The Nintendo Switch has tons of potential as a newly-released multiplayer machine. Launch title, 1-2-Switch seems to be being pushed as the marquee multiplayer experience on Switch at this point, but if you somehow missed its launch on various other platforms last October, Just Dance 2017 also makes for a pretty solid option for friends, family and even oneself to enjoy on Nintendo’s new hybrid platform.
Just Dance has always been a particular favourite on Nintendo platforms, after the series began as Wii-exclusive all the way back in 2009 (heck, even this latest game still released for the long-discontinued Wii, and that’s still the best-selling version of Just Dance 2017 at this point!), making it unsurprising that Ubisoft’s dance game franchise wouldn’t waste any time rushing in to the Nintendo Switch library, even with a highly belated port of last year’s offering. Just Dance 2017 also bears the distinction of being the first third-party game that was ever officially announced for Nintendo Switch, back when it was known by its code name, “NX”, and even when this fact was revealed at this past E3, it didn’t really surprise anyone.
Fittingly then, this belated Switch port of Just Dance 2017 probably won’t surprise anyone either. It’s functionally the exact same game as the various other versions that released back in October, on every other current-gen and last-gen console, and even on PC for the first time, via Steam and UPlay! If you enjoy Just Dance however, and were possibly holding out for the Nintendo Switch version, or merely want a competent party game that provides more lasting value for your new Switch console than the anemic and overpriced 1-2-Switch, Just Dance 2017 is a decent starter proposition for the platform, one that functions well for your get-togethers and workouts.
The Just Dance series has largely maintained the same glossy, neon-fueled presentation for most of its entire library by now, with the whitewashed (sometimes blackwashed) glowing dance avatars that define the series still in place for every song. The lambent caricatures of recognizable artists like Psy, Justin Bieber and even Hatsune Miku that play over their respective songs have a good balance between authenticity and silliness, as usual, and they’re still challenging to emulate, without feeling too imposing for those who are rhythmically-impaired.
Predictably, the presentation factor of Just Dance 2017’s Switch version js identical to the other current-gen builds on PS4, Xbox One and PC, and isn’t really any kind of noticeable visual leap over the Wii U version of the game either. On the television, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between any build of Just Dance 2017 anyway, save for the Wii version, since it’s the only one that lacks high-definition graphics. It’s on the Switch’s handheld screen where the graphics become a bit more noteworthy, since Just Dance 2017 runs just as flawlessly and is just as easy to dance along to in Tabletop Mode, with no performance downgrade when you take the game on the go. The portable screen actually makes the visuals appear even sharper than they do on even high-end televisions and monitors, which is a cool cherry on top of the fact that this Switch port of Just Dance 2017 is the only Just Dance game that you can currently easily take with you wherever you go.
Just Dance 2017 packs in one of the better soundtracks in the series to date, with a bit of a decreased emphasis on party-fueled goofiness, and a bit more of a focus on exercise and refining your dancing skills. That’s not to say that the game is suddenly inaccessible or humourless, but you get more ambitious and popular dance-friendly tunes from many eras in this case, from retro hits like, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire and, “What is Love” by Haddaway (though they’re both covers), along with more contemporary favourites like, “Sorry” by Justin Bieber and, “Wherever I Go” by OneRepublic. They even sound pretty sharp and clear coming from merely the portable Switch unit’s built-in speakers too, even if they’re obviously best broadcast on a television.
Some of the songs are easier (and more fun) to dance to than others, but it’s nice to see more of an effort to provide a soundtrack that avid dance enthusiasts would actually want, without too many lesser covers, unknown international pop songs, and general goof-off tunes that feel like they’d be more at home in Just Dance Kids. Fortunately, if you do want to indulge in the time-honoured tradition of getting drunk and shaking it with your equally drunk friends, you have plenty of light-hearted options, such as Psy’s, “Daddy”, and Hatsune Miku’s, “PoPiPo”, which are pretty humourous and party-friendly to dance to. If you’re attached to the unspoken sexual tension that you may or may not have for the pals of your preferred sex, you’ll also have no shortage of duets, triples and quartet variations of the same songs to dance along to together in rival-style competition, all of which will sometimes allow you to get a bit grabby for the sake of points.
Perhaps the best draw regarding the soundtrack options in Just Dance 2017’s Switch version however is that it contains three free months of the ‘Just Dance Unlimited’ online service, at no extra charge from the game’s base $59.99 price (there’s an extra $10 charge for the Switch build in contrast to the base PS4 and Xbox One versions in the U.S., but here in Canada, the Switch version of Just Dance 2017 is the same price as the other two current-gen console builds!), which gives you hundreds more great songs from throughout the Just Dance series’ previous games to enjoy! Previously, this bonus three months of Just Dance Unlimited was restricted to European versions of Just Dance 2017, or the ‘Gold Edition’ of Just Dance 2017 that is optionally offered on PS4, Xbox One and Wii U in North America (as an FYI, the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii versions of Just Dance 2017 don’t have access to Just Dance Unlimited), which is a decent little incentive for those Canadian gamers who waited to pick up the game’s Switch version. You need an active internet connection to use Just Dance Unlimited, but as long as you have that, you’ll never be starved for options to get down and party with!
The title really says it all in Just Dance 2017, or any Just Dance game for that matter. The object of the game’s selection of modes is always to follow an on-screen dance avatar’s dance moves, trying to the best of your ability to keep up, either by yourself, or with up to five other people. The game doesn’t necessarily demand any skill at dancing, since you’re never failed out, even for a laughably awful performance, making the game more of a friendly party game than a serious dance challenge. As usual for the series, you gain points and unlock rewards for dancing better, but you never lose points or fail by dancing badly, which is a good balance between rewarding skill, without limiting the game’s audience to people who are innately very good at dancing.
Just Dance 2017 doesn’t really mix up the series’ fundamentals for its belated Switch port either. You can still make use of the game’s tie-in smartphone app to have your cellphone function as a controller that the game can track to assess whether you’re performing moves correctly, but fortunately, much like in the case of the Wii, the Switch offers a compatible controller that you don’t have to buy separately, if you don’t want to use your phone.
Naturally, you can use standalone Joy-Cons in place of a smartphone when playing Just Dance 2017 on Switch, especially since the console itself comes packed with two of them, with players able to hold a Joy-Con in their hand, to be tracked in place of your smartphone as you dance. This is a pretty big advantage that, combined with the fact that the Switch can be taken on the go if you so choose, likely makes the Switch build of Just Dance 2017 the ideal version of the game, if you don’t mind sacrificing the achievements/trophies in the PlayStation, Xbox and PC builds. Even then though, it evens out in the sense that the PlayStation and Xbox versions require you to buy separate specialized controllers or accessories to play Just Dance games on those platforms, if you don’t want to use your phone. You’re also forced to play with your phone in the case of the PC version to boot.
Dancing with the Joy-Cons will likely be preferable to using a smartphone for many people, since the Joy-Cons’ straps can prevent them from flying out of your hands and breaking, if not injuring someone, during a heated dance session. They’re also considerably more comfortable to dance with than the bigger Wii Remotes that are necessary in the Wii and Wii U versions, as well as the PlayStation Move controllers that you have to buy separately to play the game on PS4 and PS3 (along with those consoles’ respective tracking cameras), if you’re not keen on using your phone. Those that don’t want anything in their hands at all when they dance will still inevitably prefer the freehand option of the Kinect controls offered in the Xbox builds of Just Dance 2017, but that obviously requires purchasing a compatible Kinect sensor separately, if you aren’t one of the early Xbox One adopters that got their Kinect right in the box.
With the fundamentals of the game simple and accessible enough for literally anyone to understand them, regardless of dancing ability or gaming pedigree, you’re greeted by a handful of play modes that you can try out to get dancing. The core ‘Just Dance’ mode will probably be many players’ first stop, where you have the option of competing against other players for the best dance score, or collaborating with them to boost a score that’s tied to both of you. There are solo songs for players that would rather use the Just Dance mode to dance in free play by themselves, but even if you load up a collaboration song in the competitive Rivals Mode, it doesn’t really make a difference for solo play, since you don’t fail out for an inactive controller that doesn’t move. Again, since the Switch comes with two Joy-Cons right out of the box, you can easily set up these kinds of free play sessions even in the collaborative songs, with no extra effort or purchasing of additional hardware, which is another noteworthy advantage unique to Just Dance 2017’s Switch build.
Outside of the usual score-chasing and avatar-unlocking in the main Just Dance mode, you can also dance on a live stage online, watch live video of other people dancing, or put together a song playlist to use during a workout, if you don’t want to just dictate your own workout time by having the game endlessly pick random songs for you. It’s all par for the course for the current Just Dance games, and it all works as well as it ever did, especially since this is a very simple game series. If you want to compete without friends, yet don’t want to play online, you can also participate in ‘Dance Quest’ mode, which returns from Just Dance 2016, being a mode that challenges you to get a certain score across a selection of songs, without falling below third place and being ranked out. It’s a good middle ground between casual free play sessions and more intensive workout sessions.
The main addition to Just Dance 2017, which is retained on Switch, is Just Dance Machine mode, which challenges players to rapidly and effectively perform eccentric moves like conducting a symphony or twirling like a ballerina, in order to recharge the spaceship of some lost aliens. It’s delightfully kooky and true to the spirit of these games, though it feels like a passing novelty without much depth, and mostly exists solely for intoxicated people to goof off on, before quickly getting bored and moving back to the main dance content. Just Dance Machine mode is actually missing in the last-gen Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii versions of Just Dance 2017 (though it’s still present in the Wii U version), but it’s no big loss in those cases, even if it’s still nice that the Switch version’s package wasn’t compromised in contrast to the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions of the game.
Beyond the free three months of Just Dance Unlimited and the portability option though, there aren’t really any real added incentives or extras in the Switch version of Just Dance 2017. It’s still functional and still fun to play with a group of friends, or even by yourself if you enjoy dance-related exercise, but even as one of the better recent games in the series, Just Dance 2017 doesn’t have any real surprises as far as its gameplay goes. For what it’s worth though, this is an even better way to get a party going during the Switch’s launch window than 1-2-Switch, so I suppose the brilliant simplicity of Ubisoft’s Just Dance formula even managed to beat Nintendo at their own game in this case.
Just Dance 2017 is probably your best current party game option on the Nintendo Switch for much of its launch window, noticeably outclassing Nintendo’s own 1-2-Switch in terms of challenges, extras and lasting value, even if it will probably be outperformed as a party gaming favourite by fellow re-release, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in just a few weeks, let alone the inevitable Just Dance 2018 that’s no doubt releasing this Fall. If you already bought Just Dance 2017 on one of its many other platforms, the belated Switch release doesn’t provide any real reason to double-dip, unless you think you’ll constantly need the ability to start a dance party while traveling at any point.
If nothing else though, the Switch version of Just Dance 2017 is arguably the game’s most recommendable version in many respects, since it’s easily the most convenient to play, putting aside the fact that you’ll still need at least a Joy-Con in your hands as you boogie down. Even if someone else is hosting a party and not you however, the portability of the Switch means that you can easily set the game up at their place and get a dance session started, which is something that the other versions of Just Dance 2017 don’t effectively offer you, not without lugging your whole full-sized console there and back anyway. Even with successive Just Dance games inevitably on the way on an annual basis, Just Dance 2017’s Switch version also confirms a really bright future for the series on Nintendo’s latest platform, where it seems especially at home, even more so than it does on the original Wii.
Still, this is nonetheless ultimately a Just Dance game, so you have to be actively signing up for the attraction to dancing with yourself and/or friends, which is really the first and only question that you need to ask yourself when considering purchasing this game, for Switch or otherwise. It’s worth noting that Just Dance 2017 is one of the series’ better games, having an especially strong soundtrack selection and plenty of unlockable rewards and score-chasing to accomplish, but that still won’t mean much to you if you refuse to dance.
If you are a Just Dance fan that was holding out and hoping that the Switch version would be the best version of Just Dance 2017 in the end, then good news, it largely is, so you might as well dive in now. If you have yet to try Just Dance and may be interested in the series, well, no time like the present too, especially since your new Nintendo Switch console isn’t going to be offering you many substantial gaming options for the next little while.
- Regular Just Dance formula works as well as ever in its latest incarnation
- Especially good soundtrack in the 2017 edition, particularly when you add Just Dance Unlimited
- The portability option and out-of-the-box Joy-Cons make the Switch version extra convenient
- If you don't like dancing, there's nothing for you here
- No real bonuses or extra incentives for people who already bought another version
- Just Dance Machine mode doesn't add much of note