Mario's more obscure entries are always entertaining. We've all seen him saving Princess Peach from Bowser's latest scheme, but across the decades, Mario's numerous spin-offs have kept life varied. Our favourite plumber worked on a construction site, stopped a Rabbid invasion, pretended to be a medical expert and even ran a hotel. In terms of sheer absurdity, though, few could top him saving the Mushroom Kingdom through the power of dance.
Developed between Hudson Soft, Konami and Nintendo in 2005, Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix is DDR's only appearance on GameCube and, thanks to a wild Story Mode, I still remember it vividly. Marking Waluigi's most prominent role as an antagonist, we find him breaking into Truffle Towers, scattering three Music Keys across the Mushroom Kingdom but keeping one for himself. Realising trouble's afoot, Toad alerts Mario to this situation and we're off once again.
The good news? Everyone's in a rhythmic mood, which is pleasantly cheery and suitably cheesy. Bad news? Failure risks turmoil and discord across the Mushroom Kingdom, but what else is new? Recovering these Music Keys involves completing tasks for other characters, travelling across different locations via the SS Brass. Facing Waluigi, Wario, Hammer Bros, Bowser and more, there's no majestic boss battles like Mario often brings, just a good old-fashioned dance-off. Providing you hit those arrows as they appear, the Music Keys are ours once again.
Mario Mix remains true to DDR's roots - though songs are comparatively easy - but adds a unique twist through Mush Mode. Replacing arrows with common enemies, items, and other obstacles, Konami's attempt to "Mariofy" DDR keeps your feet busy. It isn't just dancing through, as story mode breaks up the action with several minigames, making use of the dance mat's admittedly limited options. There isn't much to them, sure, but playing Whack-A-Goomba or performing flagpole leaps with your feet has a novel charm.
Now, a rhythm game's nothing without a good soundtrack and for better or worse, this selection is memorable. Konami draws from Mario's many different adventures, factoring in spin-offs and some questionable remixes, but no one could've anticipated the public domain picks. Pomp and Circumstance by Edward Elgar, Mozart's Turkish March, Bizet's Carmen, all unusual. But a jazzed-up rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star? That one stuck with me. I understand these songs are free but it's one hell of a tonal clash.
Honestly, looking back at this crossover feels strange. There are undeniable flaws, unusual soundtrack picks and Mario Mix is admittedly basic by DDR's standards, but I'll never forget it. It's ridiculously silly, completely off the wall and most importantly, fun. After all, where else can I defeat Waluigi in a 1v1 dance off? It became my gateway for the rhythm genre, and I can only apologise to my parents for the dance mat pile that quickly ensued. DDR's not been on home consoles for nearly a decade now and Mario or not, I'd say it's time for an encore.
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