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Review of Just Dance 2016 for Wii U

just danec for wii uWhile I was less than impressed with the Wii version of Just Dance 2016, I have to say I was much more impressed with Just Dance 2016 for Wii U.

Here are some of the highlights.

1) Option to Use a Smartphone as a Controller

As on the Xbox One and PS4, you now have the option of using your smartphone as a controller. If you choose this option a QR code will appear on the screen; scan it and you’ll be sent to the iTunes or Google Play Store to download an app called “Just Dance Controller”. Your phone and console need to be on the same WiFi network.

It might take a little trial and error, but once your phone connects it immediately becomes a “second screen” you can use to navigate the menu you see on your TV screen. You can use either your phone or the Wii remote to navigate the menus. Granted, this is a little less of a benefit for Wii U users, as we already had a second screen in the Gamepad (which is relegated to displaying the logo while the phone takes over), but I have to they did a pretty good job.

During gameplay your phone also becomes a controller that works exactly the same as the Wii remote–you hold it in your right hand, dance, and pray that it doesn’t come flying out of your hand. Again, not as much an advantage for Wii U users as for Xbox One or PS4 users, but one immediate benefit is that you can support up to six players vs. four with just the Wii remote.

As for its accuracy, I’d say its comparable to the Wii remote, if a little more forgiving. I tried dancing to the same song and got 3 stars using the Wii remote and 4 stars using my smartphone. That might affect you when you’re playing the online game against other players around the world, where they might have a bit of an advantage in scoring.

2) Better graphics

In the past it seemed that the Wii U version would just port over identical graphics from the Wii version. But here, you can see that the artwork has been redone to take advantage of the superior graphics capabilities of the Wii U.

3) Updated playlist with multiple options for choreography

As with previous versions of Just Dance, songs are choreographed for a single dancer, a duo, a trio, or a quartet; as anyone who’s played a routine involving multiple dancers knows it can be really fun to play as well as to watch. Here are the songs in Just Dance 2016, the artist, and the choreography for each:

  • All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor (1,2)
  • Animals – Martin Garrix (1,2)
  • Balkan Blast Remix – Angry Birds (4)
  • Blame – Calvin Harris Ft. John Newman (1)
  • Born This Way – Lady Gaga (1,3)
  • Boys (Summertime Love) – The Lemon Cubes (3)
  • Chiwawa – Wanko Ni Mero Mero (1)
  • Circus – Britney Spears (1,4)
  • Cool For The Summer – Demi Lovato (1)
  • Copacabana – Frankie Bostello (4)
  • Drop the Mambo – Diva Carmina (1)
  • Fancy – Iggy Azalea Ft. Charli XCX (1,3)
  • Fun – Pitbull Ft. Chris Brown (1)
  • Gibberish – MAX (2)
  • Hangover (BaBaBa) – Buraka Som Sistema (2)
  • Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson (1)
  • Hey Mama – Daid Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack (3)
  • Hit The Road Jack – Charles Percy (2,3)
  • I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas (1,2)
  • I’m An Albatroz – AronChupa (1)
  • Ievan Polkka – Hatsune Miku (1)
  • Irish Meadow Dance – O’Callaghan’s Orchestra (4)
  • Junto a Ti – Disney’s “Violetta” (3)
  • Kaboom Pow – Nikki Yanofsky (1)
  • Kool Kontact – Glorious Black Belts (2)
  • Let’s Groove – Equinox Stars (3)
  • Lights – Ellie Goulding (1)
  • No Control – One Direction (4)
  • Rabiosa – Shakira Fr. El Cata (1)
  • Same Old Love – Selena Gomez (3)
  • Stadium Flow – Imposs (1)
  • Stuck on a Feeling – Prince Royce (1)
  • Teacher – Nick Jonas (1,2)
  • The Choice is Yours – Darius Dante Van Dijk (1)
  • These Boots Are Made for Walking – The Girly Team (1)
  • This is How We Do – Katy Perry (1,4)
  • Under The Sea – Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1)
  • Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars (1,3)
  • Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo (1,2)
  • When The Rain Begins To Fall – Sky Trucking (2)
  • William Tell Overture – Rossini (2)
  • You’re the One That I Want – From The Movie Grease (2)
  • You Never Can Tell – A. Caveman & The Backseats (2)

4) Use of the Wii U Gamepad

While it might seem that using your phone as a controller and second screen makes the Wii U Gamepad obsolete, the truth is that the Gamepad still has multiple uses. The main use is as a camera and microphone. Specifically, you place the unit in front of you so it has your full body shot and the system will automatically record you when you’re dancing and/or singing.

Be forewarned that the system will record you without you knowing in what it calls “AutoDance”, basically turning on and recording you at random places within each song. I had an unpleasant situation where I was dancing in the darkness of night in my skivvies, only to find that after my dance my Gamepad (which had been sitting under me) was recording my every move. Needless to say, I erased that video and if I could have burned it and thrown it out the window I would have.

Thankfully the video won’t be shared with anyone nor saved unless you explicitly tell it to, but be very, very careful when selecting to continue vs. saving or sharing it! Once you do allow them to share a video, it can be shared on World Video Challenge, Just Dance TV, Showtime, and your Dancer Card.

“Party Master” mode is still around–this is where one person controls the songs and the moves using the Gamepad and up to four players (six if using phones as controllers) can dance.

5) Sweat and Playlists

Formerly called “Just Sweat”, this is the part of the game where you can turn on a Kcal counter to track your calorie count, as well as configure a playlist for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or continuous. I’d take the calorie counter with a grain of salt–it would have been more precise if there was a way for them to measure your weight and the intensity of your real movements during gameplay, but in lieu of that I assume they used an average weight and put you on the honor system as to whether you’re really working out intensively or just moving your hands.

It comes with three pre-set sample playlists of 3 songs, 6 songs, and 10 songs as well, but unlike with previous versions you can name and save multiple playlists, choosing any song and even repeating them if you like.

Here’s a video of me dancing to the “short” three-song playlist (unfortunately the audio was muted by YouTube, but you can get an idea of the intensity and length of the workout.)

6) New Features

There are a few new features in the Wii U version I found to be great enhancements to the game

a) Coop Mode

In addition to the traditional Just Dance where you compete against other dancers, in Coop mode you work together with a team to get high scores which collectively are represented by “jewels”. This is great for families where some dancers are stronger than others.

b) Dance Quest

This seems like a feature designed to help incentivize you to keep playing as often as possible. You start out with “Cake Quest” in which you try to score in the top 3 out of 9 computer players for three songs (I Gotta Feeling, Kaboom Pow, Hey Mama). Once you unlock a quest you get a trophy and and an avatar, and then go on to unlock 16 others, each with its own unique requirements.

Here’s me dancing to the Cake Quest (audio muted by YouTube)

They say that you compete against dancers from around the world, but when I played I noticed the avatar names were pretty generic, leading me to believe that if you don’t have an Internet connection or if it can’t find enough players it’ll replace them with computer players.

c) World Video Challenge

This is an interesting new feature where you can have a “video dance off” against someone else in the world. You position your Wii GamePad in front of your TV so it can record you dancing, and then you choose a mode—either going head-to-head against another player or dancing in a group and having the player with the best score in the group

For the head-to-head competition, once the challenge begins you’ll see your live video image on the left, and the video image of the person you’re challenging to the right. The image to the right is a pre-recorded video that someone else did so you’re not actually competing against the person live but against one of their past performances. Specifically you can scroll to choose from “Dance Masters”, random people from around the world, or the best from selected countries (Brazil, US, and France were the choices for me)

What this means, of course, is that all the competition is pretty much going to be someone who practices and practiced until they got as perfect a score as they could. As you can you can see your progress vs your competitor in a color bar so you can see how close (or in my case how far) your score and stars are away from the lead.

It would have been much more interesting to have been able to compete against live dancers, but of course between poor Internet connections around the world and the risk of live videos of people who are rude, intoxicated, and in various stages of being clothed it was probably a wise choice for them to go with the pre-recorded version.

Here’s a video of me dancing to “All About the Bass” against a dancer in Mexico. Yes, I’m dressed in a ninja outfit because as I established previously on my Xbox Fitness blog I’m too bashful to show my face to the world. As you can see, I did “okay” for my second time ever dancing to the song, but my opponent clearly practiced.

After the dance is over a winner is crowned. Something I’m not crazy about is that you’re forced to send a message to your opponent at the end, and it’s not clear if your video goes with it. Ubisoft seems to be pressing the boundaries with privacy which I don’t mind as long as I have a choice, but please don’t force me to do things I don’t want to do.

d) Showtime

Here, you can create music videos starring you. You provide the dancing and the singing, and they’ll put it into a video that looks practically produced. You can also view videos that other users have done.

e) Just Dance Unlimited

This is a subscription-based service where you can buy access to play from a library of 150 other tracks and counting. It’s a departure from their old DLC model where you buy a song at a time. Here, you subscribe to choose from all of them.

It’s a much better model than the old one, but given that the majority of the tracks are from past versions of Just Dance, I really wish they’d give owners of those old versions access, since we paid for them already.

If I had another gripe about the song list it’d probably be about the playlist. While there are many songs from today’s top pop stars like Iggy Azalea, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, and more, I was a little disappointed at the lack of variety–in earlier releases it seemed that there were plenty of songs for anyone, young and old. But now it seems that the vast majority of the songs are pop songs, while there’s a handful of cover versions of oldies, one or two songs for young children, and a handful of really bizarre ones (including in an interesting piece of product placement the Angry Birds, complete with creepy anthropomorphic arms and legs, dancing to a stylized version of their own theme song.

One caveat I might have is for parents of young children, details of which I’ve posted in the Wii version review. While the title is rated “E for Everyone”, many of the songs contain lyrics and dance moves that some parents may still feel aren’t appropriate for their child. You might want to screen the dances and the lyrics before allowing your child to play the game unsupervised.

That said, the improvements made to the Wii U version make this a worthy successor to a great line of successful games in the franchise. I definitely recommend it for anyone with a Wii U who still wants to relive the glory days when motion control games were king.

Review of Just Dance 2016 for Wii #justdance


just dance 2016 wiiSo, as you may have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve posted a game review here, mainly because there just haven’t been any new motion control games out in a very long time. It seems that most publishers have given up on the genre, including such stalwarts as Majesco, EA Sports, and even Nintendo. The one lone holdout is Ubisoft with their annual release of an update to the Just Dance series.

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost six years since the original Just Dance on the Wii. Back in 2010 the “exergaming” craze was just starting to peak and Just Dance was one of the titles that helped revolutionize the genre. Prior to it, motion control games mostly involved simple “pattern matching”. But with Just Dance you danced real dance moves to real hit songs. Suddenly, it was a game not only fun to play, but just as fun to watch other people playing. And you could work up a pretty good sweat doing it.

Ubisoft’s timing was impeccable. They sold over 7 million copies of Just Dance, 9 million copies of Just Dance 2, and 10 million copies of Just Dance 3.

Just Dance 2016 is essentially “Just Dance 7”. Times have changed, of course. You hardly see motion control games anymore, much less exergames. And yet Ubisoft continues to churn out new versions of Just Dance every year. The game no longer sells multiple millions of copies, but apparently it still sells enough to keep the title profitable.

Even though they release versions for every platform now, the version for the good ol’ Wii continues to outsell the next most popular version (the Wii U) by more than a 3:1 margin. Seems that a lot of us are keeping our old Wiis around, if only for the occasional exercise session or party.

You start by choosing an avatar, basically one of 239 cute little icons, most of which are initially locked. As you play the game you can unlock more to choose from. If you have previous Just Dance save data on your system you’ll get three unlocked right off the bat. You then choose your country from a list of flags and then your age and gender. That’ll create your “dancer card”, and you can go ahead and create others for everyone in the house who’ll be playing.

One topic that seems to come up in reviews for Just Dance in recent versions is whether the songs and dance moves are appropriate for children.  In letting you choose age ranges from 0-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, and 40+ (making this 40+ reviewer feel very old) and a gender of “girl” or “boy”, you’d think that this game is mainly geared towards children. But as we’ve seen in past versions of Just Dance this may not be the case, depending on your parenting preferences.

I’m no prude, but even I’d think twice about having kids play this unsupervised. While there are certainly one or two kid-friendly songs like The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea”, the vast majority of songs are modern pop songs that are more suited for a grown-up audience.

As we’ve seen them do in the past, Ubisoft achieved the “E for Everyone” rating for certain songs basically by bleeping out words. But many parents out there will likely still find some lyrics too suggestive. For example, in Pitbull’s “Fun” when the lyrics go “don’t take it all off, keep your heels and thong”, they decided to bleep out “heels” and “thong”, but that doesn’t really make the song any less suggestive (in fact, it probably makes it worse). Likewise, a number of the songs have what some may find overly suggestive dance moves for children. Again, none of this is really a problem for young adults who wish to play this game alone or in a party setting, but at the very least I’d be sure to screen the songs and the choreography before having children dance to them or playing this in a setting with children, despite the rating.

From there you can just jump into dancing by selecting a song. Unlike past versions of Just Dance, they did away with the “difficulty” and “intensity” ratings for each song. If you have an Internet connection you can see the top scores of the week in your country and around the world, as well as the top scores on your local machine.

As with past versions, in most cases the choreography is for a single dancer’s moves, but in some cases they came up with a dance routing for 2, 3, or 4 dancers where each dancer has his or her own independent moves that work together with the other dancers. It’s those dances that tend to be the most fun to play—and to watch others play.

Here’s a list of the songs, the artists, and the number of dancers the default routine is choreographed for. Certain songs also have alternate choreography that you can unlock.

  • All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor (1)
  • No Control – One Direction (4)
  • I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas (1)
  • Fancy – Iggy Azalea Ft. Charli XCX (3)
  • These Boots Are Made for Walking – The Girly Team (1)
  • Animals – Martin Garrix (2)
  • Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars (1)
  • Balkan Blast Remix – Angry Birds (4)
  • Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson (1)
  • Hey Mama – Daid Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack (3)
  • Ievan Polkka – Hatsune Miku (1)
  • The Choice is Yours – Darius Dante Van Dijk (1)
  • Fun – Pitbull Ft. Chris Brown (1)
  • William Tell Overture – Rossini (2)
  • Lights – Ellie Goulding (1)
  • Chiwawa – Wanko Ni Mero Mero (1)
  • You Never Can Tell – A. Caveman & The Backseats (2)
  • Born This Way – Lady Gaga (3)
  • Kaboom Pow – Nikki Yanofsky (1)
  • When The Rain Begins To Fall – Sky Trucking (2)
  • Same Old Love – Selena Gomez (3)
  • Cool For The Summer – Demi Lovato (1)
  • Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo (1)
  • Under The Sea – Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1)
  • This is How We Do – Katy Perry (4)
  • Hit The Road Jack – Charles Percy (2)
  • Junto a Ti – Disney’s “Violetta” (3)
  • Blame – Calvin Harris Ft. John Newman (1)
  • Irish Meadow Dance – O’Callaghan’s Orchestra (4)
  • Rabiosa – Shakira Fr. El Cata (1)
  • Circus – Britney Spears (4)
  • You’re the One That I Want – From The Movie Grease (2)
  • Hangover (BaBaBa) – Buraka Som Sistema (2)
  • I’m An Albatroz – AronChupa (1)
  • Kool Kontact – Glorious Black Belts (2)
  • Teacher – Nick Jonas (1)
  • Stuck on a Feeling – Prince Royce (1)
  • Boys (Summertime Love) – The Lemon Cubes (3)
  • Drop the Mambo – Diva Carmina (1)
  • Gibberish – MAX (2)
  • Copacabana – Frankie Bostello (4)
  • Let’s Groove – Equinox Stars (3)
  • Stadium Flow – Imposs (1)

Gameplay is the same as every other version of Just Dance from the beginning. You hold the Wii remote in your right hand and follow the on-screen dancer’s moves as if you’re looking in a mirror. Visual cues in the form of stick figure icons will scroll across the bottom to let you know what move is coming up, but they’re not of much help until you play long enough to be able to associate the icon with the move (and by that time you’ll probably have memorized the routine anyway).

One question that invariably arises is—how accurate are the motion controls? The quick answer to that is, they’re as accurate as they’re going to be. I think it was in Just Dance 3 that Ubisoft “figured it out”, -and since then the controls have been “good enough”. Which means that you’re not going to get the precision of, say, an Xbox Kinect…but it’s accurate enough to make it fun, especially when playing in a group where everyone’s on an even playing field.

What I’ve found in past Just Dance games, and again in this one, is that most people can get 2 stars on a song just by going through the motions (literally), but to get 5 stars you really need to learn the moves and dance them accurately.

I did like the online capabilities, as for once they’re seamlessly weaved into the game as opposed to being overly obtrusive. For example, as I played a song the game asked me if I would like to activate “Dance Challenger Mode” instead of competing against computer dancers. I said yes and ended up dancing with three actual people, one from the US and two from France.

“Sweat Mode” is also back, now called “Sweat & Playlists”. As before, you can turn on a Kcal counter to track your calorie count, and you can configure a playlist for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or continuous. You can’t save multiple playlists, but the system will remember the last playlist you configured, so if there’s a particular sequence and length of songs you’d like thankfully there’s no need to re-configure it each time you restart the system as you had to with previous versions.

The Wii version is pretty basic and lacks a lot of features that other consoles have. For example, with other consoles you can use your mobile device as a controller. Most other versions have more advanced graphics and additional choreography, as well as more online features and video capability. All these, of course, are highly dependent on the capabilities of the console, so I don’t blame them for not including these.

But if there is a gripe I have it’s that the $39.99 list price is kind of steep. Ubisoft clearly wants to keep milking the cash cow of Wii users, so their MO has always been to charge Wii users for full releases instead of offering individual songs in the form of DLC. In this particular case, I don’t see many improvements in the 2016 version beyond the 2015 version. I’d say it’s worth buying mainly if A) the actual price drops precipitously, or B) you happen to love more than a few of the featured songs.