I’m In The Mood for Dancing

Hello again! Here we are again with a long overdue post… I think I have two more to do before I can focus on “newer” content! At least I’m posting more consistently, haha. Let’s talk about one of my favourite things– DDR! If you’re not familiar with the game or just know the basics, DDRCommunity has some pretty cool introductory information for everyone~

As we all know, I’m one of many avid rhythm game players in the US. I started playing sometime around late 2002 or early 2003 with DDR. From what I (poorly) remember, we didn’t have an actual arcade cab in town, so I started on console MAX2. I didn’t really keep up with that mix, so a few years later I played the PS2 version of Extreme at my cousin’s house every week. I begged my mom for a copy of SuperNOVA2 the Christmas of 2007. I guess that’s when I got “serious” about my love for the game. I’m pretty sure I destroyed my share of soft pads, but honestly, who hasn’t?

Not even all my years of studying music theory helped my timing on versions like Extreme or SuperNOVA. Take 1 part I only played on 1x because I had no idea mods existed back then and 2 parts off sync charts. Mix thoroughly and proceed to dump it right into the garbage disposal. I was more of an audio based player back then. Due to that, it was really easy for me to end up streaming greats like it was my job even though I felt like I was on beat. I’m sure it wasn’t an uncommon trait for early players, but I still think Konami should pay me for that horrible skill, honestly. The idea of a AAA was beyond my comprehension. I had one AA to my name back then.

By 2009, I had only played in an “arcade setting” maybe a handful of times. I don’t know if amusement park arcades really count since those cabs were so poorly taken care of… but I definitely played at Indiana Beach every summer. I caught wind of an actual arcade some time after I moved out for college. Luckily enough, it wasn’t too far from my new apartment and I was around people that liked playing albeit casually by comparison. While I still played at home, (Mario Mix is a genuine gift for the record) I was able to head over to MegaPlay pretty frequently. How silly is it that all the arcade had to offer at the time was DDR Extreme PLUS and In The Groove? To add to it, due to people abusing the free credit code on ITG, no one was able to update the machine with new packs and themes. This happened before I started going! I don’t know how many readers can remember 2009 ITG, but it was not pretty. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to feel burned out. I kept going, though. It felt better to be playing on Big Boy Pads rather than the ones at home. It wasn’t until the end of 2014 that ITG was finally updated and they added a Pump It Up cab. Of course they added that just weeks before I moved from Indiana to Massachusetts. Of course!

Fast forward to the present! I’ve been to plenty of arcades to play good ol’ dance games. I’ve been playing at conventions even though I still get nervous in crowds that large. While I haven’t entered, I’ve been to several tournaments. I’ve even traveled (usually 150 miles… yeah…) with friends to play on dedicabs back when I still played ITG. Now I’m in a wonderful home that has its own DDR cabinet in the basement! Everything’s coming up, Kaluhouse.

Experiencing mixes like X and beyond after all of that Extreme was really great. I started seeing a lot of progress! The screen filter addition was incredible. I have trouble seeing differences between similar shades and tones. While that problem affects most colors, it seems to be most apparent in the cooler spectrum. Even with speed mods to kinda space things out, colors blended and it was just a huge blob. Having that dark layer between the arrows and background opened up a whole new world for me. I was able to read patterns on charts that troubled me before and allowed for me to push into harder things. This addition also allowed for me to become more of a visual player compared to the audio only nonsense of my youth. Who knew that being able to actually see the notes would make you play better?

Honestly, DDR A(ce) being released has brought back that almost childlike feeling of being so excited to go to the arcade that I was jittery. The last time I really felt it that purely was back when I was super, super little. My dad and I would get ice cream at Baskin Robbins and go to the arcade next to it. Aladdin’s Castle was my favourite place to be– partly because Aladdin was my favorite movie and mostly because it was a time to do something with my dad and we’d play the games together.

I had completely forgotten that sensation existing by the time I became an adult. It was almost strange experiencing those memories immediately flooding my mind. I remembered the layout of the place and how the tokens had little genie lamps on the back. Instead of “seeing” these memories as an adult self insert, I was able to remember how short I was compared to the token push machines. I can’t believe having a silly little arcade excitement could make something like that happen to me.

I’m sure it wouldn’t come as a surprise to know that David and I went to our local Dave & Buster’s as soon as it was ready to go. With it being 20 minutes away from home, it was absolutely no question. Initially, the machine was set to two swipes for premium play. That means we were paying twice the amount of credits to get all of the features we wanted. We decided that going on Wednesday nights, when they have games set to using half the usual amount of credits, was the best option for us. It was essentially the one swipe premium we have today. Thankfully, Round 1 followed suit with single swipe premium shortly after.

It might come as a surprise, but we’re back to the days of card lines and having crowds around the machines, everyone! It seems to be common to use the eAmuse card as your marker but I like to put down my little Kuwabara token anyway. That way, everyone knows it’s me! During that first visit I’m pretty sure we were only able to play two rounds before it was closing time. So many people were there to play. That’s the first time I’ve experienced that sort of situation outside of a convention game room! To be fair, it’s gotten a little less hectic lately. We’re still using card lines more often than not, but we’re not surrounded by nearly 20 people every time. That is, of course, if it’s not a weekend trip… It’s pretty common to draw a crowd of people while playing.

While SuperNOVA was the first in the series to use the eAmusement system, it was only in Japan at the time. We’ve had official arcade releases in North America as recent as X2, but this is our first DDR release on this network! Finally being able to save scores, unlocks, join events, play extra stage, and not failing out are really, really cool perks. Round 1s already had eAmusement enabled games prior to DDR A, but I’ve seen much more promotion for the cards now.

It seems a little silly to me that you can’t access specific speed mods or dark filter options until you register the card online. That might be my one very weak complaint about the system. I understand needing to register to add rivals and check your scores/clears. It’s kind of a weird process. Luckily, we have a quick and easy guide to help out! All you have to do is play the game once~

I did it! AAAs are possible! What a time to be alive! I’m also always 2p and never position myself for proper score photos.
I’m almost always too tired to care, haha.

DDR A is honestly so refreshing. I’m still at a point where my MA is pretty weak so I know it’s not easier in any sense. It’s comfortable but still demanding. A keeps the trend started in SuperNOVA2 where a score of 99X is a AAA, but now there’s a different scoring ratio. I gotta say, this adjustment has absolutely changed the game for me. I’m having fun and seeing rewards for my efforts. This approach, in my opinion, is much more reasonable. AAAs are still exciting. Perfect full combos are still a source of pride. The game itself hasn’t changed, but the way I look at it definitely has. I’m less frustrated seeing a low great count giving me a poor grade and score! If anything, finally getting AAAs has made me want to aim for more. I’m excited for future accomplishments.

I can’t see myself being competitive any time soon, but having a rivals list for the first time is really awesome. I’m able to see scores from people around my play level and estimate how I’ll do on the chart in question. More often than not, though, I end up intimidated seeing both world and local records and it’s an incredibly unhealthy habit. When I get entirely caught up in that mindset, I wind up pushing myself too hard and see poor results. It’s not good! I shouldn’t feel like I have something to prove with this game. Learning to be more mindful and comfortable with my current level of play has been hard, but I hope to be able to focus on my current weaknesses and see improvements in the very near future.

At the top of the “Kalu’s Weaknesses” chart is the fact that I have asthma as well as very weak (but hopefully not for long) muscles in my hips and knees, so I need to do plenty of work outside of playing to make sure I’m healthy. Going to the gym to work on cardio and overall strength has helped a lot! I never really pictured myself as someone that goes to the gym frequently. I’m really happy that I started, though! Going maybe twice a week with David has been super beneficial. We’re able to push each other and strive for more. Beyond that, I need to take care of my mental health as well. Going into a gym or DDR session while in a poor mood never works out well. I feel like that is overlooked when it comes to proper preparation for anything, really. Take care of your body and your mind, everyone! It’s more than worth it, I promise. 💕

So sweet. So pure. Will protect.

Back to the game itself, I’m really pleased with how clean the UI is! No longer having to spin to get through songs is such a welcome change. It’s so nice being able to see so many songs at once while quickly noting what kind of clear I have on it. I know past versions have shown full combo differences– it’s just nice being able to breeze through when I know I’ve already done my best for the time being. I like the way things are organized this time around as well. Widescreen HD monitors were introduced in DDR X, and I’m so glad that we haven’t switched back. Having things spread out has made it much easier to digest all the information on the screen. As charming as I find CRTs, it felt a little too overwhelming with things so crammed together. It was worse with loud color schemes. I’m looking at you, Extreme. I’ll never forgive you…My main concern is that the UI makes it look like the monitor is a touch screen. Maybe that’s why the machine at our local D&B has so many dead pixels already. I’m sure a lot of people try to poke the screen to select things. Oops!

Feel free to add us to your rival lists!!!

At the end of the day, I love this game. I love the doors it has opened not only for myself but for the future of rhythm games in North America. We’re not dead! Check it out, Konami! We’re still here and more than happy to continue playing these games. Looking forward to see what we can do from here! It’s nice to know that tournaments are expanding, we’re making new friends, and we’re all having a fun time~

Hope to see you on the dance floor!