I have to hand it to Ubisoft, they have managed to come rushing out of the hedgemaze, holding the ever elusive diamond in the rough up high for the world to see. For the last few years, I have pretty much given up on the Wii a viable platform for anyone other than Nintendo themselves. Without looking at the reasons why (as that would be another article all in itself), third party software just hasn’t done very well on the Big N’s successful home console. However, there have been a few titles that have come out of the woodwork to perform just as well as Mario and Zelda, notably Ubisoft’s Just Dance franchise. Like the Little Engine That Could, this series took the Wii audience by storm, selling millions and millions of copies, and reminding everyone that Nintendo isn’t the only dog on the motion controled playground. Which brings me to the latest entry in the series, Just Dance 3. Now that Microsoft has tossed their hat into the motion realm, Ubisoft has decided to take their hit franchise multiplatform. Can Just Dance 3 capture the hearts (and aching bodies) of the Kinect audience the same way they have done on the Wii over the last couple of years?
Let’s begin with wiping out the assumption that I know many of you have already made. I know this because I made the same assumption myself. Just Dance 3 Kinect is NOT a port of the Wii version. Given that the controls schemes differ considerably, Ubisoft decided to use the very responsive Your Shape engine as the foundation and built Just Dance 3 from there. What this does is allow the Kinect version to stand on its own, instead of being hindered by the various complications that come with any port, sloppy or otherwise. Even so, players will find that the level of recognition is only going to be as strong as their set up. In other words, inadaquate play space, lighting, etc.. will hamper things. In my case, I found it to be decent, for the most part. There were some instances where I was credited for performing certain moves that I didn’t actually do, and yet others where I was marked off, even though I know I nailed it. This isn’t a rampant issue, but it does crop up from time to time, enough to be noticed.
We have seen many, many dance games over the years, so it can be tough to set oneself apart from the crowd. The key here for Just Dance is a difference in philosophy. Where games like Dance Central (unanimously touted as the best launch title for the sensor) try to help you become a better dancer, Just Dance takes the more casual route. Instead of focusing on helping you master a given set of moves, the series has just one mantra: Get your booty out there and shake it! That actually works both as a compliment and a detriment. Being able to just jump in and boogie til the cows come home is a blast. It removes all the various stereotypes (such as any prerequisite skill or whether or not you have two left feet...like I do...) and it takes the age restriction away; from kids to the elderly, anyone can get in and play. There is still a certain measure of difficulty, but over all, dancing along to the onscreen shades can be done by anyone. However, as I said, this is a detriment as well because players, such as myself, WANT to be able to learn thr routines. Not necessarily to become a better dancer, mind you, but to at least be able to follow along with what’s happening on-screen. Call it a gamer mentality, but we want to feel like we can be successful at playing the “game”. This is where Just Dance 3 fails, as there is no real tutorial mode. You pick a song and are plunged right in, head first (feet first??). The only lessons being learned is via repeated performances, hindering the players progress, at least in that sense.
With that aside, Just Dance 3 offers plenty more to keep players happy. In fact, it even brings with it things its competitors don’t (*cough* Dance Central 2 *cough*), such as support for four players simultaneously. Not only is this something not found in the dancing genre yet, but on any Kinect title thus far, thereby pushing it further into the Party Game set. When a group of friends or family are over, more players is a good thing.
Just Dance 3 is also features a create mode, appropriately titled Just Create. Essentially it allows players to break free from the confines of the developer’s pre-determined choreography and make up their own routines. Broken down into two separate parts - Coach Me, which let’s you follow along or draw moves from an on-screen dancer, and Freestyle, with just you and your killer moves - Just Create let’s players record partial or complete routines with any of the tracks from the on-disc set. They can then be saved and played later, either alone or with friends, and even shared online. It isn’t a feature I myself will take advantage of, mostly because, simply put, I can’t dance. With that said, the mode actually comes off pretty well, especially for those who like to do their own thing. There will be a lot of joy found here for the budding dancers in your house.
Just Sweat makes a dashing return, expectedly enhanced. Dancing and exercising has been around for a long time now, to the point where you can’t really have one without the other. Just Sweat leverages that mentality, pushing players with body-tasking routines intended to make them sweat off the calories while having fun in the process. For Just Dance 3, it has been expanded to include more routines and such over previous entries. It’s still pretty much the same, but more.
Really though, dance games are only as strong as their track list. No one wants to wiggle their bodies to a bunch of songs they don’t like or have never heard of. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue here, as Just Dance 3 has arguably the best set of songs of the series, and possibly the entire genre. With artists ranging from the old school, such as A-Ha and Bananarama to modern hit makers like LMFAO and Taio Cruz, there’s something here for everyone.
Those of you who will be walking into the series for the first time with this entry, and especially those coming off last year’s Dance Central, may be in for a little adjustment period in terms of the visuals. Instead of taking the form of a cartoony avatar, everyone is pictured as a colorful onscreen shade, just like that found in the previous games, but this time in HD, of course. This may be good or bad, depending on how much weight you put into what you look like within the game. Again though, this goes back to the original philosophy set forth by Ubisoft. Just Dance 3 is all about getting out there and dancing. Eliminating distractions, such as on-screen avatars, and providing loads of vibrant colors to help push the atmosphere in that psychedelic party direction, letting players focus more on getting their groove on, alone or with friends. Also, the UI is a little awkward. It functions, but I, along with the others I played this with, had a bit of a struggle when selecting songs.
I’ve been asked many times already whether I would recommend Just Dance 3 and my answer is always the same: It depends on what you are looking to get out of it. If you want a fine party-style dance game that features some solid options, including some not found anywhere else, and focuses more on just shaking your body than move accuracy, then this is the game for you. If you want to improve your dance skills, or if you are the kind of person that wants to play more of a competitive game than a social experience, then you may want to give Just Dance 3 a pass. It isn’t bad, but it is geared for a different market than the Dance Centrals and DDRs of the world.
Release date : 2011-10-07
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft Paris
Gameplay : Music,Tempo, Dance
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