Dance Central was one of the Kinect’s best initial offerings, but it didn’t offer a great multiplayer experience. Sure, gamers could play a two-player session, but only one player was able to break out their dance moves at a time. Only a year after Dance Central’s release, Harmonix looks to correct this omission in Dance Central 2.

Why didn’t Harmonix include two-player simultaneous dancing in the first iteration of the series? Project Manager of Harmonix, Kasson Crooker explained:

The focus of the first game was to just to find out what was fun about dancing. How to get great animation up on the screen, how to build a user interface that would help the player know as much as possible, what moves to dance. So that version is very much focused on one person dancing. We took this opportunity to focus on multiplayer dancing, getting two people up and dancing together, because it’s fun to dance together.

The sequel will offer both multiplayer and cooperative experiences. In co-op mode, each player will still earn their own points, but also obtain an team score graded in stars. A “Dance Battle” mode will also be included based on two “crews” battling each other, but Harmonix was not yet ready to show it. These You Got Served moments will include both simultaneous and trade-off dancing. Additionally, Crooker stated that Harmonix wanted to make the system as flexible as possible so that people could join and leave a session at any time without a break in the action. However, all the action will continue to stay local as Dance Battles will be unavailable via Xbox Live. Dance Central 2 will have separate one and two-player leaderboards, so you’ll be able to compete indirectly against your online rivals.

When playing with two people, each player can still select his or her own difficulty level. If the difficulty levels differ, the verse portions of ths songs will be distinct, but the chorus sections will be identical in order to simulate a choreographed group routine. There are no interactive dance moves like those found in the Just Dance series, though, because they are difficult for the Kinect camera to discern. There are over 1700 individual dance moves and 100 routines, so lack of variety shouldn’t be an issue.

It wouldn’t be a music rhythm sequel without new songs, and Dance Central 2 will include over 40 additions that span the decades of pop, funk, and hip-hop music. Announced songs include the following:

  • Rude Boy – Rihanna
  • Massive Attack – Nikki Minaj
  • Venus – Bananarama
  • Bulletproof – La Roux
  • Nuthin on You – B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars
  • Like a G6 – Far East Movement
  • This Is How We Do It – Montell Jordan
  • DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love – Usher

Songs and dace routines from the original Dance Central will be importable for a “nominal fee.” Based on what Harmonix charged in the Rock Band series, you can expect the import to cost about $10. All previous DLC will work with Dance Central 2.

Dance Central 2 Preview E3 2011 Hands Impressions

The popular “Freestyle mode” makes its return but with new graphical overlays inspired by Kinect PC hacks. Some of the characters from Dance Central will return while those Harmonix found to be less popular have been replaced. You’ll be able to change their outfits if avatar customization is your thing. The characters will belong to the aforementioned dance crews, which will be significant to Dance Central’s new campaign mode.

“Break It Down” mode will also receive a refresh to make the process more seamless and responsive. Voice commands will now allow the player to skip moves that he or she has already mastered and slow down moves that he or she has not. You can also choose which specific moves you want to practice from a song rather than having to redo the song’s entire move set. The selected moves can be looped indefinitely until the player feels comfortable with them. Additionally, Dance Central 2 will now keep track of your dance sessions and based upon your scoring, create a custom break it down list of moves to help you improve upon your weaknesses.

Many of the new features appear to have been added as a result of a survey conducted by Microsoft Game Studios earlier this year. From what we witnessed, Dance Central 2 will be a huge improvement over the initial entry into the series, but we’re not crazy about having to spend another $50 to $60 only a year later. Nonetheless, if your passion is dancing, Dance Central 2 is probably a must buy.

Dance Central 2 is set to release exclusively for the Kinect later this year.