows.