“The plastic peripheral market is dead. Long live the organic peripheral market.”
They’re words I’ve often repeated since the first inception of the Dance Central series was released in 2010. Can you blame gamers for being mildly cynical? RedOctane and Harmonix Music Systems released the first Guitar Hero in 2005 that spread like a violent wildfire of sequels, spin-offs, developer switches, and ultimately a fall to damnation. While Harmonix kept their dignity in-check with the brilliantly crafted Rock Band series, it was undeniable gamers would be leery to buy one more plastic shaped instrument.
With great fortune, Microsoft unveiled the Kinect and breathed life and stylish moves into the waning music market. Now, with the third iteration of the venerable series you must wonder: is it still fresh, does it make you sweat, does make your less coordinated friends jealous?
Oh, yes, and in a big way.
Let’s get one thing straight out of the box: Dance Central 3 is a demanding game. As with previous entries, the fluidity of your body and memorization for oddly named dance moves is pivotal to your success. The soul of the experience is linked to one undeniable request the developers place in your hands (or rather, feet): you must love to dance.
For newcomers, here’s a quick breakdown: you are the controller and you’re expected to do ostentatious movements. But, it’s set against music spanning modern hits to as far back as the 70s. Each track features dance cards specific to that era or genre of music. As the cards flash, you perform them and are scored based on accuracy. One leg, arm, turn, or head angle off just a little and your score gets hit.
However, a song won’t end if you miss the moves. It’s my recommendation to always start each new song first through the training option (i.e. Breaking it Down). This not only provides a step-by-step layout of each dance card but indirectly teaches the player about step beats. You can break down any move to its slowest functioning parts just so you can get it right. With enough practice, your frantic movements align to the perfect on-screen dancers.
Where Dance Central 3 succeeds is how the player chooses to interact with the game. Player A could march through their favorite tracks with minimal effort on the difficulty level while Player B intends to fully master the nuances of each move featured. Whichever direction you choose, the game provides the greatest psychological cookie: achievement.
It’s that undeniable rush when you realize that the movement completed on-screen was by your efforts with your skills and dedication to learn. On several occasions, I watched in awe as in-game characters performed to a song with unreal movements; uncertain if I could mimic a fraction of it. The allure of the game is how it encourages you to continue trying, and is forgiving during the process until you’re satisfied.
So, why are we interested in the 3rd iteration? To broaden its appeal, Harmonix has introduced a bevy of features. Unlike previous entries, there’s a fantastical story that offers up unique gameplay challenges: The diabolical Dr. Tan has declared war on the streets, and as Dance Central Intelligence’s latest recruit, it falls on you to lead the funky fresh offensive. In order to complete your missions, you’ll perform the hottest dance moves across the ages and they come together in a so-called dance craze that has to be mastered before moving on to the next era.
In addition, there’s the usual online score challenges, fitness, and playlist options. The second Dance Central brought simultaneous drop in, drop out play, the third brings a variety of modes that dramatically expand multiplayer. There’s co-op, face off, and new additions Strike a Pose which forgoes dancing in favor of who can pull off the most poses, and Keep the Beat takes the game’s hardwired choreography out of the picture and scores players solely on their improvisation and timing.
While Dance Central 3 may still lack the customization options Harmonix devoted to Rock Band, the series carries on its proverbial torch of detail and musical mastery. Featuring a 40+ track list, continuous DLC, and the ability to import both song caches from the first two games, Dance Central 3 is the pinnacle of hip hop, house, and pop gameplay.
If you’ve a penchant for accuracy, Dance Central 3 is the stage for you. There’s no greater a space for achievement and that unique satisfaction that comes with video gaming. It’s fresh, you will sweat, and, indeed, your friends will be jealous of your moves in or outside the game.
GO Rating: 4.5/5