Before I start this review I must clarify that I was unable to get my hands on a dance mat so had to use a controller to play the game. My hand hurts a lot right now but the fact I used a controller instead of the mat doesn't change how poor the game is.
Dancing Stage Universe 2 is the updated European version of the American release Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2 and is the billionth game in the Bemani dancing series (okay, I lie. But there's been a heck of a lot of games). The Bemani series of games probably holds the record for the longest use of the same game mechanics in every single game, mixing popular music with unknown club tunes and forcing you to jump around on a mat (or bash a controller) to the beat. And this has gone on for probably over 10 years. Yes, they've had new modes and a few new features but the game is exactly the same every time you buy it. No change to the gameplay and no real change to the graphics. But let's take a look at the latest iteration in the series.
Dancing Stage Universe 2 was originally released at the back end of 2007 in America under the title Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2. Us Europeans have got a shorter title that is less of a mouthful to say and a few new tracks, but it is essentially exactly the same game as the American release. It's packed full of modes, but in essence every single one is the same.
Let's start of by saying the game is hard, very hard. It is definitely not for newcomers like myself. Although there is a Basic Edition that runs you through the basic aspects, it isn't very good at teaching you these and then ramps up the difficulty when you get to the Master Edition. There is no middle ground either. You either go extremely simple or extremely hard, which is very frustrating and a definite turn off to anyone new to the series.
If you are able to actually play the game well, there are a variety of modes that you can play through. The first of which is the Party Mode, which is the backbone of the game. Here you and a few friends can compete and dance it off to a variety of songs with varying options to choose from. There's the Game Mode which is essentially just the dancing. Very simple and not too deep. Challenge Mode is where you must partake in a series of challenges which can range from hitting a certain number of jump beats or trying to keep a combo going for a set amount of time. This is probably one of the better modes, although you do need a bit of skill to actually get anywhere with it.
Finally, there is Quest Mode which is utterly pointless really. It is basically Challenge Mode with some sort of "story" attached to it, and I use the term story extremely loosely. You create your own character using the very basic creation system then navigate a frustrating map with the aim of gaining money to buy more clothes. There really is no point to it. You do some challenges, earn some money and buy some clothes that make no difference to your character whatsoever.
The box claims that there is a mode called "Free Mode" but it is pretty hidden inside the Party Mode, which doesn't make much sense. Free Mode is pretty pointless also. It has no obvious goal. You just make your own moves to the beat and hope by chance that you happen to win.
DSU2 has some form of Xbox Live play yet I was unable to find a match to actually join to even test it out. So really, if you want this game to play online, don't bother getting it because you will find nobody else online with it to play against.
The graphics are very "PS2." And by PS2 I mean early PS2. They are very disappointing and the highlight of it is the music videos that sometimes play in the background. The dancing characters are always very poorly animated and look horrible and navigating around the screens is equally so.
The best part of the game is the music. Featuring tracks from Justice, The Knife and Klaxons, artists who I happen to love, they range from well known songs to the usual Bemani-own tracks. There is a nice feature that lets you queue up some of the tracks just so you can listen to them and is probably my most used feature of the game.
There are other modes included in the game, but honestly, they are all pretty poor as well and not even worth mentioning.
The Bemani series is like a vampire that just won't die. However much Konami drives a stake through its heart with extremely poor graphics and un-original gameplay, which literally bleed it dry. Somehow it just keeps coming back to haunt store shelves around the world. Really, Konami; Do we really need anymore? Please, Van Helsing, Buffy, anyone! Get rid of this beast that refuses to die!