The third iteration of Dance Central arrives and it’s fantastic. If you haven’t heard of the Dance Central craze, here’s the quick synopsis:

There are dance games that let you experience flashback favorites. This one challenges you with full-on time travel! As a new recruit to Dance Central Intelligence headquarters, you must travel back in time to spark the biggest dance sensations of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s, while grooving to the biggest hits of each era. Dance through songs to collect enough power moves to spark a Dance Craze, then move on to the next decade. New modes include a Crew Throwdown that lets two teams of four battle it out across a variety of challenges and an expanded Party Mode for up to eight players.

Overview

I tried to find something wrong with this game and I couldn’t. I’m assuming Harmonix listened to the people and they have created the best dance game out there ever made. It’s so good that they even made YMCA look cool.

The Menu

The menu isn’t really complicated, but it is when reviewing it so I tried to sort everything out in an easy to understand format. When you first start it up, you can go into the Main Menu or Start The Party mode, which I’ll get into later. There’s also an About option that just has textual excerpts that cover the Safety Warning, Kinect Warning, Warranty, Customer Support and the Credits. Harmonix created the swipe method via Kinect and it returns and works as well as it has in the previous two titles, voice commands return as well as the controller option. There’s also a new voice over confirmation that sounds all MI6 when confirming options.

Main Menu

The main menu consists of your main options, Dance, Story, Fitness, Live Challenges and Buy More Songs. There’s also the options which I’ll get into later as well. Dance mode gets you right into the game. There are more options to choose from under here which include Perform, Rehearse, Battle, Party Time, and Crew Throwdown.

Perform

Perform is your main area to just start dancing to a song. You first start by choosing a song. Once selected, you can choose the difficulty which consists of a new Beginner mode, Easy, Medium and Hard. Beginner mode will be much welcomed by newcomers. If you have never danced before in your life or can’t keep a beat, beginner mode helps you with this. It consists of very basic steps and slight arm movements, yet it still helps you with the more difficult levels as the moves are part of the more difficult moves. If you are new to the series, the way the difficulty modes work is easy repeats a lot of the basic moves to the song so you can get used to them. In medium, typically instead of repeating those moves, they are toned down to a few repetitions of the moves while you are introduced to new moves. Hard mode puts it all together so you are rarely repeating moves but still being introduced to much more difficult moves. This system works very well. You can always just jump right into hard, but don’t plan on gold starring it unless you play that song over and over, whereas following the difficulty system, it won’t take you long at all to gold star a song.

After difficulty has been chosen, you can either start it, choose a different character or change the venue. Fans of the series will be glad to know that all previous characters are all back in this one. The list of characters you can choose are:

  • Rasa
  • Lima
  • Miss Aubrey
  • Angel
  • Mo
  • Glitch
  • Taye
  • Li’l T.
  • Emilia
  • Bodie
  • Dr. Tan
  • Oblio
  • Dare
  • MacCoy
  • Kerith
  • Jaryn
  • Cyph56
  • Cyph78
  • Marcos
  • Frenchy
  • Shinju
  • Kichi

What a nice bell I thought was that if you choose a different character, it’s remembered throughout until you change it again so you don’t have to keep changing characters per song if you have a favorite. Not all characters are available right away as you do have to unlock them. Once you choose a character, you can also change their outfits. Some of the outfits are locked right away as well, but the choices are:

  • Retro Fitted (DC3 outfits)
  • Crew Look (DC2 outfits)
  • Street Style (Alternative DC3 outfit)
  • DCI Agent (Typically all black)
  • DC Classic (DC1 outfits)

The venues are more or less per decade era which consist of:

  • DCI HQ (10’s)
  • Free Skate (70’s)
  • TopRock Ave. (80’s)
  • Invite Only (90’s)
  • Studio 675 (00’s)
  • Crow’s Nest (Dr. Tan’s hideout)

Now if you mix up characters or venues with songs, you can always choose the default again to revert everything as it was. As you progress through the game, no matter what mode you play, you do level up based on all kinds of different factors of the songs. With each level, you typically unlock something which is always good to have a goal. I haven’t fully completed the game so I am not certain if there are more venues or not.

As for dancing itself, it’s more accurate than the previous two, I’m not sure how this was accomplished. You have to be spot on for a lot of the new moves, and a lot of the new moves now involve either walking in place to the beat or bending your knees a little and just little foot/leg movements here and there while doing arm/head movements. I found that if you don’t do them almost perfectly you will not score a flawless. Moves are rated on the same system from nothing at all (red), almost, nice and flawless. Obviously your goal is to get all flawless but it’s quite challenging without practice.

Rehearse

If you need practice, this is the area you want to go to. Usher actually does the voice commentary now instead of the normal guy from DC2. How it works is you pick a song, choose a difficulty and then you can either practice parts of the song or the full song. Once it starts, the cue card will show up and you just start dancing the move. If you don’t do it flawless, Usher asks you to repeat it 3 times. You only need nice and above to proceed. If you fail the 3 tries, then you move on automatically but you can choose to practice the move again that you had trouble with. You can also slow it down or speed it up again if you are really trying to nail a move, but some of the moves are ridiculously fast that being able to slow down is a good thing. After you do a set of moves, you then dance the set as a whole. After you complete the practice you are rated on how well you did.

Battle

Battle mode is where you get to battle head to head against someone else and whomever has the highest score wins. It’s the same as Dance Central 2 with the one-on-one competition, the solo runs and the free-for-all with the first player to perform the move scores the points. There is something new now at the end with a pose finish. If you perform a flawless finish at the end of the song, the game then cycles through a series of still poses. You keep posing until someone fails to match the pose. The poses are worth some hefty points, so a comeback from far behind is very possible now.

Party Time

This is a new add-on to this iteration that basically is an endless playlist of song after song. It can be played by 1-8 players. Songs are either chosen randomly or with a playlist. The new Xbox Smartglass feature can also be used if a group of people are playing, which I made its own section for as I thought it was quite cool. Within the party time mode, there are several more options to choose from, the first being to Start The Party. This is the same option that is selectable from the beginning of the game.

The next option is the settings which I’ll break down as usual. The first setting is Select Difficulty. You can choose from any of the difficulties and either set the difficulty all-around for every song, or choose the difficulty per song. The next option allows you toggle different game modes on or off. The game modes include Perform, which is the same as the single player option which just allows you to perform the song. Battle mode is the same as the normal battle mode. Three new ones, however, are Keep The Beat, Make Your Move and Strike A Pose.

Keep The Beat is a freestyle mode where basically you just have to dance to the beat. If you are rhythm capable, you can score easily here. Make Your Move is quite neat as both players get to create their own moves. Each player first records 2 moves, then the engine itself creates a routine for the other player to follow. What’s even better about it is that it works exceptionally well. Strike A Pose is similar to the ending poses in the Battle mode. The difference is you pose throughout the entire song, and the better you do, the more poses are thrown at you.

The other options allow you to pull songs from a playlist and lastly, a full length song option. I complained about it in Dance Central 2 and it seems this time Harmonix has come around. The majority of the songs are full length which is much appreciated, although some songs are shortened depending on the song. The way Harmonix shortened the songs though, isn’t a bad thing at all, it’s quite genius in fact. For example, Wild Ones is missing the main chorus (slow girl singing part) in between verse 1 and 2, however, after the moves in the first verse, you are all about jumping around to that “fist pumping music” as Flo-Rida says, so going back to the slow singing part makes no sense and it feels really natural jumping from verse 1 to 2. Whoever is remixing the tracks is doing a superb job at it.

Crew Throwdown

This is another new mode that kind of reminds me of the Step Up movies. It’s the other mode that is capable of 2-8 players and you create your dance crew with 2 teams. Each player has their photo taken so the game knows who is who, as well as yourself, and then you start a dance off. All of the same options in Party Time mode are available here as well. I didn’t play it for very long, but if I recall, I remember seeing something about an elimination type deal where somehow the best dancer against of the crew faces off against the other best dancer, but I could be wrong. Anyhow, it’s all around good competition.

Story

The story mode is your normal campaign mode just as Dance Central 2 was, but this time, it was done with much more meaning in my opinion. If you don’t know about the background, there’s an agency called Dance Central Intelligence and they keep control of the dance scene to make sure people keep dancing. Dr. Tan has other plans and you are then initiated and recruited into DCI. All of the crews from DC2 were transported back in time to a certain decade to make sure the dancing is still going on. You first start in the 70’s, which realistically, most of the dance moves back in the day are quite simple compared to what they are today. As you dance through that decades songs, you will get some blurry moves and these are the dance craze moves.

Your job is to learn these moves, then decode them to learn the dance craze to make sure it remains the dance craze of that decade. What I found really cool is these are the real dance crazes that we grew up with, and Harmonix left the routine original except added their own flair to it which makes it so much more exciting. This is the thing, in real life, you can incorporate this extra flair and not feel stupid because you are still doing the real routine, but adding “swag” to it, so to speak.

Anyhow, as the story progresses, you go through each decade and you will really see the difference in clothing, dance moves and well as music types. It really helps you understand how music has been shaped through the years and makes you appreciate it even more. It’s a great concept instead of just mashing together a bunch of songs and calling it a dance game.

Unfortunately you will probably have to beat the story mode on each difficulty level, except beginner isn’t available in the story mode and the story gets a little repetitive after completing it. You can’t skip everything, but you can skip the majority of it so it’s not too much suffering. The story really explains everything, as previously with DC2, a lot of fans were not pleased so many beloved characters were missing and this one bridges that gap.

Fitness

Fitness mode is back and it’s been revamped a little but for the better. For those that have Kinect PlayFit, DC3 utilizes it very well. Your first option is to enable Fitness Tracking, which I would recommend before doing anything else. It doesn’t hurt to have it on. The next option is to set your weekly goals. You can choose to have a number of active days from 1-7 and choose from how many calories you would like to burn from 100-3000. You can choose either one or have both on.

The next option is to edit your exercise info, however if you have Kinect Playfit your settings will automatically be input into the settings. These options include Height, Weight, Birth Year and Gender. The last option is to work with a playlist. You can create a custom playlist or use one of the many playlists already created. These include the following:

  • 70’s Grooves
  • 80’s Tuneage
  • 90’s Singles
  • 00’s Faves
  • 10’s Hits
  • Riptide’s Requiems
  • Hi-Def’s Hits
  • Flash4wrd’s Favorites
  • Lu$h Crewlist
  • D-Coy’s Discography
  • DCI’s Downloads
  • Warm Up
  • Steady
  • Sweatin’
  • Cardio Groove
  • Goin’ Crazy
  • Sprint
  • Intervals
  • The Long Haul

Playlists accumulate the total time of the tracks so if you want a quick 5-10 minute playlist, it’s available. It’s really a nice feature that you can use this as a workout title instead of using an actual workout title.

Live Challenges

I was curious to what this was as it’s new as well. I did not import DC2 yet, but I had 2 options to choose from, either DC3 Challenges or DLC Challenges. When you choose one, it’s a predetermined song chosen by Harmonix I’m assuming, and you can choose what medal you want to go for. It has your typical bronze, silver and gold medals. The medals are achieved by beating a certain score. Once you beat that score, a medal is earned and your score is flaunted to all of your friends that have Dance Central 3. Once it’s flaunted, your friends have the option to try to beat your score or you can try to beat your friend’s scores. It makes for a really competitive mode. Challenges expire within so many days so be sure to always check back to earn medals.

Buy More Songs

This section has been revamped a little and it seems to be easier to navigate in my opinion. Your main options are Shopping Cart, which is definitely welcomed – either save songs for your wish list or be specific on what you want to purchase all at once – New & Sale Songs which only shows you new songs within X amount of days and songs that are on sale. Songs let you view every song every song ever released. Packs are the song packs that have been released. Avatar Items are custom DC items for your avatar. Song Import offers allows you to import previous Dance Central and Dance Central 2 songs. If you imported songs from Dance Central into Dance Central 2, the DC1 songs are automatically in DC3. You do however have to import DC2 songs into DC3 for a small fee of 400 Microsoft Points.

As always, it’s fantastic we can just keep growing our music library. Other dance titles that offer DLC and then come out with a new version, typically do not give this option and I don’t understand why. Harmonix does us right again with this option. Also a quick note, the preview mode is back with the black and white drawing guy showing the moves before you buy/choose a song.

Options

There are quite a few options as well. They are split into 4 main categories which are Gameplay Settings, A/V Settings, Movies and Tutorials. Gameplay settings are basically on/off options which include Photos, Freestyle, Voice, Autosave and the ability to choose your storage device for saved games.

A/V Settings offer A/V Calibration which allows you to sync the video with the sound, so you really can’t blame it on the TV or the game on why you are not doing good. The Kinect Tuner is here as well, with on/off options for Video Overscan and Surround Sound. Lastly, you can adjust the crowd and effects volume.

Movies stores all of the movies from the story mode so you can watch them as many times as you would like, however you have to unlock them first. There aren’t a lot but I’ll list them anyway.

  • Dance Central 3 Intro
  • Lu$h Crew Dossier
  • Hi-Def Dossier
  • Flash4wrd Dossier
  • Riptide Dossier
  • Credits

Tutorials

The tutorials are definitely more informative than the predecessor, and there’s a lot more this around because of all of the new features. I felt that if you want to know what’s the same/different with this title, reading my crazy long review might not help, but the tutorials hopefully will. I created a video of all of the tutorials in one so you can see for yourself and it’s much quicker than my review. The list of tutorials it covers and in the same order in the video are:

  • Perform
  • Battle
  • Rehearse
  • Playlists
  • Crew Throwdown
  • Party Time
  • Voice Control
  • Live Challenges
  • Fitness
  • Keep The Beat
  • Master Quest
  • Strike A Pose
  • Make Your Move

Smart Glass

This is a new feature from Windows 8 actually and Dance Central 3 is the first title to incorporate it automatically. Forza Horizon has just released their app, but it’s not bundled in the game itself. What this does, is if you remember the Nintendo Gamecube days where they were attempting to have your GameBoy plug in as a secondary device to give you additional hints/tips for games (Zelda Wind Waker I remember quite clearly), basically that’s what this is. If you didn’t go that route, possibly the VMU’s from the Dreamcast way back in the day started the beginning of this idea.

Anyhow, the Smart Glass is available either on your PC running Windows 8, Mobile devices and tablets. As of right now, I know it’s all new and what not, so additional functions are limited. In this particular title, you get a few options to mess around with. Those options include Party Time DJ, Songs/Playlists, Challenges, and Fitness. I do have the luxury of having everything above, so I noticed only on the mobile device and the tablet, there is a Photos option which connects to Facebook to automatically upload photos.

I did take some screenshots for those that are curious from Windows 8 so you can get an idea of what the app does. It’s pretty identical on the portable devices except some options are in different places, but more or less, they have the same overall idea.

Conclusion

As I mentioned, I couldn’t find one thing wrong with this game. Harmonix did an amazing job and if you want to learn how to really dance, or just have the best dance game available, this is the one you want. I don’t know how Harmonix is going to even do better if they are planning on another dance title, that’s how good this one is. This is the first title I’ve ever rated a 10 but only because it deserves it, even the in-game menu music is catchy and cool. The demo doesn’t really cover anything and DC1 or DC2 may give a bad taste in your mouth, so to speak, if you haven’t played them before. You could probably skip those 2 and just get this one, but if you want to expand your library you will want the other 2. Harmonix is always on top of DLC as well, and have already confirmed “Gangnam Style” and “Call Me Maybe” will be available shortly, plus many more in the upcoming months as this is one of the VERY few Kinect titles that does not get stale. You will not be disappointed.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Dance Central 3
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?