Dance Central is a launch title developed by Harmonix for the Xbox 360's motion controller, Kinect. This dancing game involves moving your body according to the indicators, but thanks to the sensors on the camera, it can read your whole body. This both adds more movement required for the player, but also means the moves had to be simplified compared to other dancing games to avoid physical strain.
The soundtrack is a bit narrower than other dance games, where most of the songs have a variety with the 2000s, but the songs from The '80s and The '90s are almost all hip hop, likely to fit with the urban dancing mood of the game.
The game also lacks local multiplayer, although it doesn't prevent friends from dancing along with you.
A sequel, Dance Central 2, was released on October 21, 2011 in Europe and October 25 in North America. It improves upon the original by adding true two-player gameplay in both competitive and cooperative modes, as well as the ability to create playlists, a freestyle-off option for DC2 on-disc songs and future DC2 downloadables, voice commands, and a more in-depth practice mode, allowing players to select specific moves in a routine to practice. Additionally, users can import songs from the original game, both on-disc and downloadable.
Dance Central 3 was released on October 16, 2012. It has a time-travel focused story mode, introducing numerous songs from the 1970s to the 2010s, as well as two new modes: Crew Throwdown mode, in which two teams attempt to outdo each other in dancing minigames, and a Party Mode. Both modes allowed more people to play the game.
Dance Central Spotlight was released on September 2, 2014 for the Xbox One as a download-only title.
Dance Central VR was released on May 21, 2019 for the Oculus Rift and Quest.
Kinect Star Wars is technically part of this line as well as the dance game portion, Galactic Dance Off, was developed by employees from Harmonix and likewise uses their gameplay interface.
This game provides examples of:
- Aerith and Bob: Normally named characters like Emilia, Aubrey, and Taye share the spotlight with characters named Oblio, Jaryn, and Dare.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: After Flash4wrd's era in DC3's story mode, DCI HQ was hacked by Dr. Tan.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes:
- There are alternate costumes to unlock in all games.
- In VR, in addition to clothes, you unlock new phones for maximizing your relationship with the other dancers.
- April Fools' Day:
- Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: If the player is doing well, the normal stage will drop into shadow with pulsing multicolor neon lights.
- AM/FM Characterization: Each of the dancers in VR has a favorite song that reveals a little about their personality. These songs can only be performed with the dancer that favors them.
- Art-Shifted Sequel: The model in Dance Central Spotlight looks notably different from the usual.
- With Dance Central VR Harmonix brought the art style back to the 2D of the original Dance Central opening.
- Bare Your Midriff: Several of the female character have outfits showing their stomachs, usually alongside more skin. Most noticeable is Taye in her Retro Fitted outfit where she wears a bandeau for a top.
- Bookends: The song list of the first game starts with "Poker Face" and ends with "Just Dance", both Lady Gaga songs, and both of which are from her debut album "The Fame".
- Boss Rush: The showdown with Dr. Tan and his minion in the second game onwards, where you have to dance the rep songs/era songs of all the dance crews in a row. Lampshaded by Dr. Tan himself in DC2 who calls the showdown "another boss to battle".
- Challenge Run: Playing with the flashcards off.
- Character Blog: Each crew member has a Twitter account, but only one is a legit account made by Harmonix themselves.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Every team in Dance Central 2 and Dance Central 3 have their own predominant colors:
- Riptide Crew: red and black.
- Flash4wrd: green and yellow.
- Lu$h Crew: blue and white.
- Hi-Def: brown, subverted since their clothes are multicolored.
- The Glitteratti: black and white.
- DCI: grey and purple.
- D-Coy: orange.
- M.O.C.: black and blue.
- Color-Coded Multiplayer: The flashcards in DC2, DC3, and Spotlight are colored purple and blue to differentiate the routines for player 1 and player 2. This is especially helpful for players that select different difficulties. The game also will add the second character on the same side that the second player joined from rather than always having player 1 on the left, preventing any mid-routine confusion.
- Color Motif: Alongside Color-Coded for Your Convenience, the dancers' personalities generally follow the colors of their clothing.
- Riptide Crew: A very upbeat and excitable duo dressed in red.
- Lu$h Crew: A calmer, yet haughty crew that wears blue and white.
- Flash4wrd: A pair of cheery, yet snarky, sisters who wear mainly yellow.
- Hi-Def: The most down-to-earth crew, represented by brown.
- The Glitterati: An antagonistic and cold crew wearing black and white.
- DCI: A pair of smart secret agents wearing purple.
- D-Coy: Another upbeat, enthusiastic crew represented by orange.
- M.O.C.: An out-of-balance crew. The more melancholic of the two is represented by blue while the obviously evil on is represented by black.
- Cool Ship: The final stage in DC2, aptly named "The Airship", is a giant airship with dozens of monitors, floor to ceiling windows, and a technicolor dance floor.
- Cover Version: There's one in DC2 of Britney Spears's "Toxic". It is also the only cover version ever done on the game.
- Dancing Is Serious Business: In DC3, where the plot is to save the world through dancing. There's even DCI, a CIA-esque agency to protect the world from dance crimes.
- Downloadable Content: Several songs can be bought and downloaded.
- Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer: At least for the second and third games, a second player can join in or drop out at any time by standing in front of the Kinect.
- Easier Than Easy: Dance Central 3 and Spotlight's Beginner mode, which only gives the player 3-5 different moves to perform.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first Dance Central would actually slow down the song if players weren't performing well. This was dropped in all sequels.
- Exergaming: There is a mode to track calorie counting.
- Extended Gameplay: Like the original Dance Central, Dance Central Spotlight requires you to unlock the other routines. In order to do this, you need to collect dance flashcards, which can only be obtained by performing a Flawless on a move. Collecting more flashcards will eventually unlock all 8 routines.... BUT unlocking all the flashcards on each routine for one song will present a golden boombox under the name. Depending on how many songs you have, you will be here for a while.
- Foreshadowing: At the end of Dance Central, Dr. Tan's apparent interest in and continued monitoring of Oblio foreshadows Oblio's kidnapping and the future reveal that the two are father and son.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: There are two places in Dance Central 3's story mode where you need to dance freely to progress. These sections have no flash card prompts.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: DC3's story mode, where it's said that creativity (swag) is more important than methodical dancing. In a rhythm game where dancing not according to prompt costs you points.
- Gossip Evolution: The news of the Dance Central club closing spread like wildfire. The reason it's closing ranges from being turned into "a Christmas ornament warehouse" to "a staple-gun test range" to "a training facility for sharks" and so much more. The actual reason for the club's closure is to turn it into a laser tag facility exclusively for rich people.
- Government Agency of Fiction: In DC3, Dance Central Intelligence recruit the Lu$h, Hi-Def, Flash4wrd, and Riptide crews to thwart an evil plot.
- Gratuitous Ninja: Ttiw Tolrep, aka "The Pink Ninja". This was changed to Shinju and added Kichi aka "The Blue Ninja" in the second game onwards.
- Guest Fighter: Of all things, Nisha and Claptrap from Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! on Spotlight, unlocked by mashing Y or X a few times on the character selection screen. Claptrap doesn't have feet, however.
- Guilt-Based Gaming: Might have to do moreso with the Kinect, but if you stop dancing, the game will pause.
- Similarly, if you put in 0 effort, the dancers will make snide comments about your low score at the end of the song.
- Harder Than Hard: A majority of the higher tiered songs in Dance Central 2, 3, and its DLC. It takes a lot more than just practicing the routines through Rehearse. Some moves are just way too fast, such as the Toe Tapper move in OMG. which also is labeled as the hardest song not just in Dance Central 3, but the entire series. You're even awarded an achievement for 5 starring the song.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: In DC3, the seven levels of song difficulties are thus named: Warm-Up, Simple, Moderate, Tough, Legit, Hardcore, Off The Hook. Averted in Dance Central Spotlight, where there are no skill level ratings at all (other than the different difficulty routines for each song).
- In a World
: The Dance Central 3 "Movie Trailer" is an actual trailer for the game, if Dance Central 3 was suddenly an action movie.Narrator: In a world where crews live to dance and dance to live...
- Intercourse with You: A number of songs on the soundtrack. The more obvious ones include: "Promiscuous", "Lapdance", "Poker Face", "King of the Dancehall", and "Satisfaction" but there are many more. Harmonix gets away with it by having a T rating.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Some dancers make remarks on stars, scores and other geeky stuffs after dances.
- Mad Libs Dialogue:
- The announcer (Rasa) in the practice ("Rehearse") mode for the first two games. He only has about 10 lines that will splice in extra information as needed. Most noticeably, if he needs to break down the move further, you'll get a spliced together chain of five words.
- Mecha-Mooks: Most of the games have robot dancers created by Dr. Tan to challenge you as the Final Boss of the series, except Dance Central 3 where you've to battle Dr. Tan himself.
- No Fourth Wall: VR actually gives you an avatar (you're still in 1st person POV) and the dancers talk directly to you.
- Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Dance Central: Spotlight, after previously numbering sequels.
- Old Save Bonus:
- If you own older Dance Central games, you can import their songs into newer games (for a fee).
- If you import the original DC soundtrack into Dance Central 2, you'll unlock Mo's outfit from the first game (The other four returning characters have their own DC Classic outfits unlocked through controller cheat codes).
- Only One Name: Most of the characters only have a first or nickname they go by, and Dr. Tan's first name is never revealed. Subverted with Oblio, whose last name is revealed to be Tan, Dare (last name Batheson), and MacCoy (real name Oleksander Macko).
- Original Character: Original songs anyways. Tan-Step for DC3 was the first, created by M-Cue, a developer of the game. When Dance Central (VR) came out, it featured two new original songs, Out All Night and Fall Apart (which is shared with Rock Band 4).
- Painting the Fourth Wall: At the start of DC3's story mode, a laser beam scans the player at DCI HQ. At the same time, the Kinect sensor also moves up and down.
- Recycled Title: Dance Central (the original) and Dance Central (the VR game), which is not at all a remake or reboot of the first.
- Rhythm Game: Par for the course as a dancing game.
- Ship Tease: There's not a lot in a game about dancing, but a few couples do get teased:
- Angel/Aubrey get the most amount of tease with a few moments scattered throughout the stories of both DC2 and DC3 that imply Aubrey feels more towards Angel than she lets on. One such instance is that Aubrey gets jealous just seeing Angel talk to Emilia. It looks like it might be sunk in VR before Aubrey reveals that she's been keeping her eye on Angel.
- Aubrey and Oblio get two moments, one in the comics released with VR, which shows Aubrey getting flustered around him, and one in VR where she admits that his "vibe" works for her. For his part, Oblio is either oblivious or not interested. Nothing comes of it though, and Aubrey moves on.
- Jaryn and Oblio receive some tease as well, although much more subtly than the previously mentioned pairs. There is a dance move in-game called "Mrs. Tan" which only appears on songs that Jaryn is the default dancer for. Tan is Oblio's last name. The tease gets a little more texty in VR, where Dr. Tan texts the player that Jaryn made an offhand remark at work about how she has an "interest" in Oblio. What that "interest" is, has not been clarified yet.
- Shout-Out: Many of the retro character and costume designs in Dance Central 3 were meant to be based off of real-life celebrities.
- Miss Aubrey's 70's look was supposed to resemble that of Farrah Fawcett.
- Glitch's 80's outfit is reminiscent of Michael Jackson's outfit in his Thriller music video, while Mo looks LL Cool J.
- Flash4wrd's flashy, colorful 90's outfits resemble those of TLC (who actually appear in-game with their song "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg")
- Emilia's 2000's look is a nod to Vanessa Lachey, while Bodie in his 2000's look looks like Aaron Carter.
- Stealth Pun: Why's that crotch-grabbing pelvic thrust in "Sexy and I Know It" called "Wednesday"? Because Wednesday is Hump Day. (Ba dum tss...)
- Stock Poses: Some of the dancing moves are well known poses, likely Just For Fun.
- Time Travel: The Story Mode of the third game is about Dr. Tan stealing famous dance steps from past decades, so the DCI hires you to get these steps back, travelling to The '70s, The '80s, The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium, where the game characters help you to get them by dancing (and also rescuing Dare and MacCoy, DCI agents who were kidnapped).
- Unlockable Content: Costumes and songs can be unlocked, as well various Secret Characters during the series, mostly the robots.
- Virtual Paper Doll: Multiple costumes are available for the characters.
- Word Sequel: Dance Central: Spotlight, the fourth game and the first and only game to have a subtitle instead of a number.
- Working Out Their Emotions: In the opening, Emilia ends up taking her anger out on a punching bag after getting off the phone with Miss Aubrey. While there is no dialogue in the scene, Emilia has some colorful thoughts about her ex-friend and, later on, it's revealed that the two can't stand each other.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Dare, Oblio, and MacCoy are absent from Dance Central 2. Subverted in that the third game brings them back as playable, unlockable characters and explains where they've been. Dare and MacCoy have been captured by Dr. Tan, and Oblio is revealed to be Dr. Tan's son and is under his Mind Control (that is, until the player breaks him free through some dance offs).