Just Dance is one of the most innocent franchises out there: forget about shooting or using powerful spells. Just Dance wants you to Just Dance and that’s it. There is not a lot to it, and it was somehow innovative early on in the series. Unfortunately, the franchise has done little to innovate after so many releases.
Just Dance 2016
Avilable on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (tested), Wii U, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Just Dance 2016 is the 15th and latest title in the series since it was introduced in 2009. The main selling point this year is the ability to play with your smartphone. All you need to do is to download the Just Dance Controller App –for free and without ads, as you would expect-, and you are good to go. No extra accessories needed. This looks like a nice touch until you realize basic Kinect features have been stripped off. Kinect is an afterthought on this release. You want to use it? You can, but you will not be able to navigate thru the options or even start the game. You are forced to use either your phone or your Xbox controller, making it not so hands-free anymore.
There are also a few new modes, like Dance Party. Players can work together cooperatively to achieve a high score or play against each other to see who is the best dancer. We have World Video Challenge, which allows videos to be uploaded to the Just Dance community and played against. Videos can be created with Showtime, and it provides some sort of flexibility to add effects to your dance sessions, but there is not much about it. The most notable addition is Dance Quest, where players face off against AI in a round of three songs. Dancers are rewarded with more points for placing higher in a song and the player who has the most points at the end, wins the quest.
While it is nice Ubisoft is actively adding new modes, not a single one brings anything new to the table. This is a real issue for niche titles like this with annual releases. They are all just glorified ways to play the game in exactly the same way. Randomly choosing three songs in Dance Quest against several fake players is not appealing for everyone when you could simply play whatever three songs of your choosing in a different mode, and the playlist is not long enough to make you discover new songs.
In all fairness, there is simply not a lot of places to take this series. You have some sort of karaoke to earn extra points by singing and you also have the Sweat mode to burn some extra calories, but as the title suggest, the game is just about dancing, which is difficult to sell on an annual basis.
To alleviate this issue, Ubisoft is introducing Just Dance Unlimited. It is a streaming service with access to over 150 Just Dance hits, with new tracks added through the year. Players can dance to fun favorites and hot new hits like “Cheerleader” (Felix Jaehn Remix) by OMI. But there is a catch: we need to spend extra money on top of the $49.99 price tag of the vanilla game. The cheapest Just Dance Unlimited option is the annual subscription at $39.99 a year. It’s pricey.
But the biggest issue with Just Dance 2016 is the song selection. You will find songs released between 2007 and 2013 like “I Gotta Feeling“ from The Black Eyed Peas. Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way,” Britney Spears’ “Circus,” and Shakira’s “Rabiosa” also made their way in. With a constantly rotating top 40, is it really necessary to include such old songs? They could easily be added to the streaming service for people who still want to dance to those songs instead of using the service to sell current songs.
Just Dance 2016 remains fun despite some questionable choreography. Unfortunately, while fun, there is no point in keep releasing this series annually if there is not going to be an effort to capture the current music scene. Only eight licensed songs of the over forty included in total are from this year. Ubisoft realized this, but I don’t think a subscription-based content delivery service is the solution. The focus on smartphone use is also a nice touch, but Xbox players took a huge hit by stripping off basic Kinect features.