Microsoft Studios has often made the bold claim that their own dancing videogame franchise, developed by the widely respected rhythm-action auteurs Harmonix, is the best selling of all those available for Kinect. They even go so far as to make that assertion on the front cover of this year’s edition, Dance Central 3, as it faces-off against Ubisoft’s Just Dance powerhouse and the keep fit regimes of Zumba: Fitness Rush. However, gamers will know that sales aren’t everything and the true worth of a videogame lies not in how well it performs at retail, but how entertaining it is in your living room.
This year’s edition of the Dance Central franchise is supported by world famous R&B star Usher, who offers his one of his biggest hits of 2012 exclusively to Dance Central 3. More than this however, the dance routine included in the video for the song was choreographed with the explicit intention of being directly translatable into the videogame, and so it comes as no surprise that Usher does present some of the most unique dance routines in the two tracks he has provided.
The detection software doesn’t seem to have progressed much since last year’s Dance Central 2, nor does the on-screen feedback. In terms of interaction Dance Central 3 is largely the same videogame, or at least appears to be after several hours play. Indeed, a direct comparison would have you believe that the majority of changes are purely cosmetic, including that of the revised gameplay modes.
Dance Central 3 features a largely superfluous Story Mode in which players are signed to an underground agency fighting against ‘dance crimes.’ The evil Dr. Tan wants to bring the party to an end, and so the player has to travel through time and dance through the decades to defeat him. Exactly where the logic in this lies baffles the Electronic Theatre team, but it does provide an excuse for players to dance their way through music from five decades. In each decade lies a number of hidden ‘power moves’ which need to be performed during a song in order to unlock them, and unlocking a complete series will reveal a craze. Unlocking the crazes is the ultimate goal of the Story Mode, and so progression is not a simple case of dancing through each song one after the other, but by doing them well.
Fitness Mode can be turned on to measure the calories you burn in a single session or to offer a detailed regime, including a number of days to be active and a target amount of calories to be burned on a weekly basis. You can create specific playlists for Fitness Mode or apply it to any or all of your existing content. The playlists themselves can be created from any of Dance Central 3’s wide ranging content, which includes everything from Gloria Gaynor to Daft Punk, and also via other Dance Central retail packages and downloadable content (DLC). Content from Dance Central and Dance Central 2 can be imported directly by way of an included redemption code, but DLC is added to your song line-up automatically.
Dance Central 3 does of course feature all of the now customary jump-in/out gameplay, refined to the point where it now simply asks a player to raise their hand to join in. Additionally, crew gameplay modes now allow up to sixteen players [CORRECTION: The limit is actually set at eight players rather than the previously reported sixteen. Electronic Theatre apologises for any inconvenience caused] to register with Kinect and take part in a series of one-on-one face-offs. Sure to be a rarely used addition, it’s nonetheless a welcome new gameplay mode for inclusion in Dance Central’s growing repertoire.
Annual reiterations are everywhere these days, and while EA SPORTS has been making efforts in this regard for nearly three decades and Assassin’s Creed hasn’t had a rest since 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II, it’s arguably the rhythm based genres that stand up to the repeated outings more than any other. After all, fans of the franchises could do far worse than getting a new disc with more than forty new tracks included for less than £1 GBP each. While Dance Central 3 is billed as the best selling dancing series on Kinect, it also manages to deliver a thoroughly entertaining dancing videogame experience for the third year running. Maybe it’s time to show Microsoft Studios how you would put that on the front of a box?