Over the past 17+ years, fans of music rhythm games have been enjoying releases that push the boundaries of their skills in dancing, rhythm, and overall fitness. Games like Dance Dance Revolution, In The Groove, and Pump It Up, have been defining the genre and forming communities with strong bonds. In the current day, these games, particularly In The Groove community fan charts, have been bringing their players to skill levels once deemed impossible. Recently, one of the major team members behind In The Groove, Kyle Ward of Step Revolution LLC, began teasing a new game in the dance rhythm genre, which would eventually be revealed as StepManiaX… and as a super fan of music rhythm games, I am absolutely excited for it.
As stated above, I have been a huge fan of dance rhythm games. I have been playing Dance Dance Revolution, In the Groove, and some others collectively for over 15 years. I even got to help out with a game developed by Step Revolution LLC in the form of beta testing for ReRave Plus (the android version). When Kyle Ward began teasing this new game, I was hooked on finding out exactly what it was. Then I finally got to play it at a video games convention called MAGFest 2017. Here are my initial thoughts on StepManiaX.
What is StepManiaX?
StepManiaX is a new Dance Rhythm game from Step Revolution LLC with a title that pays a nod to the popular dance rhythm simulator Stepmania (This is not a sequel to Stepmania). The version I got to play at MAGFest 2017 (which is confirmed to be a development build), consisted of 5 step panels for players to use. There is a panel for up, down, left, right, and a new panel for a center button. The core gameplay involves one or two players hitting each panel in accordance with the arrows they see on screen to an assortment of music that the arrows are describing the rhythm of.
- Development Team consists of many pioneers in the dance rhythm game genre.
- I believe this is a huge plus. As someone who has been around from the start, it is refreshing to see new work done by the pillars of the dance rhythm scene
- Great music consisting of new tracks and familiar classics
- I recognized a lot of songs used in past dance rhythms projects from Step Revolution LLC and other games. I also love some of the license tracks (Especially The 7th Element by Vitas).
- Arcade machine I played on felt solid.
- The dance pads felt comfortable to step on. The dance pad bar didn’t shake or wobble which is nice considering many arcade machines from past titles now have wear and tear that cause this. The screen was nice and big with a great resolution and frame rate.
- Dance Pad feels great!
- This was the big deal for me. The dance pad feels very responsive! I did not have any issues with arrows failing to register my steps. The pad itself is also back friendly! I played for a while and felt no pain in my knees or back while other games tend to be painful after a while.
- A breath of fresh air in the community!
- It feels great to see a new contender in the dance rhythm scene made by people who really care about their product. It really brings back the aura of the mid-2000s where dancing games had a sense of surrealism and mysticism in the arcades. That is a feeling neither DDR or PIU have managed to convey to me where StepManiaX has.
- The arcade cabinet we saw seemed to have a very simplified design.
- This is a great development since previous dance rhythms games are very bulky and contain parts now becoming expensive and rare.
- Dance Step Charts were fun and challenging.
- Upon my first playthrough, the ease of adapting made me able to use my techniques from previous games. I was able to complete songs on the higher difficulties. The hardest charts in the build we played resembled 13 footer charts from In The Groove 2. Even though I can destroy Vertex^2 on Expert in ITG2, I could not beat some of the boss charts in StepManiaX (bring it on).
- The arcade cabinet at MAGFest tends to shake during gameplay.
- This really isn’t an issue when playing. Since you are so focused, you do not see the wobbling during a play session. However, it is very noticeable while watching. This wobbling also caused my phone and other things to fall off the small tray on the backside of the machine (The tray seemed to be a place for players to place stuff during their play session.)
- The center button can be intimidating to some.
- I have heard feedback from other players that the center button can be weird feeling at times. For me personally, it was not an issue, however to some it seems to be intimidating enough for them to not play. Maybe a 4-panel mode would be possible for legacy players?
How does StepManiaX hold up relative to other dance rhythm games?
Most players who will migrate to StepManiaX, at least in the arcades, may be familiar with more traditional 4-panel (no center button) dancing games such as In The Groove and Dance Dance Revolution. I would be one of these individuals. However, I will say that the inclusion of the center button definitely feels natural. At first, I was skeptical about how hard it would be to play a 5-panel stepchart but after only two songs I was able to naturally read them. However, results may vary by play-style and such.
One of the most important notes to make here is that this game is made by individuals who have been a vital part of the dance rhythm arcade scene. That factor alone conveys a sense of satisfaction in the form of that this game is made by fans for fans. This factor is a major call back to Stepmania and In The Groove, which was made in a similar fashion (by fans for fans). To me personally, this absolutely means the world. Just thinking that these people came back to make a new dance rhythm game makes me shed a nostalgic tear with hopes that this game will become the primary contender in the dance rhythm scene. I wish Step Revolution LLC and everyone else who may be involved the best luck! I can not wait to play this game in its final form.