Dance Central Spotlight Hands-On Impressions [E3 2014]


One of Microsoft’s announcements during their E3 conference was a confirmation that the popular Dance Central series would be making the jump to Xbox One this year, although in a different format than the three earlier titles. Dance Central Spotlight, again developed by Rock Band and Fantasia: Music Evolved creators Harmonix, will be a download-only game with a much smaller built-in playlist of songs, but it’s not without some interesting new perks for fans of the earlier games.

Today at E3, I got the chance to demo the game at Microsoft’s booth, and danced to the infectious Pharrell Williams hit, “Happy.” In terms of basic gameplay, things haven’t changed from the original titles. You’ll once again mimic the dance movements of the on-screen character to get points. Obviously, the graphical presentation is noticeably snazzier thanks to the Xbox One’s increased horsepower. I also noticed that point multipliers, last seen in the original Dance Central, will apparently make a return.

After playing, I took the opportunity to speak with two Harmonix employees running the demo, namely Jim Toepel, who is the lead designer of both Spotlight and Dance Central 3, and Jessa Brezinski, the product and community manager for the series who also runs the official Dance Central Twitter. Both of them were able to fill me in on some additional details regarding the game, particularly the added difficulties, how downloadable songs from the original 360 titles will work, and the improved practice mode.

Previous Dance Central games only contained up to 4 difficulties for each song. Spotlight will bump the total up to 8, with 4 unique routines on top of the default 4. Also, while there is no official indication that on-disc songs from the original games will be able to be exported to the Xbox One version, all of the past downloadable songs that you’ve bought will be compatible with Dance Central Spotlight for no extra cost, and will also have their total amount of difficulties bumped up to 8.

Toepel and Brezinski cited an improved song-making process that Harmonix has come up with as the reason behind being able to add the extra routines, and while not every past track will be available when the game launches, the developer plans to consistently release updated songs on a weekly basis, alongside numerous new tracks exclusive to Spotlight. The base game will only come with 10 songs, but Harmonix already has over 50 DLC tracks in the pipeline.

For those who want to perfect their moves, Dance Central Spotlight will also host an enhanced Rehearsal Mode for practicing songs. Players will now be able to rewind and fast-forward to specific sections in every song, be they old or new, as well as navigate hands-free with the Kinect’s voice commands. Unlike Dance Central 3, though, I was informed that Usher won’t be returning to narrate Rehearse Mode.

Dance Central Spotlight will be available for download on Xbox One this September. We’ll keep you posted when we hear more on the game so be sure to stay tuned!