DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

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DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by Ho » Fri Jun 12, 2009 3:22 pm

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Chad, Tim, and I met at GameWorks last night to check out the new DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet. Matt was also there when we arrived.

Let's just get right to it. There's been a lot of negativity flying around about these cabinets as they've started appearing in arcades over the past week. Typically, I try not to pay a ton of attention to those kinds of reports in favor of forming my own opinion. Unfortunately, now that I have played on a machine myself, I pretty much have to join in the negativity. Bottom line: They are just not good.

Let me give you all a little background here to put some of this into perspective. I first played DDR on a US 1.5 machine back in 2000 and have been playing ever since, so I have a lot of experience with which to compare new stuff as it arrives.

Personally, I haven't been all that excited about DDR since Extreme. During the long gap between Extreme and SuperNOVA I started playing Pump It Up and have since come to actually like that game better. I don't want to get into a big debate about why, but I will summarize by stating my primary interest is freestyle and I find the stage layout and musical selection in Pump to be more fun for me than that of DDR--especially in the newer versions of DDR that tend to have much more step-oriented music.

Given that my general interest in DDR is waning anyway, my primary interest in DDR X was actually the new cabinet design rather than the content of the game. Years ago some of us had postulated about the possibility of a "DX" cabinet for DDR. The thought was that DDR would get an extra flashy cabinet in the way that Beatmania II got a DX cabinet and became IIDX. As pictures and video of the new DDR X cabinet started to come out, it looked like we were finally getting exactly that after all these years.

Image Damn, that's pretty.

The widescreen monitor and new cabinet lighting including three LED towers on each side certainly got my attention and looked pretty impressive. Suddenly, I was excited about DDR again if for no other reason than to see a pretty light show. If you have not seen these cabinets in their full glory, check out these YouTube videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjfz3mhXb_0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-VHxyMElqI

After the game was released in Japan and started location testing here in the US, I started to hear that the LED towers were not going to be a part of the US machines. Presumably that was to keep costs down. That was certainly disappointing for me to hear since it was the part I was most excited about. But frankly, I can understand the desire to keep costs down since DDR cabinets are already among the most expensive of arcade games and the LED towers would probably get broken in many US arcades anyway by people falling into them, kicking them, using them as coat racks, etc. But little did I know, until this week, that there would be many other--much more fundamental--changes to the cabinet design than just the deletion of lights.

As some of you are likely aware, there have been different types of DDR cabinets--typically with variances by region. For instance, Korean region, Asian region, and US region original DDR cabinets were slightly different from Japanese cabinets. It seemed like there was some substitution of materials and the overall quality of the non-Japanese cabinets was slightly lower. From casual observation of the outside there weren't too many readily visible differences. Most of the changes were internal. It's just like Konami sent the plans to a different manufacturer and they got built to slightly lower standards and with some regional modifications.

There was a lot of talk with the release of SuperNOVA that the US cabinets were different from their Japanese counterparts. The major visible difference was the boxy marquee compared to the traditionally curved marquee on the Japanese machines. Many people have reported gameplay problems with the US cabinets. I don't have as high performance expectations as many score-based players do. They seem like they're made of cheaper materials than pre-SuperNOVA cabinets (of any region) I have played on, but they generally seem to work. I don't get appreciably higher or lower scores (not that I pay that much attention) and I don't fail songs due to non-responsiveness. So my overall impression was similar to that of the non-Japanese original pre-SuperNOVA cabinets.

Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to see a Japanese DDR X cabinet to compare to my experience on the US cabinet. But based on what I have seen, it seems like Konami didn't even send plans to whomever built the US cabinets and that they just went from pictures and built something kind of close. Although, in my opinion, even calling it "kind of close" seems somewhat insulting to the Japanese cabinets based on the pictures and videos I have seen.

The US cabinet has several quite noticeable cosmetic differences from the Japanese cabinets. A very casual observer might miss them, but side-by-side I would expect anyone to be able to readily point them out. I recently had the opportunity to play Guitar Hero Arcade (another subject entirely). It seems like they borrowed a lot of things from that cabinet to go into the US DDR X cabinets. I'll just go down the list of the things I noticed (again, remember that I can only compare to the pictures and videos I have seen of Japanese cabinets)...

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The Japanese marquee box appears to have a light, speaker, light, speaker on each side of the marquee. The speakers have round lights around them in much the way they have used neon surrounds on speakers in many past Bemani cabinets. Each side of the US cabinet marquee has two lights horizontally above and below a single speaker that is not lit at all. It is much more plain looking in my opinion.

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The control panel bezel has been significantly simplified. It's just a flat piece of metal that seems to be an absolute fingerprint magnet. The JP cabinet seems to have a two-tone panel with some detail work. Some (but not all) pictures of JP cabinets also have some sort of circular thing in the middle. I have no idea what it is or if it does anything, but it's not on the US cabinet adding to the generally bland, unfinished look. It just seems empty--like it was missing decals or something. The buttons on the US cabinet are colored differently and frankly just look and feel really cheap. Below the control panel is a convenient little shelf of sorts. The JP one goes all the way across whereas the US one is bisected by the coin door. Finally, the JP cabinet has an LED bar just below the monitor. With the deletion of the LED side towers, it's no surprise that this is gone as well.

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The cabinet woofers seem to be the same parts they used on Guitar Hero. They're lit with red and blue LEDs that make it look purple. They're covered with a molded clear plastic cover. My own personal opinion is that these look like something I might see on a toy boombox that was trying to look cool (and failing miserably). The JP machine seems to have a clear cover over the whole assembly with some kind of design either printed or etched into it that glows when lit (I have no idea how it's lit, but it looks pretty cool in the videos I've seen).

You can also see that there is a platform that covers the space between the stage and the cabinet instead of the umbilical tube. This is actually probably an improvement (at least from a durability standpoint) over the JP design which I think still uses the umbilical which has a tendency to get trampled, smashed, and broken. The one downside is that the solid platform transfers vibration from the stage into the cabinet and I noticed that things were sliding around on the shelf a little. It may not be the best thing for the components inside the cabinet either.

I guess I skipped over the monitor. It looks like an LCD of average quality at best. The picture is sharp and clear, but don't expect to see any black. Dark gray is about as good as you'll get. I know I'm probably much more picky about this sort of thing than many, but I'm a television major. It matters to me. Overall, it's fine, but it does seem to have a small amount of lag. The amount seems small enough that you could probably adjust to it with a few games, but it was noticeable even to someone like myself who does not play for score at all.

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Now we're down to arguably the most important part: the stage. Here you will instantly notice major changes. The surface of each half of the stage is now a single piece of sheet metal with holes cut in it for the arrow panels rather than 9 individual sections (4 arrows, 5 metal plates). I have a feeling this will be a maintenance headache to remove that big sheet of metal to access any of the working parts. The only good thing here is that there are no screws protruding on the surface as they all seem to be countersunk and flushed. The round head screws of original DDR stages looked nice, but they had a tendency to get in the way during play. In addition, the Phillips heads sometimes got sharp if they started to get stripped out. I've definitely ripped shoes and skin on them.

The stage is also thinner and lower to the ground. Compare these pictures of the DDR X stage and my own 5th Mix stage.
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I didn't measure either exactly, but based on those pictures and my hand as a scale, the X stage looks to be approximately half as thick. The feel of playing on it is similar to a non-deluxe DDR Solo stage (the ones that sat flat on the ground and had no bar). It makes a different sound and feels different when you step on it. That in itself isn't necessarily good or bad...just different. It's kind of hard to tell in this video, but here is The X playing where you might be able to hear the difference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjb-Pc2Q3ZA. My best description would be that it sounds and feels a little "wooden". I said the same thing the first time I played on a Solo stage years ago. That's not to say that I believe there is any wood in it. It just doesn't feel as solid as I'm used to.

It seems like it takes more pressure to actually trigger the panels. Everyone last night seemed to have to step a little harder. Also, I was able to get them to stop registering by shifting my weight slightly while standing firmly in the center of them. Have a look in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjb-Pc2Q3ZA. Registering hits should be ok, but freezes might be problematic. For a 2-day old machine, it plays like a 2 year old machine that hasn't been maintained. It works, but it's sub-optimal. You will also notice that the panels are now lit with white light (like PIU) rather than colored light. The JP machines seem to still be using colored light.

I only had time to play one game last night and watch a couple more. I was so distracted by the poor quality of the cabinet that I didn't form much of an opinion on the game itself, but here's the few comments I do have:

It's DDR. The formula is pretty well established. They didn't really mess with it that much or mess it up so far as I could tell. I like the character embellishments they introduced in SuperNOVA 2. The game art is pretty, but the interface seemed a little bland to me. The intro movie was pretty sweet...but it features the original stage (which isn't even what the JP DDR X cabinet looks like).

The one thing that really stood out was the announcer. I know a lot of people have disliked the announcer through the years, but I typically defend it because I think it adds personality and character to the game. But this announcer...I want to punch him in the throat.

There's something about the tone of his voice that makes the things he says come across as annoying, at best. More often he was bordering on insulting, rude, or even offensive. When your friends are sarcastic it's funny because you know them and you know they're joking. But when a stranger does it, it can feel condescending. That's how this announcer comes across to me. He says outlandish things like he always has, but something about the delivery of it doesn't come across as funny or entertaining. It makes me want to scream "STFU!" He's that guy who thinks he's funny...but isn't.

I guess if I had no frame of reference at all and this was the first time I had ever seen or played DDR, I might not be so negative. The machine does work. It is playable. The issue is that I do have a frame of reference--a pretty large one at that. I've been playing this game for almost an entire decade. From that perspective, DDR X--specifically in this US cabinet--is inferior to every other dance game experience I have had.

I'm going to just leave it at that for now. I'm sure I'm well into tl;dr territory, but I hope that some people will find this interesting, informative, enlightening, or something. I welcome your comments or discussion and will try to answer any questions as best I can.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by letshavetea » Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:54 pm

That bad eh?

That pad looks cheaper than the normal pads... There's something about the big braces that makes it feel sturdy to me.... this it makes it look like you're stepping into a hole, rather than an inset if that makes any sense.

I commend Konami for trying something new... but... I wish they wouldn't have halfassed it. And from what you've said about the JP cabinet... it makes me wanna find a JP one just to see the cabinet itself :P

At any rate, I'm in no hurry to find a DDR X machine. *sigh*

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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by bugaboo53067 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 6:00 pm

I just think that everything about the new machine looks wrong and cheap. More so than anything is the stage. It looks like a home pad rather than the large, sturdy, and (depending on where you go) nice pads at the arcade. I have a red octane soft pad at home and I would rather play on that than the new stages.

PS- I've played a little PIU but I think that I'm short enough that it causes some issues for me...lol

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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by DAVE101 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 9:01 pm

Very good review.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by Cbav » Fri Jun 12, 2009 9:32 pm

Haha, I skimmed the post and said to myself "tl;dr", but read it anyway.

Wow, I had only heard a bit about DDR X, and honestly, I wasn't too interested.. Maybe because it was just another Konami addition to the dancing game genre? I don't know, but their mess-up of SuperNOVA killed the series for myself and a majority of the community. (Either that or we all shifted to ITG/PIU) When I started reading this post and saw the pictures, I thought the cabinet looked amazing! I was excited to visit gameworks and give it a test, and I still am, but the excitement now is only to experience this poor game in all it's poor glory, and not to experience an exciting new DDR game.

ps:
I'm frightened of those pads.. Are the arrows even recessed?! :o

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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by Ho » Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:01 pm

bugaboo53067 wrote:I've played a little PIU but I think that I'm short enough that it causes some issues for me...lol
One word: Smidget
Cbav wrote:I'm frightened of those pads.. Are the arrows even recessed?! :o
By the thickness of the of the top sheet metal (which is thin enough to bow in slightly where the screws are), yes. So...maybe 1/16"? I could at least feel where the panels were under my feet, but not to the extent I can on a typical arcade stage.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by MonMotha » Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:21 pm

The flush screws are good...and bad.

They're good that they're countersunk and flush.

But it would be very, very bad if one comes loose or gets cross threaded and isn't fully sunk in (and you know it'll happen) because the edges on them will be rather sharp. Don't play barefoot!

Of course, the edges of the metal surrounding the panels are possibly kinda sharp, too, since nothing's rolled on that stage.

Oh, and did I mention the stage is ugly? One flat piece of metal. No trim at all. Blah.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by Merk » Sat Jun 13, 2009 12:35 am

Sucks about the cabinet, the pad especially looks way different and I'd imagine veteran players will be very off-put by it. For the people who've played it a little bit, how do the new songs/steps fare? Is all the new stuff a bunch of console song ports with some American pop stuff thrown in like in Supernova? Perhaps it's like the older mixes with some Konami in-house stuff, some Bemani crossovers, and Dancemania soundtracks added to the song list?

I've looked into DDRX very little and am only vaguely aware of the new difficulty scale and challenge charts added to some of the old songs.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by BakaOrochi » Sat Jun 13, 2009 11:49 am

I have pictures of the location test with the Japanese cabinet, and it's a much different experience. I forgot how different the machine was, but definitely feels...bigger. This cabinet, I felt like I was playing to a flat panel with sub-par speakers.

It's really sad Betson did pretty much no field testing at all and with their habits, they most likely won't fix these issues at all.

The original Supernova cabinets were so bad, Konami sent Korean-made parts to fix their cabinet issues (basically crappy pads and horrible speakers that kept blowing out among others). I can't forsee them doing the same here.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by Riot » Sat Jun 13, 2009 12:36 pm

Sounds pretty bad... but I guess a shoddy cabinet doesn't bother me that much since these days all I'd be playing for is fun and trying all the new songs and step charts. So I guess I'm with Merk in wondering how the new songs are, because I can manage to play on a sub-par machine. My main beef with Supernova was with the song list getting boring so quick, didn't notice anything different about the machines as I guess I don't really pay attention much to hardware.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by Ho » Sat Jun 13, 2009 1:19 pm

I also play for fun, but this cabinet was bad enough to take a lot of the fun out of it. When I'm used to a certain standard and this fall so far short of it, it's...distracting. I've played on some pretty sub-par machines, too. But this was about the worst experience I've had on anything but machines that were outright broken.

I agree with you on SuperNOVA though. I haven't really noticed that those cabinets were especially bad. I play on them just fine with no real complaints. But I guess maybe the earlier ones were worse according to what I've been told. Perhaps I've just been lucky not to experience one of those.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by Frazzle Dazzle » Sat Jun 13, 2009 2:01 pm

The only main thing I'm mad about with the crappiness of the pads and lagginess is that with how expensive GW is on non-TBT and Half-Price Thursdays that I'd like to get my extra stage since I normally play with Mezzo. Oh well, it's still a new new machine with new songs, it can't be all that bad.

And on the bright side, this review was linked in a Bemanistyle article.

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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by BakaOrochi » Sat Jun 13, 2009 5:42 pm

The new songs are OK, they're really easy for the most part though (as in unusually easy). I think most thought was put into the stepcharts though on majority of the songs, unlike a large chunk of Supernova. I found myself playing most of the Supernova 2 stuff since the X songs are too easy and without e-amuse, there's no X-Edits of the older songs (like Candy, Kakumei, Max 300, etc) for that added challenge.
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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by Frazzle Dazzle » Sat Jun 13, 2009 7:57 pm

Okay, after playing that today, one time, one time was enough. I couldn't even play that for fun. When I go from As to Ds, something is seriously wrong. I have a feeling a lot of non-franchise arcades will be wanting to return their machines since hardly anyone will want to play.

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Re: DDR X (US) dedicated cabinet review

Post by YeehawMcKickass » Sun Jun 14, 2009 11:40 pm

I have to come out and say it. There is one thing I like about this new machine: the new panels. The old one's seem kinda boring now.

I'd have liked it if andamiro had updated their panels for the FX's.

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