Eight years after it became a record-breaking success for Ubisoft on Wii, the Wii Remote has at long last been swapped out for Joy-Con as Just Dance 2017 lands on Nintendo Switch.
With more than 60 million copies sold worldwide, Ubisoft has worked hard to see the series deservedly become a household name. But, with Guitar Hero and Rock Band’s yearly iterations having slowly killed consumer interest to result in mounds of unloved plastic peripherals, the unending challenge that Ubisoft Paris must face is to discover ways in which to attract players with each release – not simply relying on a new song list populated with the latest chart-toppers.
After you have cleared enough space to shake your body down to the ground without the fear of an accident, your room will soon be warmed with a neon glow. For if there is one thing that Just Dance 2017 continues to pack, it is plentiful pizzazz – continuing to be an experience that basks in an eye-poppingly vibrant aesthetic, with accessible choreography performed by professional dancers garbed in costumes that range glamourous and mischievous costumes alike.
As always, across all modes players are required to copy a routine performed by an on-screen dancer, following them as if they were your reflection in a mirror. rewarded with points that are scored based on their accuracy. Pictos that appear in the lower-right corner of the screen will give an early warning about which move is coming up next, and it is down to the player to react accordingly. It is the pace of the songs themselves that will determine how difficult the routine will be, and, perhaps an area that Ubisoft could improve is to provide more than one dance routine per song.
With scoring entirely determined by successfully mirroring the on-screen dancer with the Joy-Con, it is a shame that there isn’t a chance for the game to lend wider feedback on specific areas that the player can improve to increase their score. Just Dance 2017 would rather shower you with new avatars rather than help you to improve, which becomes a concern when it is so easy for the player to feel overwhelmed in faster-paced songs.
After several iterations, the experience still wholly relies on the player to repeatedly play their favourite songs to learn the routines, rather than allowing them to hone their skills – even letting them practice all the Picto moves that they will be required to perform would be a plus. Perhaps we should just get lost in the fun of it all, but it would certainly alleviate the frustration at not knowing why the game scores you poorly for a move that you think you have nailed.
Just Dance, World Dance Floor, Just Dance TV, Dance Quest, Sweat and Playlists return as the core modes, each seeing you tackle the song list in the usual ways. But Just Dance 2017 introduces Just Dance Machine as a new mode, where aliens find themselves stranded in Earth’s orbit after their spaceship runs out of power. This quirky addition will see players follow routines in multiple dance styles, your accuracy building Dance Energy that will help restore power to their ship. You will encounter five styles with each attempt, your success not only collecting Dance Energy but rewarding you with the chance to unlock new styles to dance to. The problem is, this isn’t a particularly memorable experience. Without delving into the core song list, there is little reason that players will want to spend time here.
It is worth nothing that the Joy-Con are lightweight and more comfortable in comparison to the Wii Remote, which makes a difference when you are flailing your body around trying to keep up with a fast-paced routine. But, more importantly, it results in the Nintendo Switch providing a more positive experience when compared to input methods on other platforms. You can use your smartphone instead through using the Just Dance Controller app, but, with two Joy-Con available to you, that would seemingly be a preferable choice every time.
Your Just Dance 2017 copy will also come with a free 90-day subscription to Just Dance Unlimited, a service that is packed with more than 200 songs, exclusive tracks and special playlists that are all updated throughout the year. Ubisoft hopes to lure you toward buying the Nintendo Switch version with having access to “How Deep Is Your Love” by Calvin Harris and Disciples as a temporary exclusive, whether that’s important to you or not.
The larger issue that will deter players away from the dance sensation is the price – seeing as it costs more than double what the other versions are now sat at. Whether that be Ubisoft trying to ride the excitement around the new console, manufacturing costs or another reason, I can see many waiting until the price starts to tumble.
Never one to be lost in the spectacle of its unbeatable production values, Just Dance 2017 discovers a welcome home on Nintendo Switch. With the console lending the chance to dance anywhere that you like, the Just Dance faithful will be happy with this iteration. But Ubisoft still needs to find more ways to playfully reinvent what we have come to expect from the series.