The Dance Dance Revolution series was established in arcades eight years ago, rose to cult status with a few hints of mainstream success, and has now settled into its own niche. At this point, you probably already know if Dance Dance Revolution is for you or not, so whether you'll like this latest installment, DDR SuperNOVA, comes down to your feelings about the song list. With a heavy dose of domestic music, most of which doesn't necessarily fit the DDR profile, you might come away from SuperNOVA thinking that the series has been watered down a bit.
Most rhythm games live and die by their song list, but that's not to say that DDR is a single-minded game. There's a heavy list of modes available to play, including one built for progression-based single-player. Called stellar master mode, this option breaks the songs out into groups and has you moving between planets (called stellar joints) to take on tasks. These tasks include simple objectives like complete three songs, and they advance to asking you to get high ratings on songs at higher difficulty levels or to complete any song with a tempo of 150bpm or less. As you complete these tasks, you'll get to enter showdowns, which are shorter but often tougher tasks, like dancing part of a song while ignoring two of the arrows or dancing the steps in silence. This mode mixes the formula up nicely and is a great diversion for fans of the series.
Of course, if you don't want to mess around with the task-based stellar master mode, everything else you'd expect to see in a DDR game on the PlayStation 2 is also present, including EyeToy support. The regular game mode lets you dance a set of songs like the arcade version does. Workout mode is still there to help you count calories. The advanced mode menu is where you'll find courses of multiple songs, endless mode, a two-player battle mode, and more. Some of the advanced modes have to be unlocked. As you dance, you earn points that can be spent in the game's shop to unlock different arrow graphics, new characters, music, backgrounds, and yes, the rest of the advanced modes. In addition, there's an online mode that'll let you compare scores online and dance against another player. We often had trouble finding opponents during the game's week of release. Perhaps the base of online players will grow over time, but it seems like this option will only be useful if you have a far-away friend that you want to dance with.
The song list in the US version of DDR SuperNOVA contains a fair amount of the fast-moving beat-driven dance music you've come to expect from the series, including tracks from Captain Jack and BeForU. But there's also a lot of "other" music in there, too. In this category falls domestic music like "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles, "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson, and "Dance, Dance" by Fall Out Boy, but then you've also got "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" by Tomoyasu Hotei, which is better known as "that song from Kill Bill." Some of the songs with music videos play those videos while you dance. On one hand, that's great, because it means this game prominently features Captain Lou Albano. But on the other hand, there's something unsettling about watching video of real people actually dancing while you're standing in your living room, mashing out robotic steps on a dance mat. Either way, purists may dislike some of the song choices, but those same purists probably already own DDR games with the songs they like the most. As much as we hate to say it, you can't expect Konami to just put "Boom Boom Dollar" in every single release.
Graphically, the game offers the sort of display you'd expect from a DDR game. The polygonal backgrounds are a little more detailed and varied this time around, and the quality of the music videos is good, too.
While beginners will be able to use the tutorials to get up to speed, at this point, it's hard to imagine someone picking up DDR for the first time and falling in love with it the same way people did eight years ago. If you're still hooked on DDR, this is a quality installment that you might actually hate, depending on how you feel about the song list. So give that song list a long, hard look, and use that to make your final decision.