Dance Dance on the Go

2001: A Dance Odyssey.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 07/18/2011 14:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Now that I’m all grown up and can play hardcore games like Manhunt 2, I’m so over dance games. I mean, when was the last time I played a dance game? Two weeks ago? That’s a long time, if you’re a mayfly. It’s a whole lifetime and more. So, really, writing about Dance Dance Revolution is so beyond me.

Dance Dance Revolution GB, on the other hand, is a completely different story. See, 2001 was a rough year for me. I had just transferred to a new school (an American one) and for some reason, everybody was obsessed with– among other things, such as “your mom” jokes– this Dance Dance Revolution game. In case you’re unfamiliar with the series (like fudge you are), this is a game wherein you step on a $39.99 dance pad with arrows on it, attempting to match your helplessly clumsy feet to the arrows onscreen, all the while listening to Japanese artists with names like “Smile.DK” or “The Olivia Project” sing high-tempo songs like “B4U” or “Butterfly” in hilariously successful Engrish. It’s a little like Twister, except with music and predetermined leg patterns, and a 250% higher chance of falling and breaking your spinal column.

A fairly accurate representation of my dress sense in 2001.

But we’re talking about me right now. So there I was, the new kid, with a hopeless lack of understanding of DDR, in the midst of people who actually eschewed school dance parties for school Dance Dance Revolution parties. I am not making this up. Instead of having school dances, where guys and dolls would congregate in close proximity to one another, the famously conservative school administration decided that we would have “socials” where students could come together and “have fun” in the name of “morals.” Sometimes these involved lip-sync contests. More often, they involved Dance Dance Revolution, mainly so that the administration could put “school dance-offs” on the school’s registration packets. It got to the point where our graduation trip involved going to the arcade formerly known as Nickel City and playing Dance Dance Revolution until our heads rang with lyrics like “jam jam jam DDR / yo everybody feel the beat with DDR.”

Clearly, I was woefully unprepared to take part in the social goings-on at this ridiculous school, considering I had prepared to be a cool kid in the completely wrong way. (Who knew Magic: The Gathering cards would be out of style then?) What was worse, I didn’t own a Sony PlayStation, which was apparently the only system at the time that could have harbored DDR. At least, it was, until I went back to Taiwan that summer and picked up a little something called Dance Dance Revolution GB. Holding the cartridge in my hands, I knew everybody would love me after– though I thought it was odd that such a huge dance mat could fit in such an itty-bitty box. And it was so light!

The Olivia Project’s Have You Never Been Mellow becomes a rousing chiptune piece.

Of course, the box didn’t hold a dance mat. It did, however, hold a plastic dance pad to be clipped onto the Game Boy Color, over the d-pad and buttons, so that players could “dance” with their fingers on Game Boy Color, as if they were playing BeatMania or some awkward DJ equipment. (If this sounds ridiculous, keep in mind another fad at the time was fingerboarding, and everything becomes much more sensible.) Instead of learning to dance, I learned to attack the Game Boy with my fingers, making sure to hit those notes 1/8th note early because of a programming error inherent in the game. (Until looking this up, I thought it was just my lack of skill– I’m redeemed.) And instead of listening to The Olivia Project’s Have You Never Been Mellow in its original, toe-tapping beat, I listened to it in chiptune. Needless to say, it was difficult to imagine myself being better at dancing with my Game Boy.

And of course, I didn’t. Instead, the game became only one of my many outlets for my attempts to be a Dance Dance Revolution fan– I went to DDRFreak and tried memorizing step charts, I bought soundtracks and listened to them with rapt, almost unnatural attention, and I played Dance Dance Revolution GB for about two more hours before I gave up on it forever. Meanwhile, I continued to suck at DDR, and continued to wonder whether I could sabotage an entire school’s socials so that they would focus on lip syncs rather than something that actually took skill and dexterity.

Actually, GB versions of DDR got so popular, Konami made a Disney spin-off.

Unsurprisingly, Dance Dance Revolution GB turned out to be a dance game only insofar as Manhunt 2 is a dance game, which is to say I may as well not have played at all– but looking back, there were a few redeeming factors. At the time, for instance, the vocal-less, pure chiptune versions of Smile.Dk’s Butterfly and others were actually extremely irritating and a bit headache-inducing; now, they’re actually pleasant revisits to nostalgialand, though I can’t discount the possibility of the recent rise of chiptunes in popular music biasing me toward it. And, heck, playing Dance Dance Revolution GB prepared me for games like Flash Flash Revolution, which is something I’ve played for what seems like an eternity. I guess the only thing I regret about it is that it took time away from actually practicing DDR– but now that I’m So Over Dance Games, I guess that doesn’t matter anymore, either.

(I’m SO over them.)

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