DDR Supernova: Enough to bring back the Dancing Revolution?

Finally, more then 3 years later after the release of Extreme, a new DDR mix has been announced, DDR SuperNova under the production of the American company Betson. Among the current legal battle between Roxor, Andamiro, and Konami that would decide the future of Bemani games, and In the Groove's National Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada the news came as a shock to everyone. Speculation came from all sides, many didn't even believe it was true, but soon it was proven, in the next few weeks a song list was released, and finally, the first test location was chosen. DDR Supernova came to Europe, with the current explosion of Dancing Stage, it certainly wasn't a bad choice, but many American players were disappointed. Then, a few weeks later, it was released that a test location would be in America. Excited players made posts on the website www.Barcade.com, a arcade review site that is closely connected with Betson, in hopes to convince Betson of bringing SuperNova to their hometown, however, it seemed that most rhetoric was futile; a test location was soon chosen. Irvine, California became the first test location in the United States, a mere 15 miles away from my current living quarters. I spent most of the weekend with the SuperNova machine and simply the presence of its beta version is already causing quite a lot of talk.

 

The cabinet itself was a regular DDR cabinet, slightly larger in the back, with a new banner and stickers on the side. Aside from the back, no changes seemed to have been made to this machine from the Extreme machine. However, according to Betson, the actual new SuperNova machine will be drastically different from the old machines, including new hardware inside, a flat screen monitor, and a larger actual cabinet.

The graphics on the game itself look much more clean, and streaming videos apply to every single song, if a song doesn't have a specific video, it will contain dancer footage. 

There will be background dancers, dancing to the bpm of the song, for every song similar to the home version. However, you will be unable to choose which background dancers you would like to have as they will be randomly chosen for you.

The beta sported 150 different songs, but Betson promised that the released version would have over 300. All of the songs from Extreme were present, as well as songs from the home versions, and roughly 20 brand new never before seen songs. The songs provided a nice variety, but it was quite clear that Konami was drawing heavily from their other successful Bemani franchises, Beatmania IIDX, and Guitarfreaks and Drummania. Songs like No.13, RedZone, and Xepher from IIDX, and Dragon Blade, konoko no nanatsu no oiwai from Guitarfreaks, as well as licensed songs, one in particular that grabbed a lot of attention, a remix of Britney Spear's hit song, 'Toxic'. Some of the Japanese names of songs have been replaced with English for the American version. For example, 'Mikeneko Rock' is now, 'Calico Cat Rock.' The song selection screen contains a new color scheme and better graphics with the banners and difficulty notification that brings back stream, chaos, freeze, voltage, and air on the radar.


A huge issue for many of the hardcore players was if DDR Supernova would provide the ITG generation of players with a new challenge that the past DDR's could not in comparison with ITG. The obvious answer to this question is no, DDR Supernova does not. Aside from the new extra stage, 'Fascination Maxx' there are no songs that can compete with the difficulty of some of the 12 and 13 footers on In the Groove. It is clear that Konami is not trying to compete with In the Groove, but instead provide old loyal DDR Players with what they are best at, a game that is fun. In talking with the Betson representative I asked who the main audience DDRSupernova is trying to reach, he told me that it was the hardcore players. If this was the case, the beta did not show it. In all the new songs, only two were 10 footers, Fascination Maxx, and Paranoia Respect. However, what was not shown on the beta, but promised by Betson may come as a relief to the hardcore players. Betson promises that every new song will have challenge steps along with the expert steps already seen. For some songs such as Konoko, Dragon Blade, and No.13 which seem to be some of the most difficult new songs, this provides quite a lot of promise for a challenge.  Nonstop Courses and Oni were also not available, and these two modes, which are not available in In the Groove, may also help to provide a longer lasting appeal to hardcore players. All of the original DDR mods still remain and no change has been shown in the beta to match ITG modifications like mines or hands.

Over the weekend it was in Irvine, some of California's top players AAAed many of the songs, and one player even ended up passing Fascination Maxx. The bottom line is that difficulty was definitely the beta's weakest post. Luckily, the representative from Betson was able to assure the players of the challenge that will be offered in the final version. It certainly will not be an In The Groove when it comes to difficulty, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. And as far as the extent of competition between the two companies, that will be decided by one thing, the lawsuit. Konami has yet to give a specific release date and is currently only citing a release in Spring 2006. It has also been revealed that the full version of Supernova will debut at the E3 entertainment expo in Los Angeles, CA this week. We also know that it will be first released in the United States before anywhere else in the world, unlike every other one of Konami's DDR arcade machines. The success of Supernova could make or break the future of music games. After a sharp decline of interest in music games in Japan where these games first emerged Konami has hoped that the popularity would spread to the rest of the world. Whether or not Supernova is a success could have dire consequences on the future of Konami's Bemani series as well as arcades all across the country. The definition of supernova states that it is the phenomena bringing about a huge sensational explosion that is short lived. Will SuperNova live up to its name and fizzle out like so many other arcade games? Or will its spectacular luminescence bring light into the hearts of video game enthusiasts everywhere? We'll just have to wait and see what the future holds for our little star.

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