If there’s a company that knows how to make the familiar gameplay experience even better with sequels, it’s Harmonix.  Over the past few years, the company has pushed its Rock Band series into new directions, first with the introduction of a Beatles-specific game, then with the long-awaited Rock Band 3, which featured the use of a keyboard, along with several “pro” instruments to enhance the music-playing experience.

Now it’s Dance Central’s turn.  After making a stellar debut with the launch of the Kinect in 2010 and keeping the party going with last year’s Dance Central 2, it should be a surprise to no one that the team is hard at work on Dance Central 3, scheduled to debut exclusively on Xbox 360 later this year.  But this isn’t just another flash-in-the-pan sequel.  It actually has some innovation behind it – provided you have a thing for dancing in the past.

It’s not Saturday Night Fever, but it’s pretty close.  Dance Central 3 actually has a story this time out, one that has you following with the fellow officers of the Dance Central Intelligence office.  You head back in time to fight “dance crime”, criminals who are either not doing it right or have alternate motives when it comes to their funky moves.  As a dancing master in your own right, it’s your job to set them straight by showing off what you can do.

The game will feature 40+ tracks to choose from, and several have already been revealed.  Here’s just a peek of the full track list that will be featured...

50 Cent- “In Da Club”
Cali Swag District- “Teach Me How To Dougie”
Cobra Starship ft. Sabi- “You Make Me Feel…”
E.U.- “Da Butt”
Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina- “Stereo Love”
Gloria Gaynor- “I Will Survive”
Marcia Griffiths- “Electric Boogie”
Usher ft. Will.I.Am- “OMG”
Usher- “Scream”
Van McCoy- “The Hustle”

There are a few contemporary favorites in there along with some songs taken from the 70’s and 80’s.  That’s the tone that Harmonix is clearly going for with this sequel, and it’s bound to appeal to even more audiences than previous games. 

In addition to the full-fledged soundtrack, Dance Central 3 will also feature locations taken straight from clubs during the 70’s and 80’s, including a roller disco and old-school dance clubs.  You’ll also be shaking a tail feather to various outfit changes, also taken from those eras.  Hey, as long as we can rock an afro, we’re down.

Dance Central 3 will be one of the first Xbox 360 games to support the new SmartGlass technology, where you can connect your mobile device or tablet to the game for a more enhanced experience.  With this in action, you’ll be able to change up the playlist, keeping players on their toes.  You can also issue challenges across Xbox Live with the tap of a button, and also keep track of fitness goals that are met during the game, seeing how many calories you burn off while doing the Hustle.  (Because every day, we’re hustlin’.)

Some new modes are also being introduced for Dance Central 3 that will keep you and your friends shuffling along.  The first is a new Crew Throwdown mode, in which you’ll have two teams of up to four players taking each other on in a series of mini-games, ones that use your dance movements to get through them.  You simply get your photo taken at the start of a match for each player, and then they’re randomly called out to meet the dance challenge.  Once they take the dance floor, simply high five and the match will begin.  Pretty neat stuff, especially if you’re in the mood for a dance battle.

If you prefer something a little more casual, you can try out Make Your Move.  Here, you can perform whatever dance moves you want, recording them over the course of your round and then challenging a fellow player to keep up.  If they complete the moves, it’ll be their turn to challenge you.  But if they fail, they lose the round.

Finally, Keep the Beat is a new mode in which you can dance however you please, keeping the rhythm of a song going as long as you can.  The only catch with this mode is that you can’t repeat the same move twice, so you’ll have to be creative and keep things going.  Fail and someone else can easily steal your spotlight.

On a side note, you’ll also be able to import previous songs from Dance Central 1 and 2, along with any downloadable content you previously purchased.  Additional DLC will be available with the game’s release too, with monthly packs scheduled for release.  No word yet on the artists, though.

Though it doesn’t look like the core gameplay of Dance Central 3 is changing that much (you’re still dancing in front of the Kinect device), it’s great to see Harmonix add some fun new modes and song selections to keep things interesting.  We’ll see how this dance party fares when it arrives later this year.