Another day another Dance Dance Revolution game. The most recent game I'd played was Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 2 on Wii, so rather than go into Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 3 I picked up Dance Dance Revolution X. Hottest Party 2 and DDR X were actually released on the same day in North America (9/16/2008), but the two games do feel distinct. The Hottest Party games have the Wii motion controls for arm movements and a Bratz-like aesthetic that I generally disliked. DDR X was released to mark the 10th anniversary of the series and has the more-familiar characters and aesthetics (and EyeToy support, which I didn't bother with).
Aside from differences in the presentation, DDR X has a lengthy story mode, a first for the series. Each of the characters has a series of missions that are presented as ten episodes (usually), each with two difficulty levels. The harder difficulty level can get to be quite challenging, e.g. if you make more than four mistakes you lose, and you have to pass two of three song options, but the easier difficulty level is always the more straightforward "play to the end of this song" type of challenge (although as the story mode progresses this could still prove to be challenging to DDR n00bs). At the beginning only a few characters' stories are unlocked, and completing one character's story usually unlocks one of two of the others'. Sometimes you won't be able to continue with one character's story until you complete part of another character's, which seems fairly pointless but helps break things up. Playing through each of the characters' stories would take more than half an hour, so with fourteen characters there's plenty of gameplay just in this mode. Granted, the gameplay is just your standard tried-and-true DDR, but the framework helps keep your interest. Beating all of a character's normal episodes unlocks an alternate costume for that character, and completing all of her/his advanced episodes unlocks another alternate costume. The stories are about as nonsensical as you'd expect (similar to the Pokemon games, basically every conversation or conflict ends with "let's dance!"), but it's fun to get more of the story and personality behind the characters, many of whom have been part of the franchise for a long time.
Because the game was for the 10th anniversary of the series, the game leans much more heavily on DDR tracks from previous games in the series rather than covers of licensed tracks like the DDR Hottest Party games. I found myself wishing it were a little more balanced, but I recognized a lot of the songs so I didn't mind too much. I can tell I'm becoming more of a DDR vet because I've also spent time trying to make amateur repairs to my wonky dance pads. It turns out that by cutting open the pad and making good use of tape and some packing foam I was able to get my dance pad into pretty decent shape, although I'm still dreaming of the day that I can afford getting an actual metal arcade controller, haha.
Dance Dance Revolution X turns out to be a solid entry in the series, and thanks to the story mode it ends up ranking high on my favorites overall. The game got middling reviews when it was released for not innovating, but, really, pretty much all the DDR games are the same, so that didn't really bother me, haha.