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.