Chatting With Chris Chike About the 20th Anniversary of Dance Dance Revolution
Throughout its many, many years inhabiting our arcades and homes, Dance Dance Revolution has proven itself to be a staple of gaming culture. Sure, the initial DDR craze of the early-2000s has long since subsided, but the series certainly hasn’t gone away. Dance Dance Revolution is one of the hottest, most iconic arcade series of all time. The hardcore DDR community is still alive and dedicated as ever, and even the average casual gamer can usually identify the “dancing game with arrows”. Dance Dance Revolution is absolutely legendary.
Now, after over 100 different releases spread across arcades, many major home consoles, plug-and-play TV games, DVD games, iOS, and even the Game Boy Color, Dance Dance Revolution is finally celebrating its 20th anniversary. For two whole decades—heck, for longer than I’ve been alive—players have been matching the timing with their eyes and feeling the rhythm with their souls (as U.T.D. and Friends would surely say). Of course, not all of these releases were great (you can ignore the TV games and whatnot, obviously), but the fact remains that Dance Dance Revolution has permeated gaming culture and is here to say. Today is a momentous occasion.
Because Dance Dance Revolution is so deeply important to me, I had to honor it with a special post. For the big anniversary bash, I reached out to Chris Chike (CHRS4LFE)—the 6th Konami Arcade Championship World Champion—about how the series has impacted him. After all, what better way is there to celebrate DDR than to talk to the DDR champion himself? So without further ado, let’s get on with the interview.
Dance Dance Revolution has now been around for two decades—that’s a long time right there. How and when did you start playing?
My first time playing DDR was at my neighbor’s house in December 2004. We were playing it on her PS2 in her basement and I thought it was a really fun game. So when January 2005 came around and my brother asked me what I wanted for my belated Christmas gift, I pointed out the DDR Extreme PS2 bundle.
What pushed you to stick with DDR as long as you have?
At first, I just thought it was a really fun game. I became addicted to moving my feet to the rhythm of these cool songs. Once I discovered there was a competitive scene online, I became addicted to improving and becoming better than others around me.
What is your favorite version of DDR? What’s your least favorite version?
My favorite is Ace. My least favorite would probably be X, but mostly because I only played it on the crappy U.S. Betson cabs. Though I didn’t like the songs from X very much either.
What are your favorite DDR songs of all-time?
Over The “Period”
Ghosts (Vincent de Moor Remix)
Do you prefer playing DDR in arcades or at home, and why?
I'm personally not a huge fan of the arcade atmosphere. I take training very seriously, so I'd rather play alone at home without any distractions or interruptions. However, by the nature of arcades, I must share the machine and take turns with other players. In addition, the noise from the other games around me tends to be distracting a lot of the time. Random people at the arcade also tend to gawk at the DDR players when they play, which is also distracting.
What is your favorite memory of playing DDR in an arcade?
It’s not in an arcade per se, but my favorite DDR memory would be winning the DDR championship at The 6th KAC (Konami Arcade Championship).
What are some of the biggest struggles of playing DDR in arcades, and how can they be alleviated?
Regarding having to take turns, it helps to stay warmed up between sets by playing Pump or something. Regarding the distractions, there’s not much else to do besides dealing with it, unfortunately.
How would you describe the state of the DDR community as it was when you started playing?
I’d say it’s not as booming as it used to be. However, since Ace was released in July 2016, it’s the most popular it’s been in years. DDR was much more accessible back then though. Ace machines are rare, and it’s not feasible to get the scene back to where it was without hundreds of machines available like there used to be.
How has the DDR community changed and/or improved in 2018?
I don’t know about 2018 specifically, but as you know it’s the 20thAnniversary for DDR this year, so I’m sure we can expect some exciting things from Konami to revamp the scene.
Do you believe the series has become increasingly technical with each installment? Is there still a place for freestylers and casual players?
I actually think they don’t make charts as hard as they used. Two of the hardest 18s, “PARANOiA Hades” and “Dead End (Groove Radar Special)”, were from SuperNOVA 2, and they really don’t make charts like that anymore. I don’t know much about freestyling, so I really can’t speak to that community at all.
Do you think Konami has done a good job supporting DDR in the West throughout the past 20 years? Do you think we’ve been left out of too many arcade releases?
Well, I’d say the answer was no but only up until when Ace was released. Yes, we were left out of a lot of arcade releases, but we are included in the current one, so that’s all that really matters.
What do you think could be done to bring more players into the DDR community? How can we help new players push through the monumental difficulty curve—or heck, even get them to try dancing in the first place?
Konami needs to get more Ace machines in more places. I truly believe the accessibility of Ace machines is suffocating the community and not allowing it to expand the way it could. Given that you do have access, you can improve by setting personal goals and having rivals to beat
As it stands, the newest version of DDR is only available at Round1 USA and select Dave and Buster’s locations. What do you believe could be done to bring Dance Dance Revolution A to more venues in the United States?
I wish I knew the answer to this. All we can do is keep complaining about accessibility in the U.S.
Throughout the past two decades, we’ve seen an obscene number of home versions for DDR—on everything from the original PlayStation to bizarre platforms like the Game Boy Color and even DVD players. In the current console generation, however, the home releases have all but vanished. Do you believe home console releases play a big part in keeping the DDR scene alive? Do you think Konami should release a home version of DDR A?
I know they were a big part of keeping the scene alive back then. I think it would be cool if they made a home version for Ace, but I honestly don’t think they will because I don’t see it being profitable for them.
When Pump It Up first appeared in 1999, it was billed as the more freestyle-friendly dancing game. How do you believe the “rivalry” between Dance Dance Revolution and Pump It Up has evolved over the years?
I never looked at it like a rivalry. They’re two very different games. Besides that, I’m not in the Pump community so I can’t really speak to how the two communities perceive each other.
StepManiaX is a new five-panel dancing game from Kyle Ward (of In The Groove fame). While currently only available for gyms and other recreation centers, a coin-operated arcade version is on the way soon. What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe StepManiaX has the potential to fill a void in Konami’s Western arcade support?
I could see it getting people interested in dance games through gym classes and fitness centers—people who otherwise might not have been interested in video games at all.
Now that we’ve seen 20 years of DDR, would you like to see other Bemani games see official releases in Western arcades?
Yes, I would love for SDVX (Sound Voltex) to have an official U.S. release. The lack of Paseli options for SDVX in America is a huge bummer.
Are you particularly interested in DanceRush Stardom? What would you say most distinguishes DanceRush from DDR?
I’m not particularly interested in DanceRush at the moment, but I can say it definitely satisfies the needs for freestylers and casual players mentioned above. It feels like a more casual game closer to Dance Evo than to DDR.
What would you see throughout the next 20 years of DDR?
I really don’t know, but I do hope my legs can take another 20 years of stomping!
Do you have any final thoughts on the 20th anniversary of Dance Dance Revolution?
I’m looking forward to what Konami has in store for us!
Before you go, let’s settle the age-old debate: bar or no bar?
This should be obvious. Bar!
Chris Chike is just one of the many, many people who have been impacted by Dance Dance Revolution. It’s impacted many of you, and it’s impacted me, too. Even though I haven’t lived through a ton of the game’s history, the 20thanniversary is hugely important to me just the same. Dance Dance Revolution has molded my gaming habits and even my life for the past year or so. And by golly, it is sure is awesome.
I hope y’all are feeling some good feelings today, as well. Whether your first DDR installment was first 1stMix, Ace, or even the gosh danged DVD game, you know what it’s like to move your feet to beat. You’ve gotten to enjoy that uniquely compelling experience. Because let’s face it: there aren’t many games quite like Dance Dance Revolution.
Thanks for reading, ya sweaty flippin' nerds. Have fun this month—and make sure to wish DDR a big, happy birthday.