12th of March, 2021
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: a Music Week special.
Dance Dance Revolution, Wii, various
I have a stack of about four DDR Wii games at home, and having mastered the tracks on Hottest Party Three, I've started working my way through the other titles. Going back to the early learning stages has reminded me just how much DDR reminds me of sight-reading music on clarinet or piano. Unless you want to get your legs in a tangle, or set yourself badly off-balance (creating problems further down the line), you have to read several beats ahead and anticipate both the rhythm and footwork required. That includes jumping height, speed of movement, and how to angle your body. Playing guitar in Rock Band feels similar, but moving your whole body means you really have to commit to what you think is the right combination of footwork. On top of all that, DDR can sometimes present you with incredibly dense and slow-moving arrows, something which can be tricky to parse. Not to mention some sneaky off-beat rhythms are thrown in on harder tracks.
Eventually, once you've practiced the hard sections long enough, you'll develop the muscle memory to automatically know the footwork for a song. But practice will also make you better at sight-reading new tracks: I can now bring up a video of DDR on Youtube, and read the arrows as if I were actually dancing it. When you finally crack the code, that's a pretty cool feeling to have.
At this point in the Switch's lifespan it's not short of works by Rayark, the small Taiwanese outfit that's made its name with rhythm-infused outings, though it's the very first that I keep going back to. Voez is a tight number full of deliciously catchy tunes, and yet every time I return to it it's all about the one song: Mai Aoyagi's Blanket, a soaring stroll of a song that lifts my heart every time I hear it. It's one of those tunes whose appeal I can't really describe, other than I have to return to it every couple of months as something of a salve, tapping away and getting lost in its rhythm and infectiously optimistic outlook. It's a blanket of a thing, I guess, that's as comforting as it gets.
Lumines: Electronic Symphony
Is it wrong to highlight a classic rather than a curio? Electronic Symphony is maybe both - a classic and a curio. It's another installment of Lumines, the musical block-dropping treat, but it's got the most interesting wrinkles. Its song selection is surprisingly diverse but also coherent, like you're going through a specific person's record collection. Its 3D elements bring the best out of the various block skins. It has the whole bizarro cube-building mega-game uniting the Lumines community, and it even has the moxie to rework the way the classic Fuse block operates.
Yes, all of that, but something more. If you want to play Electronic Symphony you're going to have to dust off the Vita. My cartridge has literally never left the slot since it was first put in. I love Sony's handheld - both a classic and a curio in itself - and now it is purely the Electronic Symphony device. And that's a very pleasing way for things to end up, if you ask me.