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A worthy successor to an already-great franchise
on October 9, 2011
In the beginning there was DDR. Video game "dancing" consisted of mashing your feet to certain patterns. It was fun, it was a great workout, but at the end of the day it wasn't really dancing.
Then along came Just Dance, which introduced the world to dancing to popular music using "real dance move", the kind that you could practice at home and then wow everyone with on the dance floor. It was slightly annoying that the controller accuracy was a bit off, but the dance moves were so fun we didn't care. Just Dance 2 introduced much better motion control accuracy. Plus, it introduced the concept of "duets", where people could dance cool choreographed routines together. And it was another winner. Because of the popularity of Just Dance, this spawned a lot of "copycat" titles from Ubisoft to cash in. Dance on Broadway. Michael Jackson The Experience, Just Dance for Kids. Even Just Dance with Smurfs. They were fun, but at a certain point they started to get a bit tiring, as they were all variations of the same theme.
And so, we've all been waiting to see what Ubisoft would do for an encore with Just Dance 3? Could they push the genre forward, even as copycat titles on other platforms like Dance Central on the Xbox and Everybody Dance on the PS3 encroached on their turf? I'm happy to say that Just Dance 3 pushes the platform even further and does it with great success.
When you start up Just Dance, the first thing it asks is if you'll connect Just Dance to the Internet so that "Ubisoft can learn more about the way you play to make Just Dance even more groovy". I wasn't sure quite how to answer the question, but I figure since Just Dance doesn't use a video camera like those other systems, there wasn't too much harm in it.
The opening menu, like in Just Dance 1 and 2, is delightfully simple. There are only a couple choices:
As with the previous versions, you just right into the dancing. What I love about Just Dance 3 is that getting started is extremely simple. No silly things to take up your time like creating avatars. No adjusting of cameras or calibrating of equipment. You just shake your remote to see what "color" you are on the screen, and get started.
You can create a profile at any time; your name is limited to 5 characters. If you don't create a profile you'll be dancing by default as "Happy" (as opposed to "Sunny").
As with previous version, your job is to dance the "mirror image" of a colorful silhouetted on-screen figure showing you the dance moves. I'm happy to say that the motion controls are better and more accurate than ever. Granted, it still only detects the movement of one arm holding the Wii remote, so technically you could still just hurl your arm the right way to build up points. But of course the fun of the game is to get into the dance with your full body (and in fact, if you follow the choreographed moves perfectly with your whole body, your score will be better than ever). One other subtle improvement over previous versions is that the audio cues coming through the Wii remote (for example, when you hit a milestone while dancing) are much louder and clearer than before.
The choreography and backgrounds are as fun and in some cases as quirky as ever. For example, in Wilson Pickett's "Land of 1000 Dances" you're following a dancing alligator in a fancy suit dancing in a schoolroom. And yes, you "do the alligator" :) If you dance well on some songs, you can see the background animate and change.
As with Just Dance 1 and 2, each song has a "technical difficulty" indicator from one to three gears, and a "workout intensity" indicate from one to three drops of sweat. There are over 45 great tracks to suit everyone's tastes, and most of the songs are popular and familiar.
Multiplayer is where this game really shines. There's "Dance Crew Mode" which is like Duet Mode, except that up to 4 players has their own independent choreography (and a chance to shine with a solo performance). There's also a "Dance Til Dawn" party mode where you can just start the game up and it'll cycle through songs all night, without the need to go back through menus again.
2) Just Sweat
As someone who follows Wii exercise titles very closely, this option was the one I was most excited about. You can choose from a "Free Session" (an instant fitness session for up to 4 players) or the "7-Day Challenge" (A selection of challenges to boost your fitness during 7 days).
For "Free Session" You can choose from a variety of options for the kind of music to work out to, including:
Oldies but Goodies
Fancy Dress Ball
Around the World
There are also fantastic options for working out in a group, including:
I tried Sweat Attack, and sure enough I was sweating up a storm after just one song. The songs kept going and the more points I collected (in both Dance and Just Sweat modes), the more a "Mojo" meter filled up. Each time the "Mojo Meter" was full, it unlocked a "gift" of another game mode, song, or choreography (the first to be unlocked is Simon Says Mode). There are 27 "gifts" to unlock, which will definitely motivate you to keep coming back and building up those points. The songs in my case before I collapsed of exhaustion were Cee Lo Green's "Forget You", The Black Eyed Peas' "Pump It", Anja's "Dance all Night", Wilson Pickett's "Land of 1000 Dances", and appropriately, C&C Music Factory's Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)..all very energetic and lively (and fun) songs.
As in the Dance mode, you rack up points when you hit the right dance moves. In addition, as with Just Dance 2, they don't count calories for some reason, but rather, they count "sweat points". With Just Dance 2, the consensus on the Web was that 4.2 sweat points = about 1 calorie burned, and it seems about the same with Just Dance 3. In all honesty, I'm not sure why they didn't just use calories, which would have made things a lot easier. But still, as long as you do the math in your head, you can pretty much figure out how intensive a workout you're getting (since each song earns you about 400-500 sweat points, it'll take about 25-30 vigorous songs to reach 3500 calories, or 1 pound of fat lost). As you reach certain points, the system will give you an indication of how much exercise you've done (after completing 1000 sweat points, it told me "You've just walked across Central Park"; after 2000 points, it said "you've just run 10 rounds of the Wembley Stadium").
For "7-Day Challenge" you're presented with three options for the next 7 days: The Fresh Start (3500 sweat points a week, the equivalent of walking 30 minutes a day), The Healthy Choice (7000 sweat points a week, equivalent to running 30 minutes a day), and The Sweat Explosion (21000 sweat points a week, equivalent to swimming for 30 minutes a day).
Overall, I loved Just Sweat mode, but I would have liked to see the ability to chart my progress over days and weeks. Still, it's a great improvement over previous versions and definitely one of the best workouts you can have on the Wii.
This is where you can purchase downloadable content (DLC) if your Wii is connected to the Internet. As of this writing (October 8, 2011), the store contained only the following songs:
- Baby Don't Stop Now (Anja)
- Jambo Mambo (Old Orquesta)
- Soul Searchin (Groove Century)
- Twist and Shake It (The Girly Team)
But a bunch of empty icons indicates that there are more coming soon. Each song costs 250 Wii Points, so if you buy a 2000 point card for about $20, this comes out to about $2.50 a song.
This is where you can adjust options, such as whether to display lyrics, display pictograms (the icons telling you what move to make), display help screens, and track usage. You can also view the medals you earned.
I think one of the questions most people will have on their mind is: is Just Dance 3 on the Wii still relevant when there are so many new "real dance move" games out for systems like the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. My answer is a resounding "yes". Not only does Just Dance 3 hold its own in terms of fun and accuracy--it actually has an advantage over those other systems. While those systems force players to squeeze into a camera view of 6 feet across, with Just Dance, players can stand anywhere in the room, and it doesn't even matter if there are spectators or "dancers without controllers" standing among them.
Long story short, I think Ubisoft has taken a great franchise and moved it even further. Just Dance 3 for the Wii is another winner.