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All About...
Unison
Review

It's got more style than J-Lo and it's funkier than George Clinton. Tecmo's latest rhythm-based game shines.
It's important to color coat yourselves so people know who's who.
Tecmo's Unison is a blast to play. The game oozes style in the same way that Space Channel 5 did, and the control scheme uses the dual sticks of the PlayStation2 controller better than anything since Ape Escape. Using the sticks, the player controls onscreen dancers that are determined to legalize dance in the city of Twin Ships, and the whole thing is controlled with symmetrical patterns that are taught throughout the game. It's a bit heavy on rote memorization, but most won't mind, as the game is both an aural and graphical pleasure. If dance pads were too much, this is the game to check out. No pads, no panting, no sweating -- just good gameplay.





 



The story mode of the game starts with the player selecting Trill, Cela or Chilly (Normal, Hard and Very Hard difficulty, respectively) and then dancing through 12 songs in order to convince the evil Emperor Ducker that dancing shouldn't be outlawed. After the first dance (to YMCA, no less), the girls form the group Unison and start air-jacking Ducker's broadcasts. Doctor Dance is the girls' leader, and his Afro is nearly as big as the rest of his body. Throughout the game, a story is told where the player earns fans throughout Twin Ships by dancing well, and the ultimate goal is to win over a majority of the city, thus making dancing legal again.

If the whole thing sounds weird, it is. It's very Japanese, both in its visual appeal and its storytelling. The story has a ton of subtle humor in it aimed at adults, much like the best Saturday morning cartoons, although a few of the musical choices are somewhat questionable. It's not that the rhythm isn't there or the music is bad; rather, the songs either contain bleeped out words (marijuana references) or sexual double entendres (Barbie Girl). Most of this will be missed by the younger crowd, but it is worth noting.

Each stage starts with a training mode that can be repeated endlessly. In training mode, Doctor Dance shows the proper moves for each song and the player tries to follow along. Each character (Trill, Cela and Chilly) has a different set of progressively more difficult moves, but this is the game's shortcoming. Winning comes down to memorizing the player's moves, and there's not much more to it. While memorization and concentration can be fun, especially when put to the catchy melodies contained in the songs, a dedicated player can finish this game on normal difficulty in a day. Getting all of the dancers' moves down will take a lot of time and patience, but it will probably become quite repetitive as well.

That said, the moves (both onscreen and those controlled by the player) are mostly symmetrical, and there are even some paradiddles (left-right-left-left, right-left-right-right) and other drum-based patterns thrown in. The dances performed on the screen are usually exaggerated in a cartoon-like fashion, with TV-style camera angles and presentation making for visual pizzazz. The graphics are quite good, with a lot of effects such as motion blur and mirrors showing off some of the PS2's power. It's all accompanied by mostly catchy music that's all been remixed and "house-ified" -- how they could take YMCA and make it even dancier is beyond us.

In addition to Story Mode, there's Club Tecmo, where the player can choose any of the songs that have already been cleared and practice them with any of the characters. Additionally, up to three people can play at once, and they can all control three versions of the same character or all separate characters. For example, each player can control his or her own Trill, or each can be one of the three available dancers. This is a great way to learn all the dances and dancers perfectly -- and it's also a great party game, assuming the players know the moves. Additionally, score is kept here, and high scores are meant to be broken. That's the game. Sure, it's possible to play "one degree of Kevin Bacon" with the storyline, and the story itself is loaded with more campy humor than a special episode of Full House, but at the end of it all, the game is a good time waiting to be had. We wish it was a little longer and didn't rely so heavily on memorizing, but what's a rhythm game to do? Regardless of the minor annoyances, it was difficult to not have a goofy smile plastered on our faces while playing Unison; it's just one of those games.

The Bottom Line: It's not the creative leap that PaRappa was, but this is one of the most unique and satisfying rhythm-based games to come out in some time.

- Kevin Rice


Screens
Color Coating
Line Dancing
Bug
Fro


"It's possible to play "one degree of Kevin Bacon" with the storyline."

Screens

If this is an attempt to bring back line dancing, we are so out of here.

Dress up like a Japanese bug thing and dance with your friends-- it's everyone's idea of a good time. Isn't it?

There is a secret to the fro but we won't spoil it for you...

Stats
Developer Tecmo
Publisher Tecmo
Genre Rhythm Action
Players 1-2
Band Geeks
So why did our reviewer know what a paradiddle was? Well, you see, in junior high and high school, he was a band geek with drumsticks -- and in college, he was a music major. Sure, the jocks poked fun at him. Sure, having to stay late or show up early for band practice was a pain. But look now! It's all paid off! Now he reviews games for a living! See the connection? Us neither.


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