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Brand new Xbox with Kinect for only $99!*

Xbox Live Marketplace

Xbox Live Marketplace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*There’s a catch – why wouldn’t there be?  According to Joystiq, some GameStop and Best Buy locations are selling Xbox/Kinect console bundles, normally priced around $250-300, for only $99 provided you also sign up for Xbox Live Gold for 2 years at $15 per month.

If you do the math, which Joystiq did for you, you will actually end up spending about $60 more over the next 2 years under this contract, than if you bought the bundle at retail plus two 12-month XBLG cards for $50 each.  So basically it’s the same marketing trick as rent-to-own or building up debt on your credit card:  pay less now, but more in the long run.

It should be interesting to see how well this cell-phone pricing model works for Xbox.  Just FYI, you can still do a lot on Xbox Live for free, without paying for the extra Gold subscription.  You can still buy downloadable add-ons and songs for games like Just Dance 3 and Dance Central, use Your Shape‘s online workout-tracking features, and download free demos of Kinect games (you may have to wait a week or two for them to become available to non-Gold members).

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Xbox Live Gold members, get your free demo of Zumba for Kinect

Zumba Fitness for Xbox 360 Kinect

A free demo of Zumba for Xbox 360 Kinect is available now for download – if you have the paid Gold subscription.   Unfortunately, my one-month trial of Gold has expired, so no Kinect Zumba for me.

Sour grapes department: the Kinect version of Zumba got clobbered by many reviewers at Amazon, with a lot of complaints about Kinect not working right.  (The company tried to fix it with a software update.)  So I’ll keep enjoying my Zumba game on Wii, plus my live Zumba classes.

Maybe I’ll spring for a Gold subscription later on this spring if a Michael Jackson: The Experience demo becomes available.  (Via Major Nelson)

Dance Masters for Kinect demo is available, for Xbox Live Gold

If you have Xbox Live Gold (a free one-month membership came with my console) and Kinect, now you can download a demo of Dance Masters.  This is the “other” dance game for Kinect.  Dance Central has gotten most of the attention and sales, and the demo I played from the Kinect Adventures disc was lots of fun, but when I heard about Dance Masters, that was the one I wanted.  And I don’t regret it.

Dance Masters is to Dance Central what DDR is to Just Dance.  Just Dance (for Wii) and Dance Central (for Xbox 360 Kinect) are fun, casual games your whole family will enjoy, loaded with familiar hit songs.  But Dance Masters, which is on Kinect only,  is more of a “gamer’s” dance game.  Rather than club-style dancing, the dances are more like a stage performance, and the Kinect is your electronic Carrie/Len/Bruno, judging whether you hit those moves just right.

In lieu of scrolling arrows like DDR, DM has an interesting set of “marks” to hit.  A green silhouette will sometimes scroll in from the side, and you have to hit that pose right as it reaches the center of the screen (like in the TV show Hole In The Wall).  There are also round bullseye targets that you have to hit with either your hands or feet, We Cheer-like arm lines, and a green circle on the “floor” to be stepped on to the beat.  The choreography is the same for each song on all difficulties, but the number of marks increases on each difficulty.  Thus you can get away with just a series of poses on “easy”, but once you get to “extreme” or “master”, you pretty much have to have the dance down pat as marks come flying from all directions.

For extra fun (or embarrassment), DM puts you right up on stage with the dancers!  You can even “clone” yourself by projecting a video of yourself on a previous dance along with your live image.  Multiplayer puts both players up on the stage, and DM (unlike DC) offers online play as well.

The Dance Masters demo includes both solo and duet versions of three songs:  A Geisha’s Dream, Unity and We Can Win the Fight.  These aren’t “hits” like Dance Central or Just Dance offer; they’re original, Jpop-style songs that only DDR fans will be familiar with.  I love the choreography of DM, but A Geisha’s Dream is a particular favorite, and not that hard to do.  Here’s a gameplay video:

No, I’m not posting a video of myself doing it, sorry!

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