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Review: Dance Central 3

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Dance Central 3

Rating:
Star4
Star
Star
Star
Star

Developer: Harmonix Music Systems, Backbone Entertainment
Publisher: Harmonix Music Systems
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Music, Rhythm, Exercise
Rating: T for Teen
Release Date: October 16, 2012

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Dance Crazes have been sweeping the Nation for decades. If you never learned them, Dance Central 3 will get you on your feet and get you moving. Through all the fun, you will have learned some dance moves when the day is said and done.

Presentation
For the first time in Dance Central history, a story has been added to a game in the franchise in Dance Central 3. You will find yourself being scanned to enter a secret room that is revealed to be the Dance Central Intelligence (D.C.I.) headquarters. You are greeted by two of DCI’s special agents, Rasa and Lima. They will fill you in on the details of what DCI is about and why they have summoned you. They reveal that the game’s antagonist, Dr. Tan, who you may remember looming in the shadows in the first two Dance Central games, is on a mission to become the new leader of DCI to permanently end the party.

In order to stop Tan, DCI sent the cities freshest crews to various eras to conquer the moves of that generation, with the use of time travel. The crews, which are Riptide, Lu$h Crew, Flash4ward, and HI-Def, consist of two dancers in each that must master moves from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. You will time travel to join each crew, gain mastery of their dances, and bring them back home.

While the story was not needed and not a game seller, it was a welcomed addition to help tie some of the characters together and offer an additional mode to play, than what we were used to enjoying in the series.

Graphics
For those who have played a Dance Central title in the past, the characters were a bit polished up and you can expect to be greeted with vibrant colors and settings, not to mention characters that you will consider your alter ego while in-game. Since you travel back in time, the background settings are well-fitting and create the hype of that era. The outfits, and the elements surrounding the time, are captured perfectly. During party modes, you can certainly expect the mood to be greeted with well thought up themes and costumes. They were executed very well with a party mood in mind, with a touch of a dance club environment.

With all that said, the animation is the unit of graphics where the magic really transpires. The graphics are an afterthought and can be considered as dismissive when the game is focused on gameplay mechanics. In the song selection, there will be a black and white dancer who shows a snippet of the moves you will be dancing in the song as a silhouette before the song is selected. The preview does a really good job in helping you with your song selection and the moves are carried out by the animation in such a manner that creates the hype. The characters’ dance moves make it easy to learn them, since they are performed in a clear manner. The moves have definition to each part of the body with fluidity and not robotically, that it makes it easier to mirror the character and feel confident that you are forming the same body shapes as the character.

Like previous titles in the series, Dance Central 3 offers dance moves by a variety of choreographers. This time, Usher stepped into the mix and offered up his own moves for his tracks. It is great to learn a variety of moves through different choreographers, rather than stick with the same for the entirety of the game. This allows each choreographer to add their own spice to the dances, which then offers more of a diverse experience for the player.

Music/Sound
I was impressed to see the some great songs in the track list back for the Dance Central 3 soundtrack. Once again, I must bring up the time travel element of the story of the game. Since you will be visiting various eras to learn the dance moves of those generations, it would only make sense to have the music to match. There are some 70’s tracks, along with some 80’s and 90’s, and even the present. Popular songs that added that dominant personality to the era were selected for the game and can appeal to those who loved those periods of time. The music for the present includes tracks from leading artists that will most certainly please the ear of the player.

There is also a neat twist in what we knew to be the boombox that sits on the ground, blasting the music you dance to. The boombox now has a name: “Boomy”. Not only is it the meter that detects how well you're doing the moves and is powered by the stars that rate your dance, it also had much more meaning in the game that we thought it had. It is revealed that this whole time, Boomy has been voiced by DCI’s Rasa. Harmonix wrapped the previous two titles into part three by using Boomy to teach you dance moves and to secretly get you ready to take on Dr. Tan in Dance Central 3.

Gameplay
Dance Central 3 can be enjoyed by a new comer to the series, just as much as it can be enjoyed by a fan of the series. You will be taught all you need to know to get dancing. Using the Kinect features, you will select the various modes and songs to dance to by raising and lowering your hand to go through the lists and then giving it a swipe for the selection. Some choices use voice commands that will make it easier to make your selection.

Once a song is picked, you can choose to rehearse it and learn the moves beforehand, or just jump in and dance. When rehearsing the moves, each song is broken up into segments, which makes it a lot easier to learn the song, rather than just having a lot of dance moves being tossed at you. Each segment will contain a few moves, in which you must mirror the character on-screen, and will allow you to practice them until you feel you are confident to move on. If you are still struggling with a dance move, you can simply use the voice feature and say, “Xbox slowdown” to have that move slowed down to allow you to get the counts right with your movements. When you are ready, you simply say, “Xbox speedup” to get it back up to normal speed. This feature has definitely come in handy for some intense moves, especially as the difficulty of the songs progress. You will also be given voice tips when you are struggling to help you out, as well. The entire rehearsal mode is an encouraging feature for those who may be extremely leery about dancing and feel they don’t have the confidence in pulling off the dance moves. You will most definitely feel confident after you go through the training.

Throughout each song, flash cards will appear to the side that will show you what dance you are supposed to be doing and what dances are coming up next to get you ready. The flashcards will have the name of the dance and a small picture of the silhouette as a reminder of what the dance looks like. If your leg or arm is not quite right, the character’s limb on-screen will be highlighted in red until you get it in the correct position. Points rack up as you dance. When the moves are performed, a circle around the feet of the player will show, “Nice”, “Flawless”, and “Almost” to let you know how you performed the move. There are some gold flashcards that are thrown into the mix that will give you extra points if you pull them off.

The main menu will offer a variety of modes to select from. If you are going to dance solo, you can choose Rehearse, Perform, Party Time, Fitness, Live Challenges, or give the story mode a run. The Story mode does more than take you back in time to learn moves. Ultimately, the main goal is to fully execute the crazes of the generations in order to defeat Dr. Tan. While dancing the songs in each era, you must track down Power Moves, which are red flash cards that depict a squiggled silhouette that you must decipher as the move comes up. To do so, you must focus and perfect them, when found hidden in songs of that era. Once you complete the songs required for each era, the Power Moves are put together to unlock the craze of that time. You must obtain a certain amount of stars, before you and the crew can return back to the headquarters of DCI and move on to the next generation of music, until you finally defeat Tan.

The Fitness mode will track the calories that you burn while dancing. You can choose playlists, whether they are preset or you can customize one to include up to 20 songs, and you can also set a goal of how many calories you’d like to burn for the week. To track the calories you are losing in real time, turn on the Fitness and it will appear to the top-right of the screen. This can be a plus for the fitness aspect of the game because you will know exactly how many calories you are burning and keep dancing until you reach your goal. However, it can sometimes be intimidating because, if you are tracking calories, you will quickly realize just how much of a workout is needed to burn that horrible lunch you shouldn’t have eaten. Either way, the fitness feature is encouraging and can also motivate you to work harder.

The Live Challenges will offer a variety of ways to obtain some dance challenges. The Harmonix creators have some set challenges in store for you. DLC Challenges include those obtained through downloadable songs, and those sent to you from friends that also own Dance Central 3. Feeling good about your score? Flaunt it! You can choose to flaunt your score to your friends and even flaunt broadcast that sends challenges to your friends.

Other modes that can be played by more than one player are Perform, Battle 1vs 1, Crew Throwdown, and Party Time. My favorite mode is the Crew Throwdown that allows 2-8 players to hop in and create two groups, or crews. You will take your crew picture that will be used for the course of the mode. Each member will do dance battles against a member of the opposing crew to rank in a higher score. The screen will show the face of the two that will battle each other. You will find yourself battling different people, so that it is not the same person every time. Not only will it give you regular dances to do, there is a variety of ways to battle. You are also required to make up your own dance moves for the other to perform. That gets quite amusing because they will be compiled and used later in the battle as a flash card. You can also battle with poses. So, it is a mix of things to see which crew comes out victorious and which needs more practice. It will definitely keep the party entertaining.

Lasting appeal
Dance Central 3 offers up 45 songs of various difficulties. So, not only can you give the game a run through on easy, you can go back and learn even more moves through medium and hard difficulty settings. The story mode is just one way to do this, but you can tackle each song individually, as well. You are not forced to just focus on the story in the menu section. You will become addicted to making sure your name stays on top of the leaderboards, or you will dance your way up there.

There are so many modes that you will have a lot to do in Dance Central 3. You can just work on mastering the moves or just keep dancing for the fun of it. As I mentioned before, the Party Mode will be one that you can play over and over again and still get a kick out of it.

Just like Dance Central 2 and Rock Band games, that I’m sure you are all familiar with, you can import the songs from the previous games and get some more dancing in. If you want even more songs, your library can be increased with the downloadable content that is offered continuously.

Conclusion
Not only are the dance crazes from the past included, the current craze, Psy’s Gangnam Style, is also ready to pick up as downloadable content. The library of songs continues to grow through downloadable content, adding that lasting appeal to the game, with the addition of being able to port over your songs from the previous Dance Central games. The gameplay is most definitely lasting.

Since this review is geared toward those who have never played a Dance Central title as well, I want to point out that you have no worries. Newcomers to the franchise are greeted with open-arms and will be taught everything they need to know as the game progresses. Dance Central 3 can be enjoyed by a fan of the series and a newcomer, equally.

Did I mention the fact that you can get a great cardio workout in the game? I did? Well, that’s a win win for me, since I don’t get a kick out of working out. I’m having too much fun dancing to realize I’m doing it. Dance Central 3 can fall under a variety of categories. Not only is it a fun rhythm game, but it is also a sweet party game, and it is most definitely a fitness game. Dance Central 3 is more about having fun and the game offers an abundance of it, whether you fly solo or pull a friend up off the couch to join you. The addition of the Party Mode truly does add life to the party and rakes in some laughs and fun while competing against crews and showing off your moves.

Dance Central 3 does a great job of capturing the party scene and bringing the atmosphere to your living room.

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