Dance away your sorrows!
Dance Dance Revolution is viewed by many as Konami's attempt at cashing in on EA's Madden philosophy. That philosophy is to release a new version of a game, with only slight changes from the previous version, every year and charging full price for it. In Madden, the team rosters change. In DDR, the song list changes. However, PS2 owners were the biggest victims of this philosophy. Those who have owned only Nintendo consoles have only seen one previous DDR game released, and that was Mario Mix for the GameCube. Mario Mix wasn't a traditional game either, as it featured a cut-scene driven story mode and a toned down difficulty. So that makes Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party the first normal DDR game to appear on a Nintendo console. If you only own Nintendo consoles and/or haven't had the pleasure of playing a DDR game before, you should stop reading now and just go pick this version up. It's one of the most accessible rhythm games ever to be released (rivaled only by the likes of Guitar Hero and Elite Beat Agents).
So what about the people who own three or four DDR games on PS2? Don't just write Hottest Party off as another set of songs to dance to. There are two well conceived additions that may just make it the hottest DDR party yet. Firstly, Konami took full advantage of the motion sensors in the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. While dancing on the mat with their feet, players can also hold the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in their hands. Sometimes, instead of just the normal arrows, Remote icons will scroll up from the bottom of the screen. The one corresponding with the left hand always shows up in the left arrow column, while the right hand one always shows up in the right arrow column. These hand shakes add a layer of complication to the songs that make it surprisingly complex. It feels a lot like the old "rub your stomach while tapping your head" trick. The only flaw with the added layer is that the shakes just aren't as precise as the mat presses. Therefore, achieving "Perfect" ratings on them is kind of a crap shoot. If you are a good enough DDR player that completely perfect runs are what you strive for, you'll probably want to shut off the hand icons. Yes, you can shut them off. The developers were smart enough not to force the new mode on dancing purists.
The other highlight of Hottest Party is the multiplayer support. While you need a room the size of an airplane hangar to pull it off, it does support a full four players with a screen full of scrolling arrows. The multiplayer fun doesn't stop there, either. There are also two cooperative dancing modes that are incredibly fun. In both, only one set of dance arrows is on the screen, as if you were playing single player. Every participating player must try and perform the same moves at the same time. In one cooperative mode, probably the more difficult of the two, the only goal is that no one in the group can get a single "Boo" rating. As soon as a "Boo" rating happens, the song quits, and you fail. The camaraderie between players that this mode promotes is huge. For our group, it was like intoxicated line dancing at a wedding, where form actually matters! The other scoring mode lowers the stress levels a bit and reverts to a standard DDR scoring pattern. The cooperative twist is that whichever player hits the beat the best counts for the team. Therefore, in this mode, high scores are much easier to achieve than in a single player mode. It is a ton of fun to throttle the difficulty way up and see if the hardest songs can be completed together.
Obviously, in order to play these great multiplayer modes, four dance mats are needed. Obtaining this many mats can be an expensive proposition. Thankfully, the mat included with the game plugs right into the GameCube controller ports on the Wii. It is most likely just a re-skinned version of the Mario Mix mat. Therefore, those who own Mario Mix will already have one or two additional mats at their fingertips, as those older mats work flawlessly. This GameCube compatibility also aids in the search for new mats, as all of the third party mats released in the GameCube days should also work with Hottest Party. While it would have been nice if the new mats used the Wii's wireless technology, ease of finding additional mats may make up for that shortcoming.
Really, the only other thing to touch on is the song list. Hottest Party was marketed as having a large variety of songs, covering the last 40 years of popular releases. That statement is very close to the truth, but almost every song still consists of a strong techno beat. If you don't think you can get past a barrage of "boom-tiss, boom-tiss, boom-tiss" music and still enjoy dancing, Hottest Party probably isn't for you. Most DDR fans will realize that the music is really secondary as long as it has a strong beat, and they can still enjoy the frantic dancing.
Not only is Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party the first traditional DDR game to hit a Nintendo platform, it also may be the best version on any platform yet. It's incredibly refreshing to see a new incarnation of this game have such a great set of new modes to go along with the tried and true. Pick this up and start throwing your own Hottest Parties.