At their E3 press conference this year, Microsoft made a point of promoting Dance Central 3 by putting Usher and a team of dancers on stage as the game’s visuals played in the background. Clearly, someone feels that Dance Central is a franchise that gamers should take notice of. And it actually has been just that since last year’s Dance Central 2 – a worthy and exclusive franchise. The only challenge now (besides differentiation between yearly sequels) is getting the Kinect-hating hardcore populous to take notice. Dance Central 3 is the best dancing game in existence. Now we just need to get our fellow gamers off their couches and playing it.
The standout feature in this year’s entry is its all-new story mode. Last year, players were simply trying to impress a lineup of established dancing teams with their moves. Then (spoiler alert) things took a turn to the fantastic when they ended up on an airship, competing against sorta-evil madman Dr. Tan’s dancing robots. Now Dr. Tan is back with a new army of highly skilled dancers. To stop him, players will travel through time, back to the seventies, eighties, nineties, and 2000s, mastering each era’s unique songs and movements. It’s a setup so silly and epic, you can’t help buying right in.
The way story mode works now, for each era you’ll perform a single specific song or two before you’re unleashed to choose from a selection of songs. Complete them all and you’re on to the next time period, Marty McFly-style. A new sub-goal has players trying to figure out four hidden dance moves before moving on through time. The hidden move mechanic doesn’t make much sense or add anything to the game, so hopefully Harmonix drops it when the next sequel comes around.
As with DC2, story mode fully supports 2-player local co-op. Still no online multiplayer, even though you just know they’ll end up adding it to the series someday. The process of signing in a second player (which I found confusing in last year’s review) has been improved with much better on-screen instructions. A second player can jump in at any time by raising his or her right arm. Raise both arms to select your profile so that you’ll get credit and Achievements for your dancing.
While the act of getting a second player in at all works better, we still had issues getting the game to recognize which player is which. It often tried to put me (EastX) on the right side while I stood on the left, and vice versa. Sometimes, despite going through the sign-in process, one player’s name wouldn’t show up on his side and he wouldn’t get Achievements that we earned together. Basically, the Kinect itself still makes signing in and making sure you’re playing as yourself in multiplayer something of a crapshoot. I wish the game would let us designate these things with the controller, since otherwise the menus work fantastically with a controller.
Beyond an awesome story mode, the other addition that should improve the game’s co-op appeal is the new Beginner difficulty. Story only offers Easy-Hard options, but in any other mode one or both players can choose to dance as beginners. This reduces the number of unique moves they’ll need to master as they dance, making it even easier for less coordinated people to play. Beginner should also be a boon for people who complain Dance Central is too technical and challenging compared to Just Dance. Me, I can’t really dance but I do fine on Easy.