Groovy competition in rhythm game market
Just when Konami thought it had the market cornered on rhythm games along came In the Groove. The series took the formula of timed arrows, music and dance charts and finessed it into better charts and sensible ratings; or, you know, things Konami lacked after eight games. In the Groove didn’t necessarily perfect the market product but it introduced competition in a nice package that still holds up today.
ITG has the same formula as Dance Dance Revolution: Arrows are timed to a song to rise (or drop, depending on the song modification used) to meet holders. You’re judged on the timing of your steps and either pass the song or fail based on the cumulative score and effect of your timing. Let’s not get it twisted, though: DDR and ITG are the same thing. Given that ITG cribs a lot of its elements from the originator of the rhythm dance game genre, you aren’t likely to see anything new or mind-blowing when it comes to ITG.
Where ITG shines particularly, however, is the interface and the song choices. There’s a lot to like in those differences. The song wheel interface — which presents songs for play — is crisp as are the song titles. The graphics appear to mimic the best parts of the DDR interface, which is helpful since DDR made an ill-advised change to its look shortly after. It’s also the intricate details such as being able to see a song’s BPM while choosing song mods.
In the Groove’s musical selection is no slouch, either. Many songs sound like something in DDR’s catalog; for example, there’s a series of remixes that immediately calls to mind the Paranoia signature series of DDR. There’s a lot to like with a variety of genres represented.
ITG shines also in its accessibility: If you can play DDR, you’ll be able to pick up ITG. It’s not hard to understand since it’s using the same engine as DDR. However, the main playability draw comes in its song charts. ITG’s song charts make sense and are intuitive and aren’t haphazardly done or punishing. The difficulty system also makes sense — introducing charts with a higher difficulty than the standard 10 level system that DDR used at the time — which is a must have in a dancing game.
While ITG is a welcome change of pace from DDR, there are some nitpicks that bother me about the series in general. First, some of the song mods available aren’t the most helpful. I’m not keen on silly mods like mines being a default in songs. Thankfully, there’s an option to turn off the mod, but it shouldn’t be a default part of songs at any difficulty. And, likewise, the use of three and four arrows simultaneously — which requires a hand to hit at all arrows at once — is obnoxious. If a song requires it, I usually steer clear of it. That’s not good for the song list and replay value if I’m skipping tracks, and it’s dampens my enthusiasm for an otherwise great soundtrack.
ITG gets its point across with interesting gameplay additions, a good soundtrack and crisp interface. With a few more iterations of the series after its introduction, ITG is great as an alternative on the rhythm game dance floor.