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Dance Dance Revolution Tournament Report
At the Sony Metreon this weekend, we saw some downright humiliating dance action.
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- One of the lessons you eventually learn as you grow older is that humility is a valuable thing. Knowledge of one's limitations makes one a stronger person in many ways. However, this isn't one of life's easier lessons. It's hard to be confronted with the realization that not only are you hopelessly weak, but you will always be so, and there's nothing you can do to change this.

This is how I felt at the Dance Dance Revolution tournament we attended this weekend, held at the Sony Metreon entertainment complex in downtown San Francisco. One of the Metreon's premier attractions is the Airtight Garage, a very stylishly-appointed arcade done up according to designs by the French comicbook artist Moebius. Early in its life, the Garage hosted some fairly godawful custom-designed arcade games, its only saving grace being the bizarrely entertaining Hyperbowl. However, in recent days, the management has gotten a bit of a clue and installed some more conventional favorites - games like Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, Hydro Thunder, San Francisco Rush 2049, and (wait for it) Dance Dance Revolution.

Even at the diabolical price of four dollars a game, DDR has become a major hit at the Garage, and on Saturday the regulars, as well as players from all over Northern California, got to strut their stuff for a long, humbling afternoon of extremely impressive dancing action. If you think you can play this game, you should have been there to see how people really play it - with style as well as skill.

The instructions may say "play this game with your feet," but through the single and doubles freestyle competitions, we saw it played with feet, hands, knees, and elbows. We saw people actually dance, and dance well, as a stream of Greats and Perfects flowed up the screen. We saw players in Heat, Gas-O and Shorty costumes, all with moves to match the sharp outfits, but we also saw some of the most impressive athleticism from completely nondescript contestants. Takamichi Bristol-Lee walked up to the machine in an ordinary track outfit and proceeded to backflip and mule-kick the crowd into a state of shock.

The top three in the singles freestyle competition, third to first, were Cesar Aldea, Mike Ngo, and the winner of the first-place tiebreaker, Mel Baltazar, who probably got the biggest pop of the afternoon with his splits finish to "Put Your Faith In Me." Ngo (dressed as Bust-a-Move's Gas-O) drew a massive crowd reaction during Maniac "Boom Boom Dollar," though, dropping down to balance on one hand and shuffle through some of the closing steps. Aldea, meanwhile, may have been only third in the judging, but he was an easy first when it came to theatrics - his three entries in the freestyle competition included a dead-on Rocky Maivia impersonation in double "Dollar" (complete with thrown elbow pad and People's Elbow to finish), an amazing drunken kung-fu act for "My Fire," and finally a no-frills strut through double "Butterfly" with an SS rating and absolutely no misses.

You have to have seen this stuff to really understand it. I walked in thinking I was reasonably good because I could get an A on Brilliant2U Orchestra. I walked out a broken geek. It's a little like the first time I watched world-class players at Tekken, but I never had any aspirations to being any good at Tekken, so the impact isn't the same.

The one encouraging thing about attending the tournament was discovering the kind of fanbase DDR has built in this country, at least in the relatively cosmopolitan area hereabouts. The crowd was chanting "3RD MIX! 3RD MIX!" in the wait before the first competitions began, and busting out DJ calls during Brilliant2U and Paranoia. They obviously were familiar with the game from both the arcade and home versions, and they were RABID about it. It's a little more comforting to look forward to the American release of the game and know that there are fans waiting to receive it - at the same time, it's good to know that Konami is offering something to hardcore fans with the new music in the American version.

Our tape of the action was unfortunately eaten by our DV recorder, so until we splice it together, we won't be able to show you exactly what it is we're talking about. But if you ever have a chance to check out competitive DDR, we recommend the experience - the Metreon will evidently be holding more competitions, and they should be quite good, if this last one was any indication. The judging was a bit wonky at times, but things ran pretty smoothly considering the crowds (about a quarter of the arcade was packed to the gills). We'll certainly be back for the next time, and maybe we'll be good enough to hang by then. So, if you'll excuse me, I need to practice...

-- David Smith

For further details on the tournament results, as well as a general introduction to the Northern California DDR scene, check out www.ddrfreak.com.

 You think you can dance?  Ha!  You know nothing of the dance!
You think you can dance? Ha! You know nothing of the dance!