DDR Extreme better second time around
I’m a DanceDanceRevolution fan from way back when, in that time and space before the U.S. really discovered the series and when we dealt with hastily put-together mixes that didn’t really capture the feel of DDR. Ah, those were the heady days of 2002. Alas, DDR finally blew up in the U.S., and we finally started receiving mixes much like Japan. The problem was, we were getting them years after the fact, and when we did get them, they were mostly lacking — broken, incomplete messes that you were better off pretending didn’t exist. That, my friends, is where we join our story already in progress with Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2.
Never mind that there is no DDR Extreme 2 in Japan. We’re going to set that aside for a minute to focus on the fact of why it exists in the U.S. DDR Extreme 2 is borne of the failure of Konami to do right by its fans outside of Japan. We received DDR Extreme in 2004, a full two years after the original was released in arcades and for PlayStation 2 in Japan. That game is absolute garbage: It’s nothing like what Japan received, which is a game that’s much closer to the arcade version of Extreme. We received a broken and changed-for-the-worse song interface, missing and weird songlist and grading mechanics that were excised as of DDR 5th Mix. Now that you’re all caught up, you should see the reason why we needed a do-over game of sorts. That’s where Extreme 2 comes in.
Extreme 2 is a decent addition to the U.S. console DDR library of games. It features the song wheel interface and restores the 5th Mix grading mechanics. The song list is great, too, finally featuring at least some of the songs found in the Japanese version such as Cartoon Heroes (Speedy Mix), Irresistiblement, Speed Over Beethoven and Paranoia Survivor/Survivor Max, which were all new to Japanese Extreme when it was released. It closely mirrors the home release of Japanese Extreme, which meant Konami was finally taking the U.S. market seriously.
Because it’s so close to the Japanese version of Extreme (editor’s note: We reviewed this title in the 2Q2013 issue), we’re going to skip the focus on how it plays other than to tell you that the timing windows remain loose as they always are in the U.S. versions, if you care about that sort of thing. From experience, it’s much easier for me to get an A grade on Paranoia Survivor in the American version than in the Japanese version. The American versions always have had more loose timing windows, and it makes playing a lot easier. The options are pretty much the same, though you will have to spend time unlocking songs because, as with previous U.S. releases, it’s missing the System Data Support feature found in the Japanese versions. That feature unlocks a previous game’s data using the current game. While this would have been helpful in Extreme 2, it’s not so bad to have to play through the Event mode or Dance Master mode, though you will be tired of certain songs after the fifth time through.
And Dance Master mode is where you may spend a decent amount of time trying to unlock certain things. Dance Master is not a terrible mode but some of the conditions are not easy and require an intimate knowledge of DDR. If you’ve bought this version, chances are you are experienced enough with DDR for this not to be a problem, but for the unexperienced this might be a tedious exercise in, well, exercise.
And, because many of the servers are now down, we can’t really comment on the online modes. While active they were interesting and fun to play against others using the early precursor to PlayStation Network, but alas, 15 years later there are no servers for Extreme 2, so that’s a loss. You aren’t really missing anything there because there is always the latest version of DDR and Stepmania, which are immediately superior to a 15-year-old game.
DDR Extreme 2, an anomaly itself, is an OK addition to the U.S. library. Though I fault Konami and its U.S. branch heavily for screwing up DDR Extreme enough to have to do a second go-round, the well-rounded redone songlist kind of makes up for the extremely boring mess that preceded Extreme 2.