The Ultramix subseries of Dance Dance Revolution was created for the Xbox, and it's set up to take advantage of a lot of what the Xbox has to offer, like downloadable content and online play. Ultramix 4 is Konami's compilation for 2006, and it contains much of what you'd expect from a DDR game, along with a few additional modes that change things up a bit. But regardless of the modes involved, DDR fans will either love or hate Ultramix 4, and which side of the fence you come down on depends almost entirely on what they think of the song list.
When DDR first started out, a lot of the music fell into a few specific dance-music subgenres. They were mostly superhigh-energy songs that had a sickly sweet sound and were fast enough to get your pulse pounding even before you set foot on a dance mat. But that was eight or nine years ago. Now, the DDR games that arrive in North America are attempting to cater to a slightly wider audience, so you'll find a few licensed songs on the soundtrack that you might recognize. DDR Ultramix 4 has licensed songs from known artists like Technotronic (yes, featuring Ya Kid K, did you even have to ask?), Pussycat Dolls, Oingo Boingo, The Jungle Brothers, Geri Halliwell, Natasha Bedingfield, Juno Reactor, and the Prodigy. You'll also find songs from DDR standards like Naoki, dj. Taka, Jenny Rom, and more. The variety of the soundtrack waters it down a bit and leaves you less likely to enjoy the whole thing if you've been playing DDR for a long time.
You'll get the now-standard array of modes in Ultramix 4, including a basic arcade mode, a practice mode, a workout mode that lets you know how many calories you're burning, and a selection of party-game-style modes. The game also has a fairly robust online mode that has chat rooms, leaderboards, a message system, and, of course, the ability to play DDR with up to three other players. As you might expect from an Xbox game released in late 2006, there doesn't appear to be very many people playing this one online. The game also has the ability to download content, and Konami has released song packs for the previous DDR games on the Xbox, but there aren't any additional songs available as of this writing.
Ultramix 4 also has a quest mode, which is a career mode of sorts. You're sent to Dance City, and your goal is to become the ultimate dancer. You'll do this by earning fans, which translates into money, which lets you open up additional areas to dance in, and so on. This mode has you dancing to fill up a meter--once the meter is full, you can quit out midsong and continue forward, if you want. It's a silly mode with plenty of ridiculous text-based dialogue, including the obvious favorite, "Yo! That ain't a chillin' place for a novice like you!" Wise words, indeed.
Graphically, the Ultramix series has always looked different than the other DDR games. It uses a set of cel-shaded characters that dance onscreen. Behind them, a randomized series of prerendered video clips plays. It's all hectic and visually pleasing, but like any other good rhythm game, you'll be too busy focusing on the gameplay to care much about what's happening behind it. The quest mode attempts to make the background videos part of the gameplay, as you'll get more money for dancing well when specific videos are playing. But since you always want to dance your best, this doesn't really change your strategy or anything like that.
While Dance Dance Revolution was once on the cusp of mainstream success, it's fallen back into a niche these days. If you're one of the serious fans that still love the series, Ultramix 4 certainly has all of the modes and options that you'd want to see from a DDR game. But if you can't get behind a number of the songs on the game's soundtrack, you could just as easily take a pass.