Just Dance 2023

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Just Dance 2023 Edition – Review

Being able to play a game and get in some exercise is something we rarely do simultaneously, with the exception of Just Dance 2023 on Nintendo Switch, the next title in Ubisoft’s long-running series. Existing fans and new dancers are invited to join the party that keeps the classic formula but also brings some welcome changes.

The name of the game says it all; the goal of the game is just to dance. While it sounds understated, the game most definitely isn’t… It’s not all simple claps and sways, it hits you with full-on choreography. As in previous titles, you can dance solo or grab a crew, but in a fun step-up, there are now more ways to connect and various dance modes to explore.

For the first time, Just Dance offers the ability to play online with up to 6 players. The games are great in the same room as friends but it’s always been a challenge to get the moves down without stepping on others’ toes, or worse, stealing the spotlight. The game hasn’t done away with loungeroom multiplayer so don’t fret if you need your backup dancers! I tried matchmaking online and had no problems finding a squad and enjoyed our dance battle with voice chat enabled.

Crossplay with Xbox X/S and Playstation 5 is possible, so all your console friends can join in too. The process to get started in multiplayer took some time and comes with some conditions. Each player must have their own copy of the game, a Nintendo Switch Online membership, the Xbox and Playstation equivalents, and Ubisoft Connect. It’s a slow start, but once that was out of the way it was time to get started.

The scoring system and high-score tables are still present and there’s a nice little “bragging rights” when the winner is announced. One of the most satisfying changes is personalisation via dance cards, with the ability to unlock new dancer images, emotes, backgrounds, and more. The desire to persevere to get the next achievement led me to revisit tracks with the hopes of earning more stars and prizes.

The most immediately noticeable revamp to the series is the incredibly dynamic 3D backgrounds. In the past the scenery was somewhat bland, this time around, it’s eye-catching, vibrant, and crisp. Each song has expressive dancers to go along with the thought-out worlds, bringing their own style and personalities that capture the essence of the songs. The animations, motion of characters, and set pieces are nothing to be scoffed at. Playing as a popping and locking robot in “Heatwaves” by Glass Animals was a testament to the quality of the 3D character models and environments.

On the other end, 2D animation was just as strong, “Danger! High Voltage” by Electric Six had me performing a routine in a pixel world while fighting through waves of enemies. No two stages feel too similar, so I looked forward to working my way through the huge selection to see the next spectacle. My biggest issue with the design was how distracting it could be; being able to find focus on the dance steps through everything going on became a little extra challenge for me to take on.

A whopping 44 songs are in the current playlist spanning a variety of genres, and in a very smooth move, Ubisoft announced Just Dance 2023 as the last yearly title. From here, the series will run with a Games as a Service model, similar to video streaming platforms, and as such, is a digital download only. Ongoing seasonal content updates will be introduced to expand the library further for the 2023 release for the next 12 months. With a Just Dance+ membership, access to past songs and extra tracks is an option, and a 30-day trial also comes with the game. The subscription is mighty appealing but not something I want to be constantly reminded of, and Ubisoft kindly added a way to opt-out of advertisements for Just Dance+, meaning we can enjoy the game hassle-free unless we choose to pick it up later.

The interface receives a new look similar to streaming services and it is easy to navigate. Songs are readily visible and can be sorted by genre, mood, and intensity. Playlists streamline gameplay and the game will suggest curated ones based on your activity. Mine gave me songs like RuPaul’s ‘Sissy That Walk’ followed by ‘Boy with Luv,’ by BTS ft. Halsey, which were the perfect accompaniment in energy.

The mix of genres on display brought in music I typically wouldn’t associate with these games. I never thought I’d see Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me to Life’ and Linkin Park’s ‘Numb’ in Just Dance. There’s something for everyone rather than a focus on exclusively upbeat Pop songs, and it now also includes music by League of Legends “girl group” K/DA, “Playground” from Netflix’s series, Arcane dancing as Jinx, along with some good old classics and some pop hits.

The massively amped-up choreography can range from repeated steps to more complex fast-paced movements. The story mode, “Enter the Danceverses” serves as a tour of what’s to come. It’s incredibly brief at 28 minutes, but it ties multiple songs and dance styles together into a cohesive preview. Recruiting dancers across the “Danceverses” with their own unique style for the ultimate dance battle against the villain, Night Swan, incorporates each character’s moves into the fight. The campaign’s just the beginning though. There’s plenty more fun to be had afterwards and a lot more challenges if you’re up to it. The story will hopefully continue with updates over the coming year, but there’s no news on that yet.

As a game based on inclusivity there are now accessibility options filtering songs with categories like seated dances and filtering out floorwork or jumping. Personally, I appreciated the enclosed space filter as in former Just Dance titles I had very little room to move. I wouldn’t say I’m co-ordinated enough to consider myself a dancer and Just Dance doesn’t expect me to be. It’s all in the name of fun, but sometimes the complexity did a number on me.

Dances fall on a steep learning curve, even the easier ones were step-heavy enough for me to fall behind. I wouldn’t have minded a few more low-intensity songs for a warm-up before hitting the hard stuff. The challenge isn’t necessarily bad since choreography is something even seasoned professionals need to memorise and improve upon, so maybe I’ll become a Just Dance pro. Extreme versions of songs are the ultimate test, but I’m not sure I have the courage to meet their cardio requirements yet. Striving for mastery and the all-important achievements and unlocks is my ultimate goal in the long run though.

A relaxed game won’t be found here. You’re signing up for a full workout from the moment you hit play. Kicking, dipping, and waving arms are a must, and if you want to mix up your aerobic exercise, Just Dance has got you sorted. I often get bored with my usual gym trips so being able to play a video game, be indoors, and get a workout in is perfect. It’s very easy to work up a sweat and my arms hurt by the end of the first track, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” and I couldn’t stop the feeling of pain in my muscles.

Most songs felt very upper-body focused, even though there were combination movements involving legwork, but I struggled to get my limbs to match up in time. Luckily, scoring is forgiving as it’s based on the dominant hand being used to hold the Joy-Con so there are ways to play without the strain, but for hardcore players, there’s always the option to master the moves. Oddly, the “Sweat” mode isn’t in the 2023 edition, which previously gave dancers a “calories burned” count at the completion of a song. I miss the feature as it feels like another incentive to keep going for that extra satisfaction to keep moving.

My dance tour went surprisingly well on the Switch. I had very minimal framerate drops and stutter, and performance was strong despite the intensity of the graphics, with the quality staying consistent. Loading times were almost non-existent, letting me keep up a streak while my heart rate was still going strong. Matchmaking remained stable and I never lost connection or had latency issues while in-game. Optimization seemed to be a huge priority for the team and I appreciate how well it played on Switch.

The Joy-Con was responsive to every motion with no problem, but holding it during movements could be fairly risky without a wrist strap. Holding a controller while sweating did take some attention away from my concentration, and I’d much rather drop some sick moves than the Joy-Con. A rug to dance on is always a good idea here. Another option is to grab your Smartphone and download the Just Dance 2023 Controller App which also comes in handy for same-room co-op.

Just Dance 2023 continues to be the party game that gets people out of their seats and moving to the beat. Over a decade and the party isn’t stopping yet. There’s some extra oomph t

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The Good

  • Variety of songs and genres
  • Dynamic visuals and playable characters
  • Replayability in achievements
  • Minimal latency and stuttering
  • UI is intuitive

The Bad

  • Omission of Sweat mode for fitness tracking
  • Campaign mode is short and basic
  • High difficulty curve in choreography

Written by: Yasmin Noble


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