Guitar Hero and Rock Band may be all the rage these days, but the music genre owes its heart and soul to the granddaddy of them all, Dance Dance Revolution. The latest incarnation of Konami's foot-tapping franchise doesn't really bring anything blazingly new to the table but what it does, it does well and there's more than enough here to keep fans, both old and new, busy for hours.
The concept behind DDR is simple. Music plays. Arrows move up the screen. You hop around like a dancing fool trying to step on the corresponding arrows in sync with the beat. Do it well, and move on to the next level. Do poorly and you'll be booed off stage. Although some advanced players are elevated the game to performance art (if you don't believe us just take a gander at YouTube), a big part of the fun is playing the game with friends and knowing that you're all going to look dumb. Yes, it's a hit at parties.
All of the standard modes are here, from the straightforward arcade mode, to the calorie tracking workout mode and custom edit mode, along with the all new Hyper Master mode. Hyper Master is a new twist on the dance challenge formula as it presents you with a number of preset challenges to complete with each being worth a certain number of points. Points earned in Hyper Master mode can be used to unlock new songs and game modes (such as Battle and Endless) as well as courses and cosmetic updates (arrow styles and dancing characters).
One of the biggest changes from prior DDR games is the heavy focus on American music for the default song selection. The series has been moving in that direction for awhile, but given that DDR has its roots firmly planted in the bowels of J-Pop, hardcore players may be a bit put off at first. Not to worry, those J-tunes are still here - you just have to work to unlock them. Both online play and EyeToy support make a reappearance, though neither is integral to the game.
The difficulty curve in SuperNOVA 2 is well spaced for average to experienced players with step patterns that flow in a natural way. Making the jump from one skill level to the next isn't quite as jarring as it has been in the past.
While it would have been nice to see some innovation in the series, it's hard to fault Konami for delivering on a winning formula. What's here is well polished, and it works. Much like a favorite food, the DDR series has settled into a comfortable groove. Perhaps the next outing will be a bit more daring.