Just Dance 2019 Review (Console Game, 2019)
This review focuses on the Nintendo Switch version of Just Dance 2019. Each console has their own control method determined by whether or not they have a camera or specialty controller built in.
It’s hard to believe it, but the Just Dance franchise has been around since 2009. It is a party game series. It’s a hop in and play dancing game. You mirror the moves of the characters shown onscreen and score points based on your accuracy. The game has consistently featured hit songs from around the world, giving you a large variety of songs and dance styles to play with.
The challenge of this game’s development is still apparent today. Just Dance was designed for the Nintendo Wii. That means a full body dancing game judged your performance on how you held and moved a dance remote. In the original incarnation, this was not great. I remember actually returning the game because the controller detection was so poor. The game got much better when it expanded to XBox 360 and allowed for the Kinect, the camera accessory, to track your body and get a better representation of what you’re doing. The single controller option still existed for Nintendo consoles and party mode on the PS3/4 (using the Move controllers), but it took quite a while for the controls to feel accurate.
On the Nintendo Switch, Just Dance 2019 plays like a dream. I never bought into the Kinect concept—not being able to fully turn off the camera if it was plugged into the console was a red flag for me—so I’ve only ever owned controller versions of the game. For the first time, I feel like the game finally responds to the nuances of movement with a single Joycon. Do I wish Just Dance would commit to tracking two Joycons on the Nintendo Switch for twice as much data and better scoring? Absolutely. Is it a deal breaker this time that you’re judged on what your right hand can do? No.
The scoring system feels fair, even if it is limited in scope. There are moves that just can’t register for points on the Switch version because your right arm is not moving or the dance move is just the legs. That’s okay. You should still follow along as the choreography flows together and skipping movements that don’t score will leave you in a bad position to get back on track and keep scoring. It’s also more fun if you just give in and dance along as best you can.
Put the scores aside. You’re here for the no-judgment, no seeing your body shape appear in pixels onscreen (yes, the camera versions show the outline of your body), dancing action. It’s great. The variety of dance moves and combinations don’t feel stale. Movements from all the different styles do appear in different genres of music, but their inclusion feels like a natural extension of the story being told in a given song. I’ve had issues in the past with there not being enough moves in a Just Dance game. I haven’t felt that yet with 2019 and I’ve gone through the 40 core songs.
40 songs isn’t really a lot in a rhythm game. That’s why Just Dance 2019 is wise to continue the unlock system. You can go to a gift shop—a coin operated capsule vending machine—that gives you new avatars, artwork, and song remixes/alternate dances for 100 mojo coins. The alternate versions have very different choreography, giving you a new routine to perfect for a favorite song.
Just Dance 2019 really goes in for online play. An online mode isn’t new to Just Dance, but the current iteration is the cleanest and most user friendly. Once you unlock the World Dance Floor mode (it only takes playing a few songs), you can enter a friendly composition for higher spots on the dance leaderboards. The server votes on which song they want to play next—an either/or system, not the full catalog—and the winning song pits everyone head to head. The higher your score, the higher you go on the ranks. You might also be cooperating as a team to defeat a dance enemy—a very high score connected to an avatar that cannot be obtained alone—or split in half to compete for the highest team score. It’s just a fun mode with new objectives. It’s a little slower than the core game as it has to load data for all the players, but it’s not too long a wait.
The bigger draw here is the add-on service Just Dance Unlimited. Everyone who purchases Just Dance 2019 on any console receives a free 30 day subscription to Just Dance Unlimited. Ubisoft set up on online streaming catalog of over 400 songs and dances from previous versions of Just Dance. This is 10 times as many songs as are featured in the core game, all reset to match the current gaming control and calibration of the 2019 edition. Just be aware that it is streaming data, so larger songs might buffer or drop in quality while you’re playing. It’s a fair trade off.
I wish they were more transparent in game about the costs. On the Switch version, you have to go the the Nintendo eShop to see the pricing plan. The prices are also not listed on their website or in any press release or advertisement I can find. That’s a poor decision just because the pricing is really good. You get one day for $2.99, 30 days for $3.99, 90 days for $9.99, or 365 days for $24.99. If you know you like the game and anticipate playing for a while, that one year package breaks down to just under seven cents a day. Even the one day pass isn’t unreasonable if you are only going to bust this out for a party and don’t need constant access.
For me, I keep a few rhythm or movement based games in rotation for a workout when I don’t have time to get to the gym. I need stimuli and instant responses to commit to a workout program, and Just Dance 2019, like so many rhythm games before it, does it for me. There’s star rankings, scores, and even a Sweat Mode that gives you an approximate calorie counter for your dancing. On the Switch, there’s no way it’s accurate (only one controller in your right hand, remember?), but at least the option is there. Combined with over 400 songs from Unlimited, I won’t grow tired of this as a workout option for a long time. Dancing is a great workout and even the slow songs in the game don’t give you a break until you’re on the scoring screen.
Just Dance 2019 also features a Kids Mode that is really well laid out. This, too, features 40 songs, though most are different from the core game. These are silly songs about ghosts or pirates, a lot of Disney songs with look alike characters dancing onscreen, and very catchy pop songs with naturally clean lyrics. The core game features no cursing, but some of the songs and dance moves are suggestive. The Kids Mode features simplified dance moves and a non-judgmental score system ranging from “ha-ha-ha” to “wow.” I tried very hard to not hit the steps correctly and still managed five rainbow stars by the end of a song. This is a fun, very easy mode that features solo and two-person songs that more people, especially young people, will be able to follow along with. I wish the Kids Mode also featured four person songs to accommodate larger families or more friends at a time, but everything else is done to perfection.
There’s really not a whole lot that can be said about an almost-10-year-old franchise. Just Dance 2019 is the best entry I’ve played, but I also haven’t picked up an entry since 2015. This feels like a good entrance point for the series, especially with the Unlimited add-on. I had a lot of fun trying out all the songs as a solo player and know from experience the game only gets better when you add in more dancers. Up to six people can play at a time, so make sure you leave plenty of room in front of the TV when company is coming.
Just Dance 2019 is available for the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Switch, PS4 (with Move controllers or cellphone integration), Xbox 360 (with Kinect or cellphone integration), and Xbox One (with Kinect or cellphone integration) for $40.
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