IMPORT - The Bust A Move series, called Bust A Groove in the States, has always been a solid staple of the rhythm game genre. The hallmarks of the series have been catchy dance music, colorful, cartoony characters, and top-notch motion capture. The latest addition to the Bust A Move series, Dance Summit 2001, offers more of the same, this time with a team-based spin on the gameplay.
The first two Bust A Move games worked like a standard two-man dance competition. You danced against either a computer opponent or a second player, and whoever had the tightest moves won. Dance Summit 2001 takes a slightly different approach. Instead of just two dancers, there is a team of four. You still compete against the other three dancers in your squad, but you can also team up with your squad for a wider variety of moves. The gameplay system is similar to that in PaRappa the Rapper: A string of D-pad and button commands are displayed, and you must mimic them to the beat. Your crew dances in unison, that is, until a free space pops up. The button you and the other three dancers press on the free space determines what type of combos your crew will break into. Depending on how many of the dancers press the same button, the showboating can result in a quartet, fever, pair combo, tag combo, or trio combo. The idea is interesting, but on the whole, Dance Summit 2001 doesn't have the same depth of play as the other Bust A Move games, and it is so fundamentally different from them, it plays more like a spin-off than a straight sequel.
The gameplay in Dance Summit 2001 may stray from the series' formula, but the game's visual representation is pure Bust A Move. The motion capture has never been better in the series. Each squad has a very distinct dancing style, and the inclusion of team-based dance moves makes for some complex commotion as well. The dance crews themselves are all outlandishly over-the-top caricatures. There's the candy raving School Mates, the space-funk-inspired Galaxy 4, and the hoodie-wearing break-dancing squad Jumbo Max. Then there are category-defying dance squads like Discos Estrus, a team that wears Mexican wrestling masks and is made up of three men and a monkey. Fans of the series will undoubtedly appreciate these bizarre characters, as will anyone who gets a kick out of the consistently weird aesthetics of Japanese pop culture. The PS2 hardware has been very good to Dance Summit 2001, and all the characters and backgrounds look as cartoony as ever, with bright colors and really, really big eyes being the order of the day. The only graphical snag is that the box where the controller commands appear is smack-dab in the middle of the screen, obscuring a large portion of the action. This is both a shame and utterly puzzling, as the eye candy in Dance Summit 2001 is so good, there's no reason to shroud it.
A lot of the success of the Bust A Move series has hinged on the game's music. If you don't have good music, why dance? The key has always been variety, and it seems as though Dance Summit 2001 has taken this for granted. Instead of being a mix of house, hip-hop, and funk, the soundtrack consists entirely of vocal-driven J-pop. While interesting in its own right, the soundtrack simply doesn't provide enough stylistic variety, and more often than not, tracks have a tendency to get tiresome quickly.
Taken at face value, there's no doubt that Dance Summit 2001 is a Bust A Move game, though upon further inspection, it is a weak one at best. To its credit, the game's graphics are nothing short of top-notch, and the whole package is an absolute pleasure to look at. If you can disregard the single-minded soundtrack and the shallow gameplay, Dance Summit 2001 can provide some interesting Japanese-laced entertainment.