Just Dance 2023 Edition, dancing never goes out of style | Review

Who I am
Judit Llordés
Author and references

It seems like yesterday that I started Just Dance for the first time (that's right, the first Just Dance, with no numbers near it) on the Wii; at the time I was 8 years old, my passion for dance was already immense and all I asked was to dance to the tune of “Who Let the Dogs Out?”. Thirteen years have passed since then, during which I was able to follow the evolution of the Ubisoft franchise step by step which, title after title, song after song, continued to make me learn more or less beautiful choreographies. We have now come to Just Dance 2023 Edition, which, in addition to an extra word in the title, sees the addition of new elements, refreshing the saga and keeping it sparkling and stimulating.

Just Dance is in fact a franchise that has evolved steadily over the years, offering with each release slightly improved graphics, experiments with camera angles, more complex choreography, new musical genres and new modes. We went from almost exclusive US pop to introducing k-pop, French, Arabic and even Spanish music (I'll never forget when I first saw “Cercavo Amore” in Just Dance 2017); while maintaining the basic idea, that is to dance following the dancers on the screen with the aim of obtaining the highest possible score, Ubisoft has never abandoned the rhythmic title, quite the contrary.

The Just Dance community, including streamers, youtubers and fans all over the world, has never been so active, and all of Ubisoft's love for the franchise has been poured into Just Dance 2023 Edition, the new title released on November 22nd for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. In fact, not only has a new menu been introduced (which has always been done every 3 years anyway), but for the first time we can speak of a real and palpable innovation in every area of ​​the gameplay.

In the Just Dance multiverse

We've been used to seeing a graphical improvement every year, but in this edition Ubisoft has pushed the accelerator, making the dancers more realistic than ever, showing — finally — the expressiveness that should never be lacking in dance and even giving each one a name, visible in the character selection screen before starting the song. Moreover, for the first time there is such a thing as a campaign: a playlist that takes the player into the “Danceverse“, a series of songs that outline a kind of battle between good and bad where it is easy to guess who will prevail in the end, but it is still interesting to see an effort in creating something new and more engaging .

If in the other titles we only saw about forty disconnected songs, in Just Dance 2023 Edition there is instead a common thread that binds almost all the tracks, given by the dancers repeating or sneaking into other songs. And I'm not talking about the classic mash-ups that have always been present in the franchise, but real meta-videogame connections not only with the game itself, but also with its predecessors.

In fact, Ubisoft does not forget and does not repudiate its legacy, on the contrary, it decides to take back a song from Just Dance 2 loved by fans, Toxic, rejuvenating it and proposing it in a completely new guise, with a new choreography, much more complex and suitable for the song, a decidedly more captivating costume and all the technological innovations that weren't available in 2010. However, it also offers the original version, thus allowing non-veteran players to dance both and see the incredible evolution that has taken place over the course of 13 titles (not counting the spin-offs).

One of the things I liked most about Just Dance 2023 are in fact the choreographies, much more elaborate than those of past editions: There is much more imagination in both the backgrounds and in the design of the characters, while the excellent editing transforms each song into a music video, making the gaming experience much more immersive and dynamic. Furthermore, space is given to inclusiveness, with a choreography featuring a dancer in a wheelchair as the protagonist, in addition to the usual tracks that can be performed entirely while seated.

In terms of genres we find instead, as is now usual, a well-balanced mix, with some truly unexpected gems: if by now we are used to seeing many k-pop songs given their high danceability, I never imagined dancing to the tune of Linkin Park's Numb or Evancescence's Bring Me To Life… and yet they work perfectly. Of course, there's no shortage of classic Just Dance songs, perfect to perform in company, and those with strange characters such as robots and stick-men.

A title destined to die?

However, the innovations of Just Dance 2023 do not stop at the songs: as mentioned there is a new menu, with a much cleaner and more modern look, while more space is given to customization. In fact, we can choose an "whole" avatar instead of the usual profile photo, badges to show next to our name and even the effect of feedback on the screen, while the aliases and backgrounds that can be unlocked during the gameplay also remain. Also of interest is theintroduction of a goal system, which make leveling up more comprehensive than simply collecting XP.

However, the new element Ubisoft is most proud of is the ability to add friends, thus creating private rooms in which to challenge each other even remotely and not only locally. This is an excellent feature that was really needed and which allows the community to finally meet in a virtual way, but which is not enough to make up for a very serious lack: the World Dance Floor.

In Just Dance 2023 Edition it is indeed — for now — Completely accept the online competitive modality introduced in the 2014 edition and which allowed players from all over the world to challenge each other in 3-song tournaments. The World Dance Floor, for people like me who play a lot and throughout the year until the release of the next title, was a lifeline after months of repeating the same choreography; the defiant air gave it a panache, an incentive to continue playing months after its release and to improve.

The game is currently just released and there is therefore the desire to learn all the songs, but in a few months, unless the World Dance Floor is included with an update, this urge will inexorably fade. Another element that is impossible not to complain about at the moment is the small amount of songs included in Just Dance Unlimited, the paid section of Just Dance which in the previous edition offered 400 tracks, and which has now been decimated to 150; although other pieces will certainly be released during the year as Ubisoft usually does, I doubt that 250 will be added, and considering that the subscription price is unchanged compared to Just Dance 2022, the quality is decidedly lower.

Finally, I want to make a small note on the Switch version of Just Dance 2023: although the Nintendo console is very comfortable due to the presence of the Joy-Con, which allows you to play without having to buy additional accessories as in the case of Xbox and PlayStation, the title has been optimized really badly. The initial load for connecting to the Ubisoft Center is endless, and lag during games is not uncommon. Nothing that makes the work unplayable, but still an added frustration that I've never had to experience in the version for other platforms.

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