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E3 2010: May I Have This Dance?

This year's E3 showed off a lot of big-name sequels, highly-anticipated new IPs, the newest 3D technology, and even live luchadore wrestling. But one unexpected genre that seemed to draw a lot of interest was the motion-controlled dancing game. Yes, that's right...dancing game.E3 introduced four such titles: Dance Central, Dance Masters, Just Dance 2, and Singstar+Dance. These titles didn't just offer Simon-Sez foot movements that make the player look as if he or she was playing a really fast game of hopscotch, a la the Dance Dance Revolution series. No, the aim of these titles was to create movements that actually resembled real dancing.

So did any of them actually work? And for which one should the wannabe "So You Think You Can Dance?" contestant keep an eye out?

Dance Central Preview Impressions

Dance Central promises to be the first full-body, controller-free dance video game that both beginners and experts can enjoy. Made to be played with Kinect, the game uses full-body tracking to determine whether you're performing the choreographed dance moves correctly. Harmonix promises that more than 600 dance moves and more than 90 dance routines are in the game, all of which have been created by professional choreographers. The game currently features well-known tracks from Lady Gaga, No Doubt, M.I.A., and Bell Biv Devoe. As you might expect from Harmonix, new downloadable tracks will be available in the future as well, but will likely be costlier than those found in the Rock Band games due to the complexity of animating new choreographed moves. If you haven't seen it yet, here is the latest trailer:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B-hDjMb_SE

Here, you can check out the professional dancers giving it a whirl at E3:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkZ3uaw0chU

And some booth babes, er, I mean regular folk, try it out:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09EQ4AcX3tQ

As you can see, three people at a time were displayed dancing on screen, but recently there have been a lot of rumors floating about that Kinect will only recognize two people at a time. While I watched others play, it was not entirely obvious whether one of the dancing players was not being tracked. For those of you who have wide-open living room space, and insist on a three-person dance mode, you may want to wait to see whether Kinect is truly limited, since there are other four-player options available.

That being said, Harmonix has a great track record with the Rock Band series and the developer's goal with Dance Central is not just to provide a fun experience, but also to teach people with two-left feet how to get their groove on. Whether choreographed moves are appropriate for the nightclub scene is debatable, but anything that can help the rhythmically-challenged gain confidence while dancing can't be a bad thing.

Dance Central was definitely the most talked about dancing game at E3. Harmonix may have a huge hit on its hands and Microsoft's Kinect may have the killer app that it so desperately needs to get a foothold with the casual and hardcore audience. But this isn't the only Kinect dancing game available this year.

Konami also has an entry into the competitive motion-controlled dancing game market. As you may know, Konami is the originator of the dancing game craze with its hugely successful hit, Dance Dance Revolution. In order to keep up with the times, Konami is releasing Dance Masters, which also promises "full body dancing" through the power of the Kinect. From the track list that we were able to sample, the song selection appears to be more of the Euro and J-Pop variety and needs to be unlocked by clearing music set lists. The game allows two people to play simultaneously and challenge up to four people online. Dance Masters also has a tutorial mode for those who need a little help. Like Harmonix, Konami is also promising downloadable content to extend the life of the game.

Dance Masters features different types of ripples on screen that players need to match with their arms or feet. On the easiest levels, this isn't so much dancing but more of a Samba De Amigo style of gameplay. On the harder levels, the ripples match the dancers moves more closely, and on the hardest level, there are no ripple prompts at all. You just match the dancing avatar as closely as you can. The game also features the occasional pose move as well. One interesting quirk is that you can save your dance moves and your back-up dancers will perform them. So no more blaming the hired help for their poor timing!

The main concern with Dance Masters is that it may not produce actual dancing. Exhibit A: game creator Naoki Maeda demonstrating the game at E3:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3J3pZyDX1o&feature=related

As you can see, most people are not going to be inclined to break out these mind-blowing moves at the hottest Las Vegas nightclub. Of course, you aren't likely to hear the songs featured in Dance Masters in a mainstream dance venue either. But if you are a fan of J-Pop and want a fun way to exercise, Dance Masters may be for you.

Just Dance 2 is the sequel to the very popular, yet somewhat disappointing, Nintendo Wii-exclusive Just Dance. Complaints about the original title mainly centered on the lack of game depth and poor motion detection. Game developer, Ubisoft, has stated that Just Dance 2 will offer improved detection and feedback over the original, but the game will not require Wii Motion Plus to do so, which is a bit of a surprise. Still, the game only utilizes the Nintendo Wiimote, which means that you could probably trick the game into thinking you are actually performing the dance moves without actually doing so. If you haven't seen the game in action before, watch the trailer below:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2lVHglAv5Y

Just Dance 2 will also offer several new game modes:

  • Duo Mode will encourage two players to actually dance with each other rather than just compete.
  • Dance Battle Mode will pit two dance teams against one another and will support up to 8 players. Have the ultimate "You Got Served" party at your house.
  • Party Mode is a no-fail, just-for-fun mode, that continually plays dance tracks and eliminates the need for menu navigation.
  • Just Sweat Mode is an exercise program that will track your burned calories.

Ubisoft claims there will over 40 dance tracks in Just Dance 2, including such hits as When I Grow Up by The Pussycat Dolls,�SOS by Rihanna, I Got You by James Brown, Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner, Hot Stuff by Donna Summer, and The Power by Snap. Oh and there's TikTok by Ke$ha:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6acrbMjG4rY

Other songs, including some from the original Just Dance, will be available via download. Unlike Dance Central and Dance Masters, Just Dance 2 does support four-player gameplay offline.

Singstar+Dance

Taking its cue from Just Dance, SingStar+Dance offers similar gameplay with the more accurate PlayStation Move. Not only will you be able to dance, but other players can actually sing the selected song at the same time. In fact, up to four players may sing or dance simultaneously. When playing in the mode that displays actual video of you onscreen, you'll also be able to the use the PlayStation Move controller to "enhance your dance moves with cool special effects." Basically, you can make a sparkler effect appear onscreen. Trippy.

As with all SingStar games, new songs will be made available as downloadable content in the future and you'll be able to upload your video performances to My SingStar Online, if you are so brave. Here's the official trailer from Sony:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BCo-OcW6Uw&feature=related

And here's a clip of regular people using it:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOBPLKFN5so

So there you have it. As you can see, the dancing game genre is set to capture the motion-controller market later this year. Of course, most people will need to have a high threshold for humiliation if these videos are any indication.

Which one will be the Lord of the Dance? And do any of these titles interest you?

Dance Central is set to release for the Kinect in November 2010.

Dance Masters arrives during the Holiday 2010 period for the Kinect.

Just Dance 2 releases exclusively for the Nintendo Wii during Fall 2010.

Singstar+Dance arrives during the Holiday 2010 period for the PlayStation Move.

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