REVIEW: Just Dance 2023 Edition steps forward while falling back
Showing up late to the party
Yes, it’s that time of the year again! Put on your dancing shoes, grab a controller, force that one family member to join you and Just Dance! That’s right, Ubisoft has brought out the newest entry in their ever-popular series: Just Dance 2023 Edition. Join us on the dancefloor to find out if this edition is a “MEGASTAR” or just an “OK” move.
If You Wanna Party, Just Dance!
Features and gameplay
Just Dance games have always been very simple pickup-and-play games, perfect for fun with friends, family, strangers, etc., and that’s no different this time around. Just Dance 2023 Edition offers the same kind of gameplay you know and love: pick a song, choose a coach, and get moving. The new songs are really entertaining and allowed my family and I to enjoy our time playing. That makes this review basically a group effort, which is great for a family-friendly game like Just Dance.
Now, maybe you’ve purchased every single Just Dance release in the last few years, and you’re expecting much of the same with the 2023 release, but this time Ubisoft has changed up the formula somewhat. First off, you can say goodbye to yearly releases. Just Dance 2023 Edition marks the start of ‘Just Dance’ as a service. This game will continue to receive updates for years to come, replacing the need for yearly installments.
While that’s already a huge change on its own, it’s not the only new feature of Just Dance 2023 Edition. For example, previous games let you personalize your profile, but now you have many more options, as you can choose a dancer card, animated avatars, badges, aliases and more. Your profile has never been this customizable and it’s a great way to show your personality. How do you get more of these perks? You unlock them by completing missions through the new progression system. The more experience you gain and the missions you complete, the more rewards you’ll get! It’s a great way to give you some replayability outside of just trying to go for the highest score.
Ubisoft has even revamped the presentation for Just Dance 2023 Edition, and it’s quite an impactful one. The first thing you’ll notice is that the visuals have been greatly improved. We have finally moved on from the same menu that’s been used since 2019 and now everything is much more appealing. Resembling streaming services like Netflix, this new look makes for a very familiar and intuitive way to navigate the game. Everything is clear, well organized, and easy to find; even my family didn’t have a problem getting to their favorite songs.
The staple background videos have gotten a facelift as well. They are now highly produced with a lot of attention paid to them. They have fancy new animations, different camera angles and movements, and interactions with side characters. A lot of them look so good that they remind me of actual music videos. Your coach is not the only one you’ll be paying attention to, as the backgrounds will catch your attention thanks to all the details they now have.
Finally, as part of the features and presentation, I’d like to mention something very important to me. The game includes aliases, AKA fun little titles that you can choose to best describe yourself to other players. You’ll see ones like Cool Boy, Potato Dancer, and others, but what’s great about this is that you get different versions for masculine, feminine and gender-neutral titles. For example, you can be a Cool Boy, Cool Girl, or a Cool Kid! I think this is a simple, yet great form of representation that can do a lot for those looking for options. Also, for a Spanish speaker such as myself, I want to quickly mention that there’s gender-neutral aliases in Spanish as well! That is a huge deal, since Spanish is a heavily gendered language and it’s not common to see it in media.
Can’t Stop The Feeling that something is off
So far, so good. You are dancing to your favorite song and trying to beat a friend, but what if you want more of a single player experience? How about a story where the coaches dance-battle against an evildoer? It’s all here in the brand-new Story Mode ‘Enter the Danceverses’! This may be the last game you’d expect to see a Story mode in, and while it’s not Disney-level quality, it’s just so weird that it’s amusing. I won’t spoil things here just in case you are curious to see it for yourself, but it was quite fun getting through the songs and seeing what happens. It won’t take up a ton of your time either, as it can be tackled in roughly 30 minutes to an hour.
Ready to challenge another friend, but they live across the world? The new Online Mode is made for you! For the first time ever, you can play with up to 5 friends, even when they are far away. While I personally feel playing with friends locally will always be better, just having the option is quite nice. The game runs quite well from some online tests, although I was only able to try it with 2 people at the same time. No lag was seen during these.
Once you’re done with the new tunes, you’ll be able to play some classics…for a price, literally. If you are familiar with previous games, you know of Just Dance Unlimited, a subscription service that allows you to play hundreds of songs compiled from older games. Just Dance 2023 Edition introduces the successor to that service, Just Dance+. This is pretty much the same idea, but instead of getting over 500 songs, you only get a few over 150 to start. More classics will be added every Thursday and Ubisoft has promised that new, exclusive songs will come later as well. You may not get all your favorites at once, but hey, it makes for a great excuse to hang out with friends every week!
Regarding modes, it’s lovely to see the new options, but it comes at the cost of old favorites disappearing. Several classic modes have been removed, such as my family’s favorite World Dance Floor, Kids Mode and Sweat Mode. Obviously not everyone used these modes, but having options is never a bad thing, leaving me confused as to why they were done away with. Ubisoft did mention that along with new songs, new modes will be added in the future, so here’s hoping for some classics to return.
Watch Out For This, it’s not all just bliss
Another sticking point comes from the game’s always-online nature. We’re all used to Just Dance games running without issue, the always-online aspect means you may encounter problems like thumbnails not updating properly, or sometimes loading at all. If you turn towards multiplayer and have players with different connection speeds, you start to see issues like songs taking awhile to load, even more missing thumbnails, and worst of all, missed dance inputs.
If you’d rather not have a constant internet connection or if you want to take the party where there’s no WiFi, you can always try Offline Mode. This mode allows you to download the new songs included in Just Dance 2023 Edition, but you’ll need 6.9 GB of space for that. While the file size might seem beefy, the end result is just 40 songs to enjoy.
Maybe should have stayed As It Was?
It’s clear Just Dance 2023 Edition aims to innovate with new features. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel the game has taken two steps forward and two steps back. In other words, Just Dance 2023 Edition is as good as previous titles, but in a different way. If you have the older games, I recommend sticking with those for the time being. That said, if you really want to dance to the new songs and check out the fresh features, Just Dance 2023 Edition might be rather enticing.
As time goes on, Just Dance 2023 Edition will become a much better product. With more songs and modes being added in the future, this release could end up being the definitive dancing experience. Who knows, maybe at some point you won’t have to worry about being online all the time, how your favorite song is still missing, or about having enough memory to store your data. Hopefully that’s the case, and we’ll eventually arrive at a time when we can Just Dance.