Mario is known for his versatility. The pudgy plumber has been featured in sports games, racing games, party games, platforming, RPG’s, and just about every other conceivable genre. It was only a matter of time before Mario took his turn on the dance floor. Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix is the mascot’s first foray into the dance genre currently dominated by Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution series of games. Nintendo enlisted Konami’s developers to fit the mushroom kingdom into the DDR mechanics, and they certainly did an admirable job.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Konami’s DDR games, let me begin with a quick recap. DDR is a rhythm based game in which the player stands on an floor mat which contains a series of arrows and buttons. As arrows and buttons are displayed on the screen, the player must step on the corresponding symbol on the dance pad. The game grows in complexity as the music’s rhythm quickens and the symbols are displayed on the screen at an increasingly accelerated pace.
Mario Mix adds a storyline to the proceedings, which gives the player some sense of progression. The story’s a typical Nintendo tale (read: shallow), and many of Nintendo’s famous villains make an appearance to challenge Mario’s dancing skills in elaborate dance-offs. As you progress, the difficulty ramps up, and some bosses even toss items on your side of the screen, such as bombs that must be diffused by pressing the symbol they pass through. You can play multiplayer using one dance pad or two, and obviously having two dance pads allows for simultaneous dance-offs, which can get hectic and are highly entertaining.
DDR: Mario Mix also features other modes, including mini-games that make use of the dance pad in somewhat innovative ways. For example, one mini-game features a recreation of the flag jump in Super Mario Brothers, where you run as fast as you can on the dance pad and jump right before you get to the flagpole to see how high you can jump, which determines your score. There is also a calorie counting option, though setting it up for multiple users can be a little confusing at first.
The graphics in DDR: Mario Mix are surprisingly average. Mario’s dance moves are animated well, as well as Luigi’s, who’s the only other playable character. Still, the character models and the environments are overly simplistic, and in no way represent the best the GameCube has to offer, especially this late in the console’s lifespan. Now, I understand that graphics aren’t very important in a dance rhythm game, but the graphics have a “dialed-in” look to them that seems to indicate lack of effort. Nothing looks horrible, but its clear that the development team was not focused on the graphical side of this title. The camera moves around the environments and provides dynamic views which enhance the frantic dancing.
Still, the most obviously important element in a dance rhythm game is the sound, and DDR: Mario Mix certainly sounds good. The title has over 25 remixed tracks, from classic Nintendo tunes to common songs like “Row your boat”. It’s extremely similar to what Nintendo used in their Donkey Konga games, and most of the tracks are well suited for dancing the night away. More tracks would’ve been welcome, but what’s there is appropriate.
Overall, “appropriate” is the best way to describe DDR: Mario Mix. Everything about the game is done fairly well, but no part of the game stands out. The game is perfect for people who’ve always wanted to play dance rhythm games, but needed an entry level game that eased them into the genre. The difficulty, even at the highest setting, can be mastered, unlike most other DDR games that require superhuman agility and reflexes at the higher difficulty levels. The inclusion of Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom make the game instantly accessible, and allows every closet dancer to get their groove on in the comfort of their home.