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The rhythm game genre is unlike any other genre in the world of video games when it comes to being in different phases. There was the Dance Dance Revolution phase where Konami was the king of the genre at both arcades and consoles in the late 90s/early 2000s. Then it was the plastic instrument era with Guitar Hero and Rock Band in the mid to late 2000s. Now, we are at the motion-control dancing phase thanks to the Wii Remote, Playstation Move, and the Xbox 360’s Kinect. Franchises such as Dance Central and Just Dance are the talk of the town in regards to these games. While Harmonix’s Dance Central franchise remains exclusively on Microsoft’s system, Ubisoft’s Just Dance series is a little more popular due to being a cross platform title. Just Dance 4 is the latest iteration of the franchise and also a sign that is becoming the “Now That’s What I Call Music” of dancing games.
If you’re familiar to the Just Dance franchise, it started on the Wii as just another dancing game, but it is now a phenomenon with numerous versions. The Wii Remote is the main tool to success as the game only recognizes its movements and still is on the Wii U version despite having a new controller around. Since the franchise is also available on Kinect and Playstation Move, the Wiimote has become the worst way to play the game now. Even though you can try to dance the best way the pictograms on screen give you, you can still BS your way through some dance moves by waving the Wiimote accurately and still get a decent score. For example, I would replicate a certain move on screen, but I wouldn’t get a perfect rating for it because of the position of my Wiimote. This has been the case the entire franchise and still has not been fixed in this fourth main iteration. The formula that has worked since the first game is starting to become stale and behind the times especially compared to Dance Central 3.
The structure for these Just Dance games is becoming stale as well. This fourth game mainly consists of Just Dance and Just Sweat modes. It sounds like all you would need on paper, but Ubisoft needs to spice things up especially on the regular Just Dance mode. First of all, the Just Dance franchise never had various difficulties for dance routines compared to the Dance Central games, so maybe it is time Ubisoft should implement a system like that for next year’s iteration. Unless you’re some professional, you are not going to learn or even five star Just Dance 4’s routines in one try. Then again, that is the case with dancing in general as it takes multiple attempts to do decently well. These routines are also harder than you think despite what you see how hard they are rated on the menu screen. There are, however, different versions of dance routines once unlocked with dance mash-ups, battle modes, and puppet master mode, which is exclusive to the Wii U version which I will talk more about that later. These are unlocked by the Mojo level progression system as once you level up, your unlockable is randomized. More mojo points can be earned if a certain song is marked for double points and completing specific dance quests. If you are not playing seriously though, it is still a fun party game to have around when family and friends are over and is actually one of the better party games on the Wii U so far.
Just Sweat mode, in a nutshell, is the game’s workout mode. There are actually different types of workouts depending on your endurance. The shortest Just Sweat session lasts about ten minutes, but the longest is over 45 minutes. Personally for me, ten minutes is enough since I get tired pretty easily after three or four songs in this game. A workout starts out the session whether you are doing stretches or martial arts and then it kicks in to a random song depending how energized you are. If you ended in a cool state, you get a chill song while you get a harder song if you ended on intense. Then the order starts over again and the game tracks how many calories you burned now. Just Sweat is a decent workout mode for Just Dance 4, but if you a more focused fitness-like workout, then get Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 or Wii Fit U whenever that comes out.
The Wii U version of Just Dance 4 does have some exclusive features, but they are pretty minimal to the point you don’t have to use the gamepad at all. On the box itself it says the Wii Remote is required, so if you’re planning to buy this game without owning a Wii before, be prepared to buy more controllers. The game can pretty much be controlled with the Wiimote only, but the gamepad can also be used to navigate the menus and pick songs as if you’re at a karaoke bar. The gamepad is required, however, for Puppet Master mode, where whoever is controlling the gamepad can decide the next dance move for the Wiimote players to do. In addition, the gamepad player can decide who is the best when a “strike a pose” mini-game happens. There is also a singing option on the gamepad’s mic, but that is not the main focus. Stand-alone mode allows the gamepad to be the main screen instead of your TV, but that is also a throw away feature where you rather see the pictograms more clearly on a bigger screen.
Graphically, this latest Just Dance looks fine. You have various backgrounds for each song even though some of them are questionable on the concept aspect. Being a superhero for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” as an example is a little out of place. Despite some other weird decisions, the backgrounds are accurate enough from dancing robots with the Skrillex song or a girl on her telephone for “Call Me Maybe.” The display of pictograms could've been bigger on screen, so it is easier to know what move to do next, but I guess it would be in the way of the main dancer. Ubisoft has been getting better at the soundtracks for these games by including hit songs everyone would recognize in today’s top 40 music with Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling,” Justin Bieber with “Beauty & The Beat,” “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj and more. Along with most of today’s stuff on the 40+ song soundtrack, there are some old classics for the older crowd as well. I’ll give the franchise some credit as they use a whole song compared to cutting parts of it as one might see in other dance games. The Wii U version does have three more exclusive songs with “Domino” by Jessie J being the best of the three. What is unfortunate for the Wii U version is the lack of DLC since Nintendo has not implemented a DLC system to their new console yet as of this review. In other words, no “Gangnam Style” for Wii U folks until Nintendo gets their act together to include DLC support for Wii U games.
While Just Dance 4 is another solid release for the franchise, the structure and formula are starting to get stale. Most of the game’s flaws throughout the series are still here especially if you are serious with your dancing games from the Wii Remote not being as accurate as it should. The game could use a better difficulty system having easier routines for people to get started with before moving on to a harder version. Just Sweat is a decent workout mode if you are interested in playing longer sessions and the soundtrack is a good mix of old and new stuff as there is a song for everyone to dance to. As a dancing game, Just Dance 4 is not the best one out there to pick up, but it still a great party game to have around when you have family and friends over. For Wii U folks, this is the best party/dancing game to get on the system out of the launch lineup. If you are interested in getting it for the other systems, specifically the Xbox 360, there is a better dance game out there to buy.