The Just Dance series has been a mainstay of Wii history since the first of Ubisoft’s dance titles appeared back in 2009.
In the meantime, we’ve had yearly updates which have refined the series, added video recording and more group-based activities and have spread out across more formats, thanks to Sony and Microsoft both adding motion capturing devices to their consoles.
But it’s arguably Nintendo that still provide the best fit for Just Dance; a motion controller you still have hold of, a console dedicated to the more casual and younger end of the market and a sense that the style of the game matches that of the console.
So what new features can Just Dance 2016 bring to the table? Well, the biggest addition is the use of a mobile app which allows your phone to be used as a controller. For the other consoles this makes sense, they don’t have physical controls, but for Wii U owners it’s more likely that they’ve already got several Wii Remotes stashed away somewhere. Without Wii remotes it’s actually pretty useful and seems to work fairly well, though is dependent on how good the motion detector in the phone is. It’s just a pity that you can’t use these in conjunction with the remotes rather than having to choose either one or the other.
The next big addition and one that will probably see the biggest change in direction from an annual series going forward, is Just Dance Unlimited. It’s a subscription based model costing as much as the game itself each year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it replacing the annual releases. It provides hundreds of songs, old and new, to play in the game and Ubisoft are planning to bring new songs out on a regular basis. It’s worth noting that Just Dance Unlimited is only available on the current generation of consoles (PS4, Xbox One and Wii U), so older generations miss out on this and some of the other social features.
Will Just Dance Unlimited work in practice? It’s pretty much integrated directly into the track selection screen and is as easy as choosing any other track, but the subscription model may put players off, especially when popular tracks like Omi’s Cheerleader are exclusive to the service.
Other new modes include Dance Party, which is basically a multiplayer for dancers to work together or against each other. This is pretty much the crux of every Just Dance game since the first, though.
World Video Challenge gives you the ability to upload your own dance results for others to compete against and is part of the series growing trend of getting dancers all over the world to compete with each other or share content. It actually works pretty well and it’s nice to feel as if you’re part of a global community.
Showtime is a mode where players can (sort of) create music videos and is similar to World Video Challenge in that it’s designed for sharing, but less as a competition and more as a content building exercise.
Dance Quest is similar to last year’s competition mode, get a three song playlist given to you by the game and compete against others around the world in a leaderboard-based competition. It’s good to see that there are already hundreds of people taking part in this across the world (most of them in Europe, it seems) and it certainly seems to be providing popular.
Of course, all these modes follow the tried and tested routine of past Just Dance games with the same choreography (bar Showtime) and even some of the same songs. The track listing is always going to be down to personal taste but this year it’s even more centred around the more ‘popular’ side of pop, with a few Eurodance style tracks, some Latin (Shakira), Bollywood and JPop. Some have appeared in previous games and others seem a little old to be included in a 2016 line-up but if you look at the exclusives appearing on Just Dance Unlimited it’s clear to see what’s happening here and where the series is headed.
I suspect the potential audience for Just Dance 2016 already know whether they want this game or not. It’s certainly more of an incremental update to the series in terms of features and this has really been the biggest issue with the last few titles in the series, but if you’re after the constantly evolving song selection and don’t mind paying an annual subscription for Just Dance Unlimited then it might be that Ubisoft have taken a step in the right direction.