PlayStation PlayStation 2 Reviews

Britney's Dance Beat - The Final Bust A Groove Game?

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Britney's Dance Beat - PlayStation 2

Britney's Dance Beat

Developer: Metro Corporation (PlayStation 2), Hyperspace Cowgirls (PC), Art Co., Ltd (Game Boy Advance)
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: May 8, 2002

Two years after the release of Bust A Groove 2, its developers, Metro Corporation, moved on to other projects, some of which were PlayStation 1 titles released very late in its cycle. During the same year, Metro would release Bust A Move: Dance Summit 2001, a game that would take the existing formula of the first two games and change it completely while maintaining the same flavor the series was known for. Unfortunately, for whatever reason Dance Summit 2001 was never released for the Western market, leaving many of its international fans hung out to dry. However, it wouldn't be the last time American fans would see Metro Corporation as they would work with THQ and a certain rising pop star on her own game. That game, of course, is Britney's Dance Beat.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. A Japanese developer releases two games in a cult classic series, releases a Japanese exclusive title, and returns for one final hurrah with a game tied to a celebrity. If all of this is reminiscent of Cool Boarders and the development of Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder in the aftermath of UEP Systems, then you'd be correct! The fact that this happened twice with two different developers around a similar time frame is nothing short of intriguing. It makes me wonder how many developers were known for cult classic niche titles who would develop "popular" titles that utilized an inkling of their former glory.

"Are you a bad enough dude to be a part of Britney Spears' world tour?"

Most of the cast from Bust A Groove 2 returned, with series producer Tsunenari Yada once again reprising his role for Britney's Dance Beat. This is exclusively based on the PlayStation 2 version as the Windows PC and Game Boy Advance versions were developed by two different studios. The Game Boy Advance version keeps as close to the original PS2 version as possible, save for the hardware limitations. The PC version, developed by a small studio that focused on "girl games," is easily the weakest of the three. It would be some time until games meant for that specific demographic would release to the same quality as other titles. Metro did their best with Britney's Dance Beat, but was it good enough?

The game begins with the central character herself, Britney Spears, introducing the player to her world. Various scenes of her performances are mixed with in-game CGI and the menus all tell the same story. In 2002, Britney Spears was a global phenomenon, and having a rhythm game based on her choreography made a lot of sense at the time. Not only would it sell copies due to the Britney Spears branding, but it was also a chance for Metro to retain the glory of the late 90s.

Remember, the original Bust A Move and its sequel weren't exactly "family friendly." The slapstick humor and suggestive content weren't just toned down but were removed altogether. I'm fairly positive Britney Spears would not have appreciated being involved in a project that had as much wild stuff as Bust A Move had.

The aesthetic, music, and art design scream the early 2000s and it feels like a time capsule.

Instead, the player controls one of six characters, all of whom are literally identical to one another aside from their win and loss animations. Each hopeful is auditioning to become Britney Spears' new backup dancer and must go through nine auditions against other competitors. The final audition is with Spears herself, yet she's not an unlockable character. Britney's Dance Beat's main unlockable content is its "backstage content," including behind-the-scenes footage of concerts, preparation, and music videos. Each successful song earns points which increase the rank of the player's "backstage pass."

It's a neat touch, but I'd rather have the option to change my character's clothing or have a sense of customization at the very least. There's literally nothing that stood out to me from Elisa to Rob and I didn't feel that sense of personality as I did with the Bust A Move cast. Again, this can be narrowed down to the developers following a strict process involving THQ and Britney Spears and I wish it was possible to know the developmental process of this game. Upon selecting a character, the player has a choice between five songs.

  • "...Baby One More Time"
  • "Oops! ... I Did It Again"
  • "Stronger"
  • "Overprotected"
  • "I'm A Slave 4 U"
The gameplay is simple on paper, but there's a madness to the method.

The songs can be done in any order, with the difficulty of each song ordered from easiest to difficult. After the first patch is complete, the player has to perform all five songs again, this time with their full version. The songs themselves aren't the bulk of Britney's Dance Beat's challenge but rather it's the gameplay itself. On paper, it's deceptively simple. Both dancers have a rotating dial with a beam that highlights button prompts.

The player must press the right button on the beat of the guide, similar to Bust A Groove, but there are no further inputs required. All four face buttons are used, but it's simply "Press this button on this beat." What makes this interesting is the "battle" mechanic. This is a Metro-developed game, so there is "fighting," but not in the way of previous games.

On every 10th combo, the dancer will automatically jam their opponent's command dial, ranging from changing the button input at the last second, shifting a button prompt to another note, or filling in empty spaces. Directional buttons also come into play on the more difficult charts. In the first five stages, it's not a big deal, but when the player returns for the full versions of the songs things can get chaotic. Since every 10th combo something happens to the opposing dancer, one attack can happen on Combo 10, then Combo 20 another thing happens, and so on.

Britney Spears occasionally comes out for a solo meant to help you score better. Not even that's enough.

The AI loves to cheat and gain momentum, easily deflecting your attacks despite how good the player performs, while the increased complexity of the attacks can easily jam up your board. There were times when I would have easily a 60+ combo only to lose it and the round because it became too much to withstand.

I wasn't having fun anymore or enjoying the music, which was a shame because the backgrounds for each song are pretty cool. There's a cool Far Eastern-inspired map, an Aquarium looking place, and others. The choreography was also meant to be as accurate to the source of each song as possible. Even Britney shows up during specific moments of the songs for dance routines.

None of this matters if it feels as if the player is hopeless against a tug-of-war versus an AI with a streak. What made Bust A Groove 2 excellent is that the AI also very much so cheats. You're given tools to make the odds work in your favor by stealing solos and dealing damage when appropriate. In Britney's Dance Beat, if you're struggling, there's almost no chance for a comeback. There were many instances where I'd do fairly well in a song only to barely lose at the end. It would be amazing if there was an incentive, like an unlockable character or a movie showing your character's bio. It's just Britney letting you know you did a good job and that was it.

I was stuck on "Stronger" for about a half hour until I just had enough. Guess nothing went my way but my loneliness ain't killing me no more---

It was unfortunate that Britney's Dance Beat wasn't the hit it should have been. A few minor adjustments would have made this game an underground hit and it is a game that's often talked fondly about in childhood. However, the rose-tinted glasses fail to reveal how frustrating the game can get and with little reward to show for it.

Unless you're a die-hard Britney Spears fan, these rewards may not be worth the cost of admission. Regardless, the beautiful graphics, animations, and five of Britney Spears' best songs make up for it. At that point, I'd just recommend playing her first three albums in rotation than muddling about in Britney's Dance Beat.

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