In 2005, a revolution was going on. A Dance Dance Revolution! Nintendo wanted in on a piece of the action and did so by partnering with the once-significant Konami to produce DDR Mario Mix for the Gamecube. I never got the game back then, but I was part of that revolution. You see, a few years after the PS2 came out and I was in a bit of a rut with my Gamecube, I finally bought in on Sony’s console for one express purpose.
Yep. Dance Dance Revolution.
I’d seen the game trailers and I knew it would not only be great fun but also a great way to exercise! I began with the starter pack which was basically a DDR game and a flimsy little mat. That mat died almost right away. Undeterred, I exchanged it for a new one and that mat lasted…well, a month. Still undeterred, I bought in on some high-quality, $50 foam mats from, uh…I don’t remember where…and the dancing was on!
In fact, I still have my PS2 hooked up downstairs in my basement and I still only have a handful of games for it and 80% of them are DDR games…and I still play DDR! (Ya know, I should do a Top 10 list like I did with Just Dance. I have a whole bunch of fav-…OK, I digress.)
A couple years ago I found a used, complete-in-box version of DDR Mario Mix for Gamecube and, of course, I couldn’t resist. I tried out a couple levels and could tell it would probably be an easier version of the game, but I did like that it revolved around a story and I knew one day I’d play through the whole game.
Tonight, I did. So, let’s review my experience!
What Is Mario Mix Exactly?
First of all, let it be known that Mario Mix is the only real DDR game available on the Gamecube. It’s unfortunate that Konami didn’t leverage the Mario tie-in (and pad availability) by following it up with ports of their great PS2 games…but for whatever reason they didn’t. It’s probably what led to their demise. So if you bought Mario Mix in the big box with the pad, then you were only ever going to use that pad for Mario Mix itself.
The game mechanics are exactly the same as DDR and still feature that eponymous voice from the original games. (If you’ve played the games then you know what I mean.) Where the game differs is that the primary gameplay is a Story Mode that follows Mario and Toad as they rescue “the four musical keys” that have been stolen from Truffle Towers by Waluigi. (They make the culprit a mystery in the beginning but you have to be really dense not to make him out from his silhouette.) Breaking down into 4 levels per world, across 4 worlds, you seek them out. There’s a two-part 5th world that then ties the story up…and can you guess who the final boss is? Go on, just guess. 😉
The level structure isn’t the only thing that’s different either. The dancing sometimes changes up to present different challenges. In one level, Cheep Cheeps jump and move dance steps around so that, while you’re maybe expecting to hit DOWN, the step becomes a RIGHT at the last second. There may also be steps that are replaced by Goombas or Boos as well. (These are really tricky because they aren’t arrow symbols and it can throw you off if they’re one of the UP or DOWN steps.)
Overall, the game difficulty is approximately “Light” mode in a regular DDR game and even then not really that hard either. If you’re a DDR pro, you won’t have any trouble. This game was definitely targeted at non-DDR players first and foremost.
The Game In Action
Since Mario Mix is a shelf-piece for me, and my Gamecube is set up in a cramped location, I decided I was just going to play the whole game in one sitting (standing?) and do it by moving the Gamecube up to my main TV for a little while. From title screen to game credits, the game took me 90 minutes. I didn’t fail at any level except the snowball bonus stage where the first one hit me because I had no clue they would move laterally! If you’ve never played DDR before, I could see the game taking a few hours or more maybe. You just have to get used to how DDR is played.
(TIPS: It’s important to realize that you can stand on the arrows without penalty, so try not to just keep your feet in the middle and keep moving them outward. You’ll get no rhythm and it’s too much movement. Keep your feet on the arrows with LEFT and RIGHT being a good resting position.)
The game begins with Toad alerting Mario to the missing musical notes in the Mushroom Kingdom. Immediately, the story feels a little forced as this seems to be some alternate universe where Mario is some kind of dance monster. It’s also refreshing because right away you realize that the dancing is going to be somewhat unique as it’s very integrated into the story. After an opening dance level that is straight DDR, you then use the pad to play some whack-a-goomba instead. It’s the little twists like this that keep the game fresh and entertaining all the way through.
The results of each level are graded just like DDR, though many levels have secondary requirements you must also satisfy to advance. Boss battles are generally dance-offs against classic Mario foes where you not only have to out-dance Wario, for example, but you have to avoid more Bobombs than him as well.
As you continue through the game, the challenges get more difficult but the dancing never gets too hard. It’s more tricky than anything. In some levels, you have to step on projectiles that are moving back and forth between you and your opponent. In can get tough to gauge what step they’ll land on because of how they move. Be careful and you should have no problem, though, as the dancing just isn’t fast enough to distract you.
Eventually, you make your way to World 4 where the final musical key is and, even still, it’s not really all that hard. I do like how the boss battle is on 4-3 but then follows up on 4-4. With all the keys in hand you head back to Truffle Towers where, of course, Bowser steals them from Toad and to World 5 we go! Once there, the fight with Bowser is on!
The fight with Bowser involves collecting rocket parts that appear on random steps that are used to send attacks his way. Hit him 3 times and he’s a goner! Again, it’s not too challenging, but by this point half-steps are present that can trip up the n00bs.
DDR Mario Mix is an average game that a DDR fan will want to have in their collection, and you might enjoy for a few hours, but obviously isn’t a serious Mario title. There’s some good replayability to be found in workout modes and other mini-games that I haven’t fully explored, but past that there’s nothing else you’ll be able to use your dancemat for.
I recommend the game as a great collector’s item because of the beautiful big box it comes in, but as far as playing it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Still, go ahead and give it a try! If you do, I highly recommend grabbing a PS2 and DDRMAX 2 like I did and get on the path to becoming a dancing pro!