This is the big leagues.
Dance Dance Revolution is by far the biggest dancing game out there. It's enjoyed widespread success, a healthy run in an otherwise wilting arcade market, and a number of console releases across each system of the current generation. Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 is simply the latest in a long line of DDR titles. How does it stack up?
Well, the gameplay is essentially the same as that of the previous games. You step on the arrows on a dance pad (or perhaps with a controller if you're pad-less) when the game tells you to do so. The closer you are to being in sync with the game, the more points you get and the better your score. The better your score, the higher your grade. Simple. The actual gameplay is about what you'd expect. You dance along to the arrows while a psychadelic video plays behind you. Some songs may get a true-blue music video, while others have a flashy background and a dancing character of your choice that gyrates along with you. There's a decent variety of characters, and they do have unlockable costumes, but they have essentially no effect on the gameplay. They're window-dressing. They're there to look cool and that's about it. Plus, it's kind of hard to enjoy the scenery when you're trying to concentrate on the arrows. Still, the characters and the video are nice additions and help to liven up a game that can easily turn into high-stakes Simon.
DDR Extreme 2 comes with a few modes that expand on the gameplay, though you've seen most of them before. The workout mode is a mainstay, of course, and the training mode is perfect for new players. Even the demo reel breaks down how to play in a simple and straightforward manner, and something that can best be called "Super Easy Mode" lets neophytes get in some practice before diving head-first into the deep end.
Speaking of new players, it seems that DDR Extreme 2 is determined to pull in a new segment of the population. The previous games seemed to stick to a mix of techno, remixes, and j-pop, with a focus on high beats per minute. This time around, there are a few new additions in the form of artists like Sean Paul, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. That's right: pop music. There aren't many of them, but they're in there. Gamers who might've onced mocked DDR now have a reason to try it, if only to see how a few mega-platinum songs made the transition.
It's kind of hard to accurately judge DDR Extreme 2. There's been a number of them released already, with the biggest differences being things like song choice, character choice, and online play. At its core, each game is the same. It's what surrounds it that makes this a "new" title. DDR Extreme 2 makes some great strides to attract new players to the same old franchise. It's a noble effort and hopefully one that pays off.