Software Review: StepMania 3.9


StepMania – the premier dance simulation / rhythm game. Used in arcades worldwide, and now available in the palm of your hand. But how does it fare on the Pandora? Find out in this software review. (version reviewed:, 15/7/2013; model used: Rebirth Pandora)


StepMania is a rhythm game based on Konami’s popular arcade dance simulation game Dance Dance Revolution. It has been used as the engine for arcade games such as Roxor’s In The Groove and Andamiro’s Pump It Up Pro, and enjoys an active community with thousands of songs, themes and game styles available.


First Impressions

StepMania is easy to install on the Pandora. After copying the pnd to the desired app folder, songs must also be copied to /pandora/appdata/stepmania/Songs (case sensitive) in the usual way for StepMania (several guides are available on the Internet on how to do this), since StepMania does not come with any songs pre-loaded. For people who already know how to use StepMania this might not matter, but for the people who just want to get straight into it, it would have been a nice touch to include three or four demo songs.

Running StepMania for the first time, I was instantly impressed by the smoothness and responsibility of the menus. This was my first experience of lunixbochs’ libGL implementation and I was thoroughly impressed, expecting more around 10 to 20 fps rather than the 30 to 60 I was getting, and I found the overall responsiveness of the game was greatly improved – practically matching the PC version – by overclocking my Rebirth pandora to 900 MHz (your mileage may vary here).


One thing I did notice was there seemed to be some problems with alpha transparency, especially noticeable in the key mapping menu. On a PC the currently selected menu option would “pulse” from white to slightly darker grey, which doesn’t happen on the Pandora port. This effectively makes the current selection highlight invisible for that menu. Another consequence of this is that if the background brightness is set any lower than 100 percent, the background image is completely invisible, leaving only a black background (which may be preferable to some).

Comparison of background brightnesses – left: 100%; center: 50%; right: 0% (image taken on PC). Only 100% and 0% can be currently achieved on the Pandora.


Gameplay is pretty much perfect and exactly what could be expected. I did get considerably more “Great” hits (as opposed to “perfect”) than when I play on a PC but this may be due to getting used to the controls or because my songs were out of sync. Since the porter ported version 3.9 as opposed to a more modern version such as 3.9+ Redux or OpenITG there are a few missing features such as “Roll” arrows which, instead of appearing as a long arrow with a start and an end, appear as a single arrow at the end of the roll arrow which crashes the game if missed (this is a known bug with version 3.9, which doesn’t support rolls).


Unfortunately it’s not that easy to check if a simfile has rolls in it before you play it and discover these weird arrows – short of opening the file in a text editor and looking through for them – but it’s generally a rule of thumb that songs and song packs downloaded from websites dedicated to In The Groove are more likely to contain rolls (since In The Groove is based off of a newer version of Stepmania that includes rolls), whereas songs and song packs downloaded from websites dedicated to Dance Dance Revolution are less likely to contain rolls and are therefore more safe for Stepmania 3.9.

Custom Themes / Noteskins

I also had a go at putting some popular custom themes and noteskins (appearance of the in-game arrows) into the Pandora port of StepMania to see how they fare. While all noteskins worked well, some themes has trouble working on the Pandora. In particular, most of k//eternal’s “PROJEKT” series themes lagged badly on the Pandora due to the sheer graphical intensity of them. Themes that I tested that work well on the Pandora include: CyberiaStyle 1, AOI Sapphire, Techno Fiend 3 and XI DiSTORTiON.


In summary, the Pandora port of StepMania is an excellent, robust and solid port. While there are a few graphical errors, none of them truly detract from the actual gameplay part which is perfectly implemented. This port is highly recommended and out of the two rhythm game ports currently on the repo – StepMania and pyDance, StepMania is the best choice for rhythm gaming on the Pandora by far.


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Very good!