Here in the US, Konami is known for a few different things. As a console publisher, the company has put out games such as the Metal Gear series, its ESPN sports lineup, and the Castlevania series. In arcades, the company has games like Silent Scope and, looking back even further, side-scrolling beat-'em-ups like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But in Japan, the company looks very different. In Japan, the company is known as the king of music games. If the longtime publisher has its way, US players will eventually recognize Konami's musical prowess as well.
Dance Dance Revolution isn't Konami's first music game, but it's probably the best-known music game--Konami calls them "Bemani" games--on the market. Like other classic games, DDR sticks firmly to the "easy to learn, difficult to master" mantra. It works like this: Songs are played, and it's up to you to dance to the music. The screen shows you how to dance in the form of arrows, which float to the top of the screen. When the arrows hit the top of the screen, you need to step on the corresponding arrow on your floor mat. The closer you are to the beat, the more points you score. If you miss too many steps, your game will end. The songs range in difficulty--they let you master early songs, like Boom Boom Dollar, before you move on to tougher challenges, like Paranoia. While you execute the dance steps, a polygonal figure dances in the background, lending a bit of eye candy to the proceedings, though you won't have time to focus on the dancer while you're actually playing the game.
Dance Dance Revolution has been available in Japan since mid-1998 and has gone through tons of transformations over the years. Konami recently released the fourth major upgrade to the series, DDR 4th Mix, in Japanese arcades. DDR 3rd Mix is already available for the PlayStation. The US release takes its 27 songs from the earlier DDR games and contains most of the classics, though die-hard fans will surely note a distinct lack of Butterfly. The game's interface and mode selection are taken from the Japanese release of 3rd Mix, and they offer multiple polygonal dancers, nonstop play, and diet mode, which will keep track of how many calories you're burning as you play. Move over, Billy Blanks.
The US release of Dance Dance Revolution is sure to be an exciting one, though anyone who has been importing DDR games for the past few years won't really find anything new in the US release. Keep an eye on GameSpot for a full review of the US version when it gets closer to completion.