As long as the game works, people can quickly learn how to play and you have enough controllers, party games are always a good time. That’s the formula that the Just Dance series has used and they are sticking by it. Just Dance 3 is here just in time for the holidays, and, although not much has changed, there is still lots of fun to be had in this third iteration for the hugely popular series. I think it’s safe to say that casual and hardcore gamers agree: It’s just fun to dance.
Now, obviously, to hit the casual crowd, the game has to be a casual experience, and Just Dance 3 is as casual as it gets. You pick up the Wii remote in one hand, select the song you want to dance to in the menus, and then follow the on-screen characters’ dance moves as the Wii remote’s motion controls identify whether or not you’re doing them right. It’s as simple as it gets. If you have this game being played at any social gathering, people will watch and get intrigued because they will instantly understand that “Hey, I can do this too.” That’s the genius of Just Dance 3. Non-gamers, mothers, little children, and people who don’t speak the same language as you can play this game and enjoy it.
When I said that Just Dance 3 sticks to the tried and true formula of accessibility, I should have also mentioned that it also sticks to the formula of, basically, everything else. Changes in this year’s title doesn’t differ much from last year’s. Just Dance 3 looks and plays the same as its predecessors, and even though that doesn’t necessarily equate to a bad thing, it certainly doesn’t help either. When dancing to a song, the screen is very colorful and the dancers you are supposed to follow are usually wearing something outrageous. Heck, most of the time I don’t even refer to some of the dances by the name of the song; I would usually say something along the lines of “the one with the American Indian chief dancing” or simply “the robot one.”
Scoring high points and completing songs remains largely the same, too. You earn points and a star rating after each performance, and also given critiques along the lines of “In Rhythm” or “Energetic.” One notable difference that debuts on Just Dance 3 is the ability to play through 4-player songs that require the collaboration and choreography of each player as individuals. What this means is that for certain songs each person will have designated dance moves that are specific to which on-screen character they choose. Here, you will find moments where you and your friends will have to pull off moves that require you guys to switch sides, step behind one another, and, especially if you don’t have enough room to play, most likely bump into each other in the process. Fun times are to be had with this one, folks.
With all the same thrown into Just Dance 3 from the first two, it’s a bit frustrating that there was almost no signs at an attempt to break out of their comfort zone. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and not fix something that isn’t broke, but I can only see this franchise being run down to the ground if this keeps up. Just Dance 3 isn’t stale yet, but, at least for me, it is getting there. You can only offer virtually the same game with new songs to replace the old ones for so long and expect people to pay for a new game year after year. The future of Just Dance looks promising for now, but so did Guitar Hero when it got to its third iteration, and look what happened there.
And who can forget about the songs, right? That has to be the key to this game, and it can easily be seen as the sole reason that anybody who already owns Just Dance 1 or 2 would go and pick up this one. This year’s title introduces about 40 all-new tracks to the series. You have some current top hits, some old goodies, and songs I’ve never heard of before so I don’t even know if they’re good or bad. What matters is that the songs are fun to dance to. Some songs are more fun than others, and it was random too, because the songs I suspected to stink turned out to be great, and the one’s I expected to be fun turned out boring. I guess I just don’t know dancing as much as I should. This all, of course, is all dependent on opinion and tastes. What’s lame for me, might be awesome for you. The important thing is that there is enough variety for everyone. A special note I want to make is for anyone who grew up in the 90’s. If you grew up during that time, then I’m sure you will greatly appreciate the addition of Apache (Jump On It). YouTube it if you have no idea what I’m talking about.
A game like Just Dance 3, if you can’t already tell, isn’t about graphics. I also said already the layout is very user-friendly and that anybody who can read can jump right into it. That’s the route they took, and as long as it works, there’s no complaints here. On the technical side, Just Dance 3 suffers from the same waggle-fest issues as the other 99% of the Wii titles out there. I’m sure if I sat on the couch and played sitting down, there’s no way that the game would ever know, but there’s no fun in that. A game like this is one you play with people around you, and if you cared about scoring the best points and beating the game more than having fun and goofing around with your buddies, you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
The Just Dance series originated on the Wii, but unfortunately, it gets the short end of the stick compared to the other system. Just Dance 3 is primarily played through the motion controls of the Wii system. Being that the Wii’s motion technology is the earliest compared to the PS3’s Move controllers and the Xbox 360’s Kinect, it’s understandable that it’s missing one thing the other guys have: a camera. This missing component makes Just Dance 3 on Wii the inferior version, because the other guys take advantage of this feature and have a mode where you create your own dance moves.
The Wii version does try to compensate for this lack of this exclusive mode with the addition of its own exclusive mode called “Hold My Hand Mode.” Here, up to eight players can come together and share four Wii remotes to have sort of a makeshift 8-player mode. Again, you follow the dances on screen, but just this time with eight whole people. This mode will probably rarely be used because of the rare likelihood of having both the space and people to actually play it, but at least that option is always there. Unfortunately, in the end, this is nothing compared to the HD consoles’ mode that bring to the table a whole new concept and dynamic to the Just Dance series.
Bottom line is that you should not expect to have the most accurate dance game in the market, because you won’t find it here. Is Just Dance 3 a cutting edge title that brings the genre to the next level? Of course not, and I don’t think anyone ever expected it to. However, Just Dance 3 serves its purpose and it does it very well. The future of the series is in jeopardy if the same formula is repeated for Just Dance 4 or 5, but for now its charm and enjoyment is still relevant enough for just about anyone who picks up a Wii remote. Also, look elsewhere if you’re looking for a worthwhile single-player mode, or great online multiplayer, because you are not going to find it here. Just Dance 3 is a party game, and don’t expect it to be any more or any less.