DanceMasters definitely feels like a spiritual successor to theDance Dance Revolution serieseven though the dancing itself is totally different, and the interface bears little resemblance at first glance. Like DDR, DanceMasters is all about hitting various marks precisely on beat when certain visual cues line up. Naoki himself (of DDR fame) demonstrates the gameplay mechanics in our favorite press conference of E3 2010:
The three major cues are "ripples," where you move your hands or feet inside a circle on the beat as the outer circle lines up with the inner circle, "poses," where you strike a pose as the green outline of the pose lines up with the dancer avatar, and "streams," where you move your arms in specific patterns shown by arrows/lines along with the dancer.
Each cue has a few variations, like lock ripples where you have to hold your hand in place, and solid ripples where you have to hit the same ripple mark an indicated number of times with the beat. Poses have variations too, like the voice pose where you actually have to vocalize as you're striking the pose, and "gestures," where you have to perform a certain move after striking a pose, like moving your hips back and forth. Like DDR (although not as simple), it's a fairly uncomplicated set of mechanics that somehow manages to remain almost endlessly entertaining despite its simplicity. The scoring works exactly like DDR too, with combo bonuses and Boo/Good/Great/Perfect scores to indicate how well you hit the beat.
On the easier settings, all you really have to worry about is hitting the cues correctly when they pop up, and you don't actually have to dance along with the onscreen dancers during the brief periods with no dance cues. This makes it easier to get a good score, but the downside is that it's much harder to actually follow along with the dancing. Aside from the ripple circles, pose silhouettes and hand gesture arrows, Dance Masters doesn't give you any indications of what the upcoming dance moves actually are, so it's impossible to follow along during sections without cues unless you already have the dance memorized from playing it earlier.
Gaps in the song with no arrows isn't a problem in DDR (because you can just stand there), but on the easy settings of DanceMasters it can be frustrating and awkward to just watch the dancer and have to wait for the next cue instead of being able to dance along seamlessly. Fortunately, it's really only a problem on the easier levels, and once you move up to medium and harder songs/settings, the visual cues come fast enough that you're dancing without interruption.
One of the big features that DanceMasters actually has over Dance Central is the ability for two people to dance at the same time. When you and your friend get in the zone, hitting a bunch of "Perfect!" moves in a row and the screen explodes with glitter, it's undeniably magical. Because of the realities of Kinect though, we often found that we had to stand too close together in order to both be in view of the camera, and often ended up accidentally swatting/hitting/kicking each other because of proximity issues. Still, the joys of synchronized dancing may be worth a few bruises and scrapes, no?
If you're looking for a "real" dance game, Dance Central is a much better bet, but that's not to say that you won't also enjoy DanceMasters on its own merits even if you're not a DDR fan, because it definitely has its undeniably cheesy fun moments. That said, DanceMasters will especially appeal to DDR fans, not just because of the music selection (which is 100% DDR style), but also because the gameplay mechanics are quite reminiscent of DDR too. Because of that, there's going to be a certain group of fans who absolutely love (lovelovelovelovelove) DanceMasters – it does a great job of translating the spirit of DDR to the Kinect interface.
Nov 10, 2010