Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3 because Fuck You
I used to hate DDR. A lot. Imagine going into an arcade and seeing that your beloved Virtua Fighter 3 machine has been unceremoniously replaced with a loud, ugly typing tutor for your feet (this only works if you first imagine that you don’t have a life). It was an insultingly simple game—step on the arrows in sync with on-screen cues while being assaulted with terrible music—and I was going to have none of it. Every chance I got I’d mock the game and those who play it, sometimes while they were playing it.
I was really popular in college.
This unreasonable disdain was being partially influenced by my equally unreasonable girlfriend. She wasn’t so much of a girlfriend as she was a person I’d let yell at me for hours on end because this time, just maybe, she might let me have sex with her. Laurie (a fake name) (her real name was Stephanie) was a serious gamer. Like, otaku-level gamer. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman as hardcore into gaming as she was and this was well before it was slightly less awkward for women to admit to playing video games. Stephanie was ordering collector’s editions of import games I had never heard of, knew Japanese voice actors by name and not by character, and bought a fucking Neo-Geo CD so she could play the Samurai Shodown RPG.
Stephanie also dressed like a man, had the empathy of a rock, and successfully met enough criteria to be diagnosed as a sociopath. Still, she was a woman who seriously played video games. You need to get in on that action when you can.
She was disgusted by DDR so I, too, found it deplorable. It’s not that I blindly agreed with every opinion she had—this was a woman who thought Horned Owl was a pretty okay game, after all—but if you’re with someone long enough or want have to sex that badly their opinions become your own, especially if you don’t really care about the subject in the first place. My only real gripe with DDR was that it was a gimmick game that replaced Virtua Fighter 3 in one of a dozen arcades in town.
With Stephanie’s help, that gripe festered into a sort of ridiculous, unwarranted rage. And it wasn’t just DDR, either. It was Bernie Stolar’s treatment of the Saturn. It was Victor Ireland’s silly translations and insistence on dubbing Magic Knight Rayearth. It was anyone who would pronounce Athena’s name wrong. Jesus, the list goes on. And you know, to this day some of those old hatreds still burn. I’m only now getting over Nick Rox.
You’ve been there—the relationship that just exists. You don’t question why you’re together because it’s become so expected and mundane. Worst of all, you don’t see your relationship (or your life) ever changing.
Something changed, though. For reasons that to this day baffle me I decided to attend an out-of-state university. I had no aspirations to speak of and the idea of going to school simply to get a chance at a life-long career made me sad. Perhaps on a subconscious level I was attempting to break things off with Stephanie and start over, fresh and clean, but it didn’t work out that way.
For starters, I felt so guilty about leaving town that I was determined to make our cold, miserable relationship work despite the new distance between us. Secondly, I was so fucking jaded by this point that I shunned the whole college experience and generally kept to myself. What’s that? You guys are playing video games in the dorm lobby? Oh, it’s just fucking Grand Theft Auto. Sorry, I thought you were playing real video games.
I was really popular in college.
Having settled into a life of bitterness, resentment, and unhappiness, I wasn’t prepared for Jill. Up to this point I hadn’t really interacted with anyone except my roommate and that was only to tell him he had horrible tastes in games. When Jill (real name Jill) approached me I was already preparing to hand her a pencil or make change for a dollar. She didn’t ask for either—she asked if I had seen Battle Athletes.
I had never met this girl before and this girl was not my girlfriend who happened to be a thousand miles away thinking of ways to make me further hate my life, yet here I was talking to this girl about a sticker of Kris Christopher I had slapped on my notebook. Thanks to Stephanie, I had, indeed, seen Battle Athletes. It was one of my favorite series at the time. It was also Jill’s favorite series, despite not having seen it to completion.
After class we stopped by my dorm room so I could lend her the last few discs of the series. Before I could say see ya’ she invited me over to her place to watch them together. I accepted. I won’t go into details but one thing quickly led to another and suddenly our shoes were off and we were flailing around like idiots on plastic dance pads.
I was excited and terrified. And kind of dumb. The first thing I said to Stephanie during our daily late-night, 2-hour telephone conversation was something along the lines of “I made a new friend.” I did have the tact to avoid mentioning said new friend’s gender. “They’re into moving pictures,” I’d say, or “we played some games,” or “If I were single, I’d probably be fucking their brains out right now.”
I couldn’t avoid the gender issue forever. Eventually I’d slip in some hers and shes into the conversation and, to Stephanie’s credit, she handled it well. Then I mentioned we’d been playing DDR. I probably would have been better off saying we’d been fucking each others brains out.
For the record, Jill was attractive, far better than anything I deserved. Despite this, I was honestly content with having a new friend—someone I could watch cheesy anime with and just generally enjoy being around. Plus I was so dedicated to my meaningless relationship with Stephanie that the thought of getting together with Jill just didn’t exist. Stephanie didn’t see it this way. This other woman, using some combination of boobs and slutty video game innuendo, had seduced her boyfriend into playing a game he absolutely hated.
Our relationship, which up to this point had been trapped in a state of limbo, ever so slowly began to break itself apart. I had betrayed Stephanie in the worst possible way and now she would trust me even less than she already did. This loss of faith actually instilled confidence in me. I began exploring the world outside of my dorm room, met more friends, and even played DDR in public. For the first time in years, I was genuinely happy with my life.
Ironically, college was also the last time I played DDR. It wasn’t the glue that held my new friendships together nor was it the catalyst to a life-changing event. It was just something fun to do amongst the many, many other fun somethings to do. If I had to label it, I’d call it nostalgic.
Years later, despite being happy and single, I’d find myself weaving in out of the crowd of rejected human beings that seem to inhabit Wal-Mart. I was looking for something, I don’t quite remember what but I had to be desperate for it otherwise there’s no way in hell I would have ventured into that consumer deathtrap to begin with. Whatever it was that I was looking for I didn’t find it which, if you’ve ever gone to Wal-Mart in search of something, should come as no surprise. I know this because I only bought one thing and it was something I certainly wasn’t looking for. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In an effort to justify my trip through hell I decided to browse the electronics section of the store. This decision made sense to me. After all, this was the same place I found Onechanbara for $10 and I will never, ever regret that purchase, nor the look on the cashier’s fleshless face as she rung it up (think Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure). In return, I gave her my “why yes, I am too old to be buying a game featuring a bikini clad cowgirl on the cover, so?” look, which, to be honest, is the look I give everybody regardless of the situation.
Alas, there were no more bikini-clad cowgirls (they had Onechanbara for the Wii but, really?). There wasn’t much of anything. The bargains the chain advertises seemed to be missing completely—until I saw it. A big, green box of nostalgic outside of the bullet-proof video game case. Obviously it was too big to pocket but that didn’t stop Wal-Mart from wrapping a couple of security devices around it.
It was Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3.
It was cheap.
It was mine.
I wouldn’t play it for months.
I do this with games regardless of how excited I am about playing them. Some time between the point of purchasing the game and getting home I either get distracted or lose interest entirely. The thing is, I eventually will play the game and get ridiculously excited about it—to the point where I wonder why I hadn’t played it sooner. I did this with Earth Defense Force 2017 and Blue Dragon and you can just shut right the hell up because, deny it as much as you want, Blue Dragon is essentially Chrono Trigger.
Sometimes I’ll rediscover the game in my collection in a “hey, wow, where did this come from?!” sort of fashion but most of the time it’s out of guilt. My logic is since I spent actual money on the game I should squeeze some sort of entertainment value from it. Also, since I’m broke from spending money on games I haven’t even opened yet I have nothing better to do.
And here I am, two years later, talking about Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3. You’d think that within those two years there’d be plenty of reviews for DDRU3, but even the Internet, what with its Harry Potter fan fiction communities, bomb recipes, and child porn, has its limits.
It’s not because Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3 is bad, it’s because it’s Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3. The closest thing I can find to an actual analysis are the Amazon.com reviews, all of which feature the word fuck followed by Konami and a series of exclamation points.
What has Konami done to earn the ire of so many random Amazon nut jobs aside from not releasing a proper Castlevania game in years? Load times.
One can’t help but wonder why the game even needs to load to begin with. It’s scrolling arrows and MP3s! You’d have to go out of your way to create load times. Even if you’re crazy enough to leave the background videos on the 360 is a powerful enough system to handle what is essentially a flash game.
So installing the game is essential. As is a dance pad, come on, don’t be stupid. Some Amazon reviewers have complained that the pad sticks to their feet and slips on carpet and while I have never had the pad slip from beneath my lithe frame, I agree that the pad will stick to your dirty, nasty feet so wear some goddamn socks already. Playing the game for any length of time is going to make you swear. Sweat. I meant sweat. Swear, too. But yes, you will sweat and playing the game without socks will turn your dance pad into a biological weapon research center. God, you are so disgusting.
DDR has a steep learning curve. More often than not you’ll step on an arrow only to have it not register at all. Getting your positioning right takes a while which is why you’ll start off playing all of your songs on Beginner. It’s a very transient experience, actually, because before you know it you’ll be dabbling in Basic, then Difficult, then quitting because anything beyond this point will break you both mentally and physically.
You can’t beat DDR, at least, not in a traditional sense. There’s an obligatory and infuriating quest mode but you won’t stop playing the game if manage to you beat it. If anything you’ll stop playing the game because of Quest Mode. While the load times are completely manageable in Game Mode, they are intolerable in Quest Mode. Choose a location, load, talk to the quest giver, load, choose a difficulty, load, fail, load, take insults from quest giver, load, quest giver leaves. Want to try again? Start over from where I said choose a location.
The quests themselves range from “this is ridiculous” to “I don’t even understand what you’re asking me to do.”
Why would you want to play Quest Mode? You don’t, but it’s the only way to unlock all of the songs (you can unlock a few songs through Game Mode). Also, you can purchase new clothes for your character if you’re into that sort of thing which I am so weeee! Fishnets and mini-skirts! Did I mention I was single?
You can cheat your way through quest mode using a very, very old controller trick: holding down the turbo buttons. My first turbo controller was a NES Max which, though I loved it dearly, was terrible. The gimmick was that the directional pad was analog, which it wasn’t. It had a giant red thumb pad that did absolutely nothing encircled by a large black ring (the actual directional pad). You were expected to push the red thumb pad hard enough against the encompassing ring to register movement. Mind you, the ring wasn’t pressure sensitive—it had to be pushed down all the way in order to work.
Once you ignored the thumb pad and got used to using the ring by itself, the Max was pretty comfortable, especially when compared to the standard NES pad. If you’ve ever complained about your hand cramping from using a 360 or PS3 controller, suck it up, wimp. Imagine holding a controller slightly larger than the Game Boy Micro only made of glass so the edges cut into your innocent, baby-soft flesh. That was the horror of the NES controller.
The beauty of the Max, though, was it’s turbo buttons. Turbo introduced a whole new world of cheating to my early console gaming life. Contra, Life Force, Mega Man—if it required me rapidly push a button, it was turbo or nothing. I practically mastered Track & Field by holding down a single button.
I haven’t relied on turbo buttons since the days of playing shooters on the TurboGrafx-16 (the controllers featured built-in turbo buttons with speed settings—that’s class). The only non-vintage controller I own that has a turbo function is my Street Fighter pad because I’ll be damned if I pay $120 for a joystick. While I may not play on a tournament level, I do have standards, so the turbo function remained untouched except for some of the more obnoxious challenges in Super Street Fighter IV. Not surprisingly, I used them again to get around the more obnoxious challenges in Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3.
Assign your buttons to the arrows, turn turbo on, and hold down the buttons. You’re good to go. There are a couple of times this doesn’t work, but you can get around them with some fancy finger work. And it’s worth it because the songs you unlock are perfectly playable on the lower difficulty settings with the exception of the worst Gradius remix ever created. It’s the sort of song you’d murder someone to.
But, as I said, that’s the exception. Some of the users on Amazon seem to take issue with the song selection, comparing it to more than 10 years of music in DDR games. I can say with some confidence that DDRU3 has a decent track list—more than 60 songs, many of them quite catchy and featuring that special DDR vibe. There are a handful of licensed American tunes, fine, and the afore mentioned Gradius song that could easily be used for high-pressure interrogation, but in the end you have a solid track list.
For perspective, I purchased DDRU and DDRU2 used for a few bucks each thinking hey, more songs! First of all, the songs are dull. Even the tracks that should be great, like the Castlevania remix, aren’t exactly fresh (or phat, I guess. I don’t know. You might not have guessed it, but I’m not all that hip).
Then there’s the interface. DDRU3 has a simple, clean interface that makes tracking the arrows a joyful, almost Zen-like experience. The previous titles attack the player with garish colors, amateurish desktop wallpaper, and massive lettering announcing the end of your combo chain because it’s so large it covers up the next few sets of arrows.
DDRU and DDRU2 feel like ports of PlayStation era DDR games where as DDRU3 feels like an actual, honest-to-goodness HD-era DDR game. Not that it matters much because it’s still DDR. Just a prettier, more convenient DDR. With better songs.
As required by law, DDRU3 is not without paid downloadable content. One of the downloadable packs is simply an option to turn on the Japanese announcer which is absurd on so many levels. The English announcer, a girl probably in her early teens, is brilliantly uninterested and sarcastic. “Wow”, she says, as if she spotted an interestingly shaped dog turd, “a 100 combo.” Occasionally she’ll order me to teach her how to shake her booty which I’m pretty sure is illegal. I wish the walls in my apartment weren’t so thin.
Most of the paid content is for song packs and no, we’re not going to tell you which songs are in which pack so ha ha ha, fuck you, consumer. Seriously, this was a pretty rude thing for Konami to do, though not entirely unexpected. There are a handful of songs listed on the back of the box that do not actually appear anywhere in the game. If this was any other game it might be a big deal but unless you have a serious hard on for Tainted Love or Sweet Dreams Are Made of These, you’re not missing out on anything.
There are other features but I don’t care about them and neither should you. The important thing is that DDRU3 is still DDR: an insultingly simple game that has you step on arrows in sync with on-screen cues while being assaulted with terrible music. That’s pretty great.