Reviewed: February 13, 2006
Released: November 15, 2005
Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix 3 is the latest installment of Konami’s popular dancing franchise, and the third release for the Xbox. With more music and some new modes the game continues to challenge those who have the slightest desire to bust a move. With a massive library of more than 70 songs and 100+ minutes of music spanning techno, house, R&B, and trance, plus even crazier psychedelic animated backgrounds, and more great online play, Ultramix 3 finally offers enough new content to actually be called a sequel.
While this year’s version of DDR saw some significant improvements on the PS2 (with new EyeToy support) the Xbox version is mainly a musical upgrade with a few minor enhancements. Considering you can download music packs for last year’s Ultramix via Xbox Live you might already have more music than you can dance to, but there is plenty in this new package worth checking out.
Ultramix 3 features:
Chances are if you are reading this review then you don’t need the gameplay explained to you, but just in case, DDR is founded on the principle elements of directional commands that rise from the bottom of the screen toward their matching outlines along the top. Your goal is to match those symbols precisely as they pass through their outline. In theory this sounds like an easy proposition, but just wait until they start throwing multiple directions at you at the same time, or perhaps combining “holds” (where you have to keep the button pressed for an extended duration) while continuing to match other symbols.
The speed of the symbols is based on the BPM (beats per minute) of the music and the number of symbols is based on your chosen difficulty. On the easiest skill level a song might have 80-100 steps in the entire mix, but on the Light setting this number doubles. Choosing Normal or Hard drives the difficulty into the realm of impossibility. Only professional dancers and speed freaks need apply.
DDR can be played with the gamepad or a dance mat or a pair of dance mats for even more challenging fun. You can also play two-player head-to-head or link a pair of Xbox’s together or go online for competitions with up to four players. Ultramix is going to be huge at your next party. There are more than 70 popular songs featuring some of the hottest mixes from world-famous DJ’s, and you can download more for a small fee on Xbox Live. This is the kind of music you’d hear in some of the best clubs and raves from around the world.
While distracting to those actually playing the game, spectators can enjoy plenty of funky kaleidoscope graphics with CG animated backup dancers that boogie down on the screen. As the dancer playing the game, it takes a lot of concentration to see “through” the distracting backgrounds and focus on the symbols.
Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3 brings back the Party Mode from the previous game. This is a compilation of various games that allows players to compete against their friends for ultimate dance supremacy in completely new ways. Challenge Mode is also back and allows players to dance through various rounds of play completing specific goals and objectives. Workout mode is now more of a toggle that you can turn on and play the rest of the game modes normally, while DDR tracks your burned calories.
There are two new modes in Ultramix 3; the Freestyle and Quest modes. Freestyle basically removes the arrow prompts and lets you create your own dance moves, which are then scored by the computer based on your timing and originality. It can be a bit intimidating trying to create what you think are "good" or even "acceptable" dance moves and not really knowing how well you did until the scores come in.
Quest mode is a feeble attempt to disguise the endless dancing by having you travel across the U.S.A. competing for cash and the title of DDR Champion. There are 60 cities and you have to earn a certain amount of fans in each city before moving on. Talk to NPC's and use your cash to buy items and travel to new locations. The only problem with this mode is that it takes "forever" to earn the required fans, and when you strip away the interface you are simply dancing to the same music the same way you do in other modes.
Ultramix 3 features online play with plenty of modes and all of the matchmaking services you’d expect from Xbox Live. Most surprising was that the gameplay flows quite smoothly. For a game that requires precise timing, any lag would kill this title. Thankfully, there was none in the 20-some matches I participated in. DDR must really be catching on, as there were even more people playing this year than last.
The multiplayer modes are rather inventive and include Team Battle and Synch modes. The Team Battle mode is your typical versus mode that has you competing with a rival dancer to get the most flawless run possible. The Synch mode is something new and a long time coming. This mode has you and a partner dancing together and synchronizing their steps. The game actually detects any timing differences between the two players steps.
Ultramix 3 is not about the graphics, but even so they do a surprisingly good job for the most part. The symbols are generally easy to see and “holds” and “double-tap” notes are clearly indicated by unique symbols. Things can get distracting when the background gets cluttered with animated dancers and flashy effects. You can now download new dancer models and animation via Xbox Live.
The menus have been slightly enhanced and are a bit flashier than before and the scoring and music selection screens are colorful and easy to navigate. As you unlock new banks of music they are color coded so you know what’s new. The information on the HUD during the game is clear and easy to read provided you can take your eyes off the streaming steps long enough to read it.
The Quest mode offers a bit of creative variance with a nice anime-style map of the United States, icons for cities and airports, with travel lines between them, and your character avatar. Again, this interface and arbitrary aquisition of fans is merely a disguise to keep you playing Ultramix 3 longer than you would otherwise.
As with any music or dance game the soundtrack is the driving force behind the gameplay. Ultramix 3 boasts a bigger music library than ever before ranging from dance, techno, disco, and some interesting hybrid mixes. Some of it is licensed and some of it is totally original and most of it is fairly obscure to the general public, although this third installment does a better job of bringing back some more recognizable tunes like hits from Black Eyed Peas, B-52's, Moby, Run-D.M.C., The Clash, Good Charlotte, Ray Charles, Devo, Captain Jack, and more.
Technically, the music sounds fantastic with an immersive Dolby Digital mix and some awesome low-end support to keep that sub-woofer moving some large quantities of air in the heavier dance tracks. The new Jukebox feature allows you to create your own track list and play the music in any order you wish without having to dance, making this the obvious DJ choice for your next party.
You can find Ultramix 3 bundled with the Konami dance mat for $60 or if you already have a mat you can get just the game for $30. Definitely not a bad deal for the content and endless gameplay potential, and the added bonus of being able to download more music for a small fee has the potential to keep this game alive forever.
The new online modes and the increased number of people actually playing DDR on Xbox Live is certainly encouraging. There are now global scoreboards and the ability to organize massive online dance tournaments. The numerous modes, multiplayer gaming, and even the quirky potential to use this game to shed a few excess pounds gives Ultramix 3 limitless replay value. Whether this becomes your next favorite party game or just a guilty pleasure you experience behind closed doors, DDR Ultramix 3 is the definition of addictive gaming.
You’ll never catch me playing this game in the arcades but having DDR on my Xbox ready to humiliate myself in the privacy of my own home is undeniable fun. I suppose there is a certain demographic that will really enjoy this game (girls and anyone who can dance).
This is by far the hardest game in the series with some insanely fast music and extremely difficult patterns to memorize. There is no mistake; this game was designed for veterans of the first two titles and newcomers will have their work cut out for them, even on the easiest skill setting.
But, if you are in the mood for some killer techno tunes and house music then DDR Ultramix 3 is the ultimate selection of high-energy dance beats. Regardless of which system or which game you play, you won’t find a more comprehensive or fun dancing game out there.