The beginning of an era
Let’s deal with a fact that the moment this story is being written: I am one of the very few of
surviving specimens what’s left from my generation who is still (relatively) active at DDR. Being my age in a busy pandemic era, I can hardly think of any other physical exercise aside from what I truly enjoy: a four-panel rhythm-based amusement product. It all started back in 1999 when I had my first encounter with one: a retail 2ndMix PlayStation release with some iconic songs (BOYS, BOOM BOOM DOLLAR, and DUB-I-DUB) of which I most enjoyed. It’s true that ‘first experience’ really matter as it can significantly shape our perception about something.
Many years later, fate decided that I should accompany some high school dudes to ‘lose some weight’ when we were supposed to represent our school to attend the briefing of this science-major competition hosted by a local prominent university (but hey… missing a session or two won’t hurt, right?). It didn’t take long before そばかす FRECKLES (KCP Re-Edit) from a 7thMix machine grabbed my ears. I thought I’d give it a try after my friends done with it, and guess what… it was total failure! 🙈 The game announcer was relentlessly mocking me at all times for wasting my lunch allowance on the stage.
Then time passed for another year with no play in between until mid-August, 2006, when I got another shot at this attention-seeker four-panel apparatus. I waited a considerable amount of time until the enormous crowd diminished significantly before making a
performance humiliating effort on DDR Extreme (it has ‘8’ number replacing the ‘3’ on the marquee). Sensing positive vibes from this story, I received sincere support in the shape of soft DDR carpet for home training (thx mom!). Weeks later, the hall of shame hasn’t finished with me… it was a proud defeat by a female player that came out of nowhere on a friendly 4thMix match. Enough is enough, it’s time to turn the tide!
Fast forward to early 2007, I’ve made some good progress at home before making a daring move to join my school
thugs gang on their regular exercise at Fun City (Ciputra mall, Jakarta – for only IDR 2,000/ play). Surprisingly, I made a leap from ‘LIGHT’ to ‘HEAVY’ difficulty level (that’s two steps up) in just a single day. A couple of months later, I could already guarantee a pass on 7-8 footers before getting my first pass on MAX 300 (it was a ‘D’) in the third month (it’s funny to remember that some school fellas were having a hard time to believe this report 🙈). In general, DDR made my 2007 life so much better, primarily as a healing potion for many kinds of problem: big flood, national exam, etc.
The only bad news in the same year was the initial release of Dancing Stage SuperNOVA at TIMEZONE (Taman Anggrek mall): a horrendously ill-fated (yet) expensive machine with poor step detection and timing issues (need to stomp really hard to just pass the first stage). The only playable SN1 machines at the time were 25+ kilometers away worth of driving:
1. Dancing Stage SuperNOVA (EUR ver; fortunately the pads were greatly modified) – TIMEZONE @Supermall Karawaci (IDR 5,000/ play)
2. Dance Dance SuperNOVA (1st Japanese red cab in Indonesia) – AMAZONE @Supermall Karawaci (IDR 2,500/ play)
High school graduation partially marked an end of the first era, as most of us stopped playing soon after to focus on pursuing higher education (some went overseas with limited or even zero access to the arcade). Kudos to Banji and Jupan for introducing me to this awesome game, and also: Olvon, Regi, WI, Ajay!
The continuation of an era
The year 2008 shaped another chapter for me as I learned to score more properly while making new connection with (extremely skilled) senior players. Chris (from X-LIMITED) convinced me that getting an AA or even AAA is really possible. The following year, SuperNOVA2 machines were coming fast in the city thus making DDR more accessible than ever before (SN2 is the first in DDR series to introduce ‘Marvelous‘ judgement – higher than ‘Perfect‘ – on regular gameplay). Early on, I couldn’t care less about ‘Marvelous Attack’ since AA grade was still my primary focus (surprisingly Exotic Ethnic was my first with roughly 92% clearance on MAX2).
What’s previously impossible was quickly becoming feasible, as I got better and better in controlling my rhythm and stepping technique. Still in the same year, I met another ‘monster’ (with roughly 40 AAAs at the time) that indirectly encouraged me to do even better. It was already too late to turn back and be a ‘good university boy’, so yeah… the rest is history. After a while, I finally got my first Perfect Full Combo (no ‘Great’, just ‘Perfects/ Marvelouses’) on ‘Every Day, Every Night’ Expert single play.
The peak of an era
After losing our favorite 7thMix cabinet at Fun City (replaced by an NX2), the closest candidates to be our new basecamp were either Pluit Junction with a SuperNOVA or Gajah Mada Plaza with a SuperNOVA2 (both were fully-unlocked). Without further ado, the latter won by fair means (better pads + extra songs). Thanks to intense training afterwards, I gained more experience faster than most as I rose through the ranks of the local community to become one of the reputable players at the moment.
In 2009, I luckily won a ‘gold’ at some local DDR competition held by a collaboration between EMI Gajah Mada Plaza and a friend. There was no prize money (see the pink doll in the pic? yup that’s it), but it felt so good to become decent at something that we are fond of. It was hard to believe that Chris or Vari didn’t win the battle as they were still better than I was.
In the following year, luck pushed myself even further into one more winning at another tournament. From a total of 43 participants, six were chosen as semi-finalists, but only three went to the final. If I remember correctly, I nearly didn’t make it to the final as the score difference between me and the fourth finalist were so close (just 6 perfects to be exact). Two other reasons for this victory: Ade Septian (our national-level monster) didn’t enter the tourney (he’s the judge anyway) and both last songs were picked by lottery (if it was PARANOiA ~HADES~, pretty sure I will become minced meat).
There were subsequent tournaments in 2011 alone like DDR X at Jatinangor Square (Bandung), second SN2 championship at Margo City (Depok), and DDR X2 at Pondok Indah Mall + Emporium Pluit (Jakarta). Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up fast enough with the rising skills of many fellow players. Nevertheless, experience is king!
The fall of an era
Soon after graduation, it was already considered a luxury just to have enough time for play. Entering 2013, I made friend with reality and stopped playing regularly as my focus has shifted towards future career. After X3 vs 2ndMIX, there was no new release for DDR during my 4-5 years of vacuum period. Even if there were cabs with decent pads within my commuting range, they got decimated pretty quickly (some even without warning).
The rise of a fallen era
In mid-December 2017, I was astonished with the sudden return of
the condor heroes DDR in Indonesia (in the shape of brand new white cabinets with DDR A installed). For the first time in history, we finally had the latest release of the game with reliable online-play support. By the time it arrived, Konami has already fixed the timing issue that plagued all previous releases, making it much easier to score a PFC or even MFC!
The hype was spreading like a wildfire, giving us access to at least five white cabs within Greater Jakarta alone in 2018. In this period, I learned to score more properly by aiming for ‘Marvelous’ instead of just ‘Perfect’ like I did in the past. This new mindset helped me raise my PFC collection from around 60 (from X3 era) to a few hundres in a relatively short time.
During my last arcade tenure, some of my fellow ‘retirees’ also made a comeback. We quickly became ‘rivals’ that slashed each other’s
throat high scores as we exponentially re-grow our rusted skills. Thanks to the improved timing system, getting lower perfect count was no longer an issue (at least for average mortals). Soon enough, I was already in the SDP (a.k.a ‘Single Digit Perfects‘) club and more or less at my peak (too bad we can’t get any younger).
Up until the beginning of pandemic era, I calculated an estimate of 350 PFC records on single play mode (on both Expert & Challenge charts; up to 14-footers) from my collection. Then the lockdown policy hit every single arcade business that I’ve ever known, so yeah… I endured a year or so of complete siesta before making up my mind to privatize a DDR machine which rejuvenated a part of my life.
There is (and will be) more to this chronicle, but right now allow me to enjoy the busiest season (yet) of my life. For fellow DDR players wherever you are, if you read this then I hope that you share the same happy story (write yours in the comment section 😊). Hear this: I will keep on playing as part of my fitness plan, especially after the legendary Aaron indirectly convinced me that I still have a long journey ahead!
More blessed years to come!