Thanks to Ubisoft for the review code
Title: JUST DANCE 2019
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 10/23/2018
Being a casual dance game for all, this obviously doesn’t have a story: yet this review does, due to the stupidly long time it took for me to get to finally finishing it, and readers may even wonder why I’m bothering in the first place for a game that was replaced by Just Dance 2020, 2021, and 2022 respectively.
To keep it short, I wanted to give Just Dance a go due to wanting to see what a newcomer’s POV would be like with it, but then I realized one aspect of the game just made the whole thing feel strange for me, and tough to write my thoughts down properly on: Then the 2019-2020 slowdowns happened and I’m just honestly wanting to finish what I promised so here’s a review of Just Dance 2019: AKA, the one with the funny Pac-Man dance.
Just Dance is one of those series that if you’ve played one, you’ve pretty much played them all: each song takes place with a silhouette over a background, dancing in time to the music, with commands at the bottom of the screen indicating when you need to move your controller to the music, and copy what’s on screen. It looks fine in HD, and it looks OK on the handheld, even though you won’t be able to play it that way unless you detach the controllers and use it as a mini-screen. (Which I simply advise you to not do at all) But really, the visuals aren’t much to write home about, and get the job done here just as well as they did with the original Wii installment, with a vibrant art style and snappy UI.
Yes, that means like with most music games, it’s the quality of the included soundtrack that makes or breaks the presentation, and when it comes to Just Dance 2019, it’s a weird one, one that honestly led to me struggling with this review for a variety of reasons. As noted above, I have completely foreign tastes in music, and thus most things i’m into (J-Pop and instrumental songs) are just not at all here, nor will they be. (The unlimited plan does include a few foreign songs that I found appealing, however)
That being said, this game still has a few instrumental songs, the most notable for me being a rendition of the Pac-Man theme from the arcades, complete with cute costumes replacing the silouettes, and I ended up stumbling across a few vocal tracks that I didn’t find all that bad, and actually grew on me! It really just is up to you to look at the tracklist, and make your own choices. Or you could subscribe to Just Dance Unlimited and play pretty much anything in the franchise, which they really seem to push a lot here…
The main goal of Just Dance 2019 is to… Well, dance!
OK, that’s too simplified of an explanation. Here’s a more concise answer: Out of the box JD2019 includes a decent amount of tracks to play through. Various genres, with songs across the ages, although a majority of them are modern, with the title pretty much giving away a portion of the focus: yes, hit songs from the year 2019.
But I know why you’re reading this in the year 2021: You wanna see what a music newbie thought of this game, right? Indeed, I’ve had a fair share of playing music games… with VGM or J-Pop in them. American vocal music? I absolutely have avoided most of my life, outside of like, oddities my Mom’s side of the family listened to, like Only Time, a few Disney songs, and classics like Over the Rainbow. (Disney songs are in unlimited, from the Just Dance Disney Party series, but not those other two) So to me, about 97% of the tracklist is 100% unknown to me! There are at least a few foreign songs in this year’s entry, though, but even those were unfamiliar, and I didn’t find many of them to be that great, unfortunately.
I already mentioned above that for the most part, it is stuff I’m unfamiliar with, but the base game does include something I was: a very catchy remix of the Pac-Man theme! It’s cute, it has funny costumed ghosts, and it was a pretty great way for me to get used to the gameplay… Which is motion-focused and pretty typical. Move your joy-con arm in time with the music, and then shift it to the directions indicated to you in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Like any rhythm game, you have to keep a timing to the beat, which is easier said than done with motion controls, but despite this I found it shockingly easy to get three stars on my first attempts of a song, save for some harder difficulty ones that have a faster tempo to them.
I also noticed that while standing up, all the body movements made for quite a workout: it wasn’t anything too exhausting, but the game does have a sweat mode for a reason, so if you really want to, you can groove to keep your circulation up and burn a few calories, or just stay in bed and move your hands and hands only. (This game has no handheld mode, so don’t think about cheesing the game that way, it won’t work!)
Still, I managed to enjoy the core gameplay loop and find it decent fun, and the kid-friendly mode even has simple, stress-free tracks to dance to, making it pretty apt for little ones. However, one gripe I noticed in this mode, along with the game as a whole, is how much it pushes the ever living crap out of Just Dance Unlimited, Ubisoft’s Subscription Service for the series, that has persisted all the way until this year’s entry, Just Dance 2022.
With Unlimited, the tracklist massively expands, going for a range of songs across the entire series up to 2019. Lots of old classics I was much more familiar with show up here, including another video game dance in the form of a Tetris one. I used a free trial around the game’s launch, and I had a lot more of a comfortable time with the lineup Unlimited provided, yet I wasn’t too enthralled with this game to renew it past the trial point.
That didn’t stop the game from making it as in-your-face as possible tough: Unlimited songs are still present in the core game, just locked out, noting them with an Unlimited label. You do gain an in-game currency known as Mojo, which unlocks alternate dance variations and other customizable options, but you can’t unlock the Unlimited tracks this way, not even with long-term play. Thus, we get to the biggest crisis: Just Dance acts so hard like it wants to be a live service game with continual updates, yet it just… Refuses to be, being a weird line between full retail package and a subscription game. To make matters worse, songs from 2020, 2021, and 2022? Not available in this version of Unlimited: gotta buy these yearly to get the full catalogue. Utterly making this entry replaced on Switch, to the point it has been recently delisted due to the launch of 2022.
In conclusion, Just Dance 2019 is a game that if you’re a fan of the series, you already have. If you’re a newcomer like me, you have zero need to touch this nowadays unless it’s bargain bin, since it’ll get you a similar experience to the other cheaper games out there and you can use Just Dance Unlimited to get most of this game’s songs in the other ones.
Yet playing back around launch in 2018, even with Just Dance Unlimited in my possession due to a trial, the whole thing still felt really weird. It felt like by itself, a barely in-depth music game with only a limited amount of songs to groove to, and one that’s definitely a huge YMMV title due to the song selection: for me personally, the Pac-Man song was literally the only one I consistently replayed due to being something I remotely recognized, due to me hardly knowing any other songs in this game due to my upbringing.
Yet I did find a few familiar songs in Unlimited, which just makes me beg the question on why portions of Unlimited’s track list couldn’t be in the base game to begin with, or at least purchasable as DLC or unlockable in-game to keep rather, than a stupidly convoluted subscription service, one that still lingers in Just Dance 2022 mind you. I think being able to pick and choose your favorites as DLC while having unlimited being an all in one deal for play sessions would have been a much better model than yearly games like this, which don’t even feel like the right place to start for a newcomer like me still: I may have loved some Pac-Man dancing, but even that didn’t stop the weird controls and overall weirdness from making this game not click with me.
So really, I can’t at all recommend this in 2022 with the MSRP… Nor do I really feel it would have been worth recommending if I managed to review it with JDU in 2018. Having a subscription be a big part of the newer games instead of a free to start platform just makes me confused on what the point of these bigger games are, and it seems that confusion will just continue. You may actually want to go with the Wii version of this solely for the novelty of that one plus the Wii remote being a better motion controller than the Joy-Cons are, and not having to deal with JDU. Or you could buy whatever new version of Just Dance is out now, do that unlimited plan Ubisoft insists on forcing upon us, and play the songs from this game there.
I give Just Dance 2019 a 5 out of 10.