Leave it up to Konami to create a game such as Dance Dance Revolution, and begin a videogaming trend like no other. It seems like these days, everything is about Konami, the 3rd party is surrounded by the press due to games like Silent Hill 2 and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. You can't blame them really, they're obviously on a roll, but let's not forget that they are also the originator for the famed Bemani series such as Dance Dance, Beatmania, Drumania, and Guitar Freaks. So as the saying goes: "imitation is the best form of flattery", we all knew that someone would eventually try to take the Bemani formula and take it a step further. That 'someone' turned out to be Tecmo with their dance title Unison. This game doesn't look or play like a DDR rip-off, but it's obvious that Tecmo is trying to hit it big in the rhythm genre. Although somewhere along the lines of climbing to the top, the game slipped and took a nasty fall to the noggin.
What do you expect from a console such as the PS2, we all pretty much know what to expect from every game we play, that is unless a game is as horrid looking as High Heat Baseball 2002. The vast majority of PS2 titles look good to damn near perfect, and Unison falls in somewhere between good and pretty. The game's certainly got a lot of flash, its a perky colored game with a wide color palette. The environments are very scarce, there are only two in-game backgrounds such as the dancing studio and the rehearsal studio. But during the in-game cut-scenes the engine will show off outside environments as well as indoor environments, just to show you the kind of world these people live in. If character detail is what you want, this game has it. The characters were animated as anime characters, but their facial movements don't look like most other anime cartoons do, -one animation per blink or mouth movement. From the technological point of view, these characters are solid, incredibly smooth and composed of a good amount of polygons, they may not be The Bouncer or Onimusha quality, but still good never the less. I should also mention, that there are a lot flashy special effects.
What's great about Dance Dance Revolution titles is that the game could be either played with a controller or a dance pad, for an incredibly interactive experience. In DDR you tap the corresponding direction buttons to the beat, and get points for doing it. Unison is quite different, instead it requires you to use the analog stick. In order to complete a level, you will first have to learn the pattern in which the analog sticks move to the song, after you have mastered that, you will have to play that pattern in a session, when your selected dancer is on the stage. Your timing has to be incredibly precise with the game's actions, or you are dead meat. I had to take off many crucial points from the gameplay because Tecmo inserted absolutely no training aid in the game, to teach you how to play and progress. It took me an hour to finally find out on what I had to do to complete a level. Now because I spent 60 terrible minutes trying to figure out Unison, I had to listen to Y.M.C.A over 5 dozen times, and you don't know what I was about to do, to this game.
Just when I was ready to stick a fork through the DVD case and DVD itself, I noticed in transparent (!) lettering, some text that explained the functions of the face buttons. So I quickly hit the necessary buttons and began dancing with my character, I pretty much aced the trial. The song following Y.M.C.A was a song that got "played" out within a month, if even. I'm talking about Nelly's "Country Grammar" track, if the song didn't bother me enough already, I had to sit for an extra 30 minutes and memorize that songs analog pattern, only fail numerous of times. Frankly speaking, Unison isn't an addictive title, it's incredibly depressing, and its story of banning dancing needs some cleaning up, because Sega did it with Space Channel 5, and at least did it better.
Unison's whole retro 200 years in the future look is incredibly distracting, not to mention contradictory. The characters are unbelievably lame, and that afro looking fool, Doctor Dance, is quite possibly the most annoying game character I have yet to come across. Now what makes him so unbearable is that he shouts and blurts out incredibly idiotic things, just to make this game sound cooler. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but there's just some smell of the game trying to be a 1950's superhero cartoon, with incredibly loud and corny battle cries, know what I'm saying? The voice acting can be too melodramatic at times, and most often gets incredibly irritating. The voices are very clear though, and so are the tracks, especially since this is a DVD based title. The track list includes such former hits as "Country Grammar" by Nelly, "Barbie Girl" by Aqua, "Stop the rock" by Apollo440, "That's the way (I like it)" by KC and the Sunshine Band, and many more.
As I mentioned earlier, the analogs are your main source for control, you will see two circle shaped transparent objects at the center of the screen during actual gameplay, a circle dot will be in the center of these objects making movements that you need to mimic with your analog sticks, even though a cursor isn't show for you. It's quite complicated, and on future tracks can get incredibly difficult, to the point of frustration. That pretty much covers the whole analog scheme.
I've reached a conclusion to tell you folks that Unison isn't worth your time or money. With a larger track selection, and more simplistic and yet addictive gameplay, Unison could have been the grand daddy of 'em all. Because of the atrociously repetitive gameplay, the outdated music and worst of all, the voice acting, Unison is a failed attempt at what could have been a great dancing title. If Tecmo tries to concentrate and learn from Konami a bit, maybe they'll realize that a game like DDR is more effective, and the simpler could also mean the better.
4/30/2001 Arnold Katayev