Hip-hop currently rules many of the sales leaderboards in the music business, and its impact has been felt in many other aspects of society. This is undeniable, but perhaps the most widely recognized affect the hip-hop/rap community has had on mainstream society is as follows: dancing. There have already been multiple movies based on this very concept, and now, FreeStyle Games (fitting, yes?) is poised to bring you the dance-themed PSP game, B-Boy. You'll hit the floor and test your ability against the best of the best while attempting to work your way through a robust Career mode, and if you've got some friends who like this kind of thing, the multiplayer should be a blast as well. The game is scheduled to release only five days after Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, which may hurt sales, but this is an entirely different game for an entirely different platform. Those who own both a PS3 and PSP will want a running inventory of titles for both, and B-Boy might be right up your alley.
We're certain you're familiar with the Career modes in sports games, where you generate a new athlete or character, practice the basic abilities required, and start at the bottom to work your way to the top. The developers are adopting this very same style for this rhythm-style game, as you will create a dancer from scratch and kick things off in what's known as "The Lab." This is where you can practice all kinds of different dance moves, ranging from the easiest to the most challenging, and you can also change your character's appearance and check your status at any time. Kool Rock, your tutor, will hold your hand through the early stages of the learning process, but it won't be long before you're on your own. At that point, you will be able to throw down with cocky opponents just itching to prove their superiority on the dance floor, which is why practice will be so essential. If you're thinking the gameplay is something similar to PaRappa or other rhythm titles in the past, think again: this is a whole new breed.
In B-Boy, it's really up to the player to nail down specific dance moves. It seems there will be a great deal of experimentation involved, primarily because both the d-pad and the face buttons will contribute to your performance. The d-pad is used for simple movement while each one of the face buttons dictates a certain dance step, like the windmill, top rock or freeze. During competition, the key will be to time your moves correctly, thereby creating massive chains that will wow the crowd and humiliate your opponent to the point of aggravation. For example, if you rip off the tough Helicopter maneuver, it's going to score you some major points with the onlookers in the rowdy gallery. Now, you can't just go mashing buttons to fling together random moves; you have to maintain the beat that's going on throughout the song, which is indeed similar to other games in the genre. But you aren't restricted to dance steps the computer forces you to do, and this kind of freedom is relatively new to music-based games, so players should definitely take advantage. After all, so much of great dancing is improvisation in the first place, and FreeStyle Games clearly understands this fact.
Keeping the beat and stringing together chains is paramount, and an appreciative crowd can really give a dancer some much-needed confidence. One of the more popular features in sports-related titles these days is momentum, and B-Boy embraces the mob mentality to its fullest by instituting a form of this mechanic. If your opponent steps up first and impresses the audience, it'll be that much more difficult for you to secure their affection, which sounds plenty realistic to us. However, we're not sure if momentum will actually give you an actual edge or a boost when dancing; perhaps it's only for the sake of reputation and medals. Speaking of which, medals are awarded based entirely on how well you dance, and are handed out after a variety of different events. You'll be entering all kinds of tournaments and battles at 21 different locations, and we expect there will be different goals and objectives for certain encounters. You can't slack off even for a second; practicing and putting together a series of astounding moves will help you in difficult dance-offs. And remember, keep experimenting!
But once again, the impact of the crowd comes into play. If you're one of the onlookers and you wish to toss a wrench into the works when your challenger is dancing, you can throw out a few jabs and catcalls that might help you regain the momentum when it's your turn. In this world, you have to take any advantage you can get, and dissin' the other dancer is just part of the lifestyle. Besides, there will be many, many characters to square off against (but no square dancing, here), and when you're forced to take on the elite, you might need to resort to playing dirty. Hey, they'd do the same to you! As for the music, which will certainly be a central theme of the game, we don't yet have a complete soundtrack, but some of the artists included will be old-school rappers like Eric B. & Rakim, Cypress Hill, and others. Overall, we can expect about 40 different tracks to accompany our blistering dance moves, and that's more than enough to hold our attention. Combine this with creating and fine-tuning our very own combo moves, the long-running Career mode, and the accurate atmosphere, and you've got a very promising title.
If you're a fan of rhythm/music games and you're an avid PSP user, you'll definitely want to check out B-Boy when it hits store shelves next month.
5/8/2008 Ben Dutka