Name: Wii Music
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Watch the video review.
Wii Music’s introduction at E3 didn’t make anyone happy. It came after months of promises to please the “core gamer,” and their presentation proved that it just wasn’t the case. Instead of Link, they gave us a guitar. Instead of Samus, they gave us a trumpet. Instead of Mario, they gave us a dog costume. They teased renewing all of their classic franchises, but they didn’t announce anything. The closest thing to a “core” game was Grand Theft Auto DS, but that’s about it. But even so, there was still a chance that the “core gamer” was wrong, and that Nintendo was really ready to rock, but the question remains: does Wii Music exceed our expectations?
The graphics and overall presentation are impressive, living up to Nintendo’s Seal of Quality. Just like Wii Fit, Miis take the center stage, and are used as both playable characters as well as spectators. It’s always entertaining to see Kenny from South Park playing the Violin, or Osama Bin Laden playing the trumpet next to Garfield. The games menus are organized and slick, and the entire game has a sense of polish about it. It feels like Nintendo has figured out a template that works for their nontraditional games, and will continue to apply it to games like Wii Fit and Wii Music to ensure that, if nothing else, they look incredibly polished.
The same doesn’t go for the music, both in quality and type. Wii Music’s soundtrack is laughable, and without the licensed Nintendo songs like the Mute City theme from F-Zero and Zelda and Mario’s themes, it would be almost devoid of anything interesting. There is only a certain number of times that Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is fun to play, and that number is two. A more expanded track listing would have helped, especially with Guitar Hero and Rock Band consistently bringing entertaining, popular and contemporary music to the genre.
This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the musical quality itself was better. Nintendo used MIDI tracks, which sound like they traveled through a time machine from the early 90’s. That’s right, MIDI tracks, the ones you might remember hearing I can’t imagine who would have thought this would be a good idea, because it makes the game sound crappy, and for a music game, that says a lot. The way that tracks are unlocked is also annoying, requiring multiple plays of the game’s tutorials. When a title is based around customization and jamming, forcing redundant training minigames down player’s throats is almost an insult.
Remember the first time you played Wii Sports? It was magical, but some of that was lost once you realized that many of the games could be reduced to swinging the remote without accuracy. In the same way, Wii Music is the similar, but it happens much earlier. Nintendo stresses the role of customization, but the fact is you’re not really playing the music, you’re just deciding when the notes are played, and how fast. A few shakes can add some extra notes in-between the beats, but straying too far without a plan usually ends in disaster. There are dozens of different instruments and thousands of possible band set-ups. Different positions in the band can be filled with a number of choices, from playing the electric guitar to wearing a dog costume.
There are three minigames in Wii Music. Mii Maestro is the one that Miyamoto played back at E3, and has the player conducting an orchestra of Miis. It has potential, but ends up boring and more frustrating than it’s worth. Handbell Harmony is an actual rhythm game, were you need to swing the remote and nunchuck in line with moving bells. Neither of these are too interesting, but Pitch Perfect, on the other hand, is quite entertaining. It has several different levels and modes, which will have you rearranging Miis depending on their pitch to complete different objectives. There are eight levels of difficulty, and it manages to get pretty tough, which is more than can be said about most of Wii Music. It’s imaginative, and takes advantage of the game’s features without falling victim to its faults.
Now that I’ve finished trashing every aspect of the game, on to why it’s sort of brilliant. One mode in Wii Music is called Custom Jam, where you’re able to record each part of a song individually, and mix it together. Going through with a six piece band and putting together an entertaining song is extremely rewarding. The game might not have fun built in, but damned if it doesn’t have the means to create it. This mode is really the greatest aspect for the singleplayer portion, and recording a rock or metal version of The Legend of Zelda Theme gives the game much more merit. There isn’t a “score” at the end, but you’re able to figure it out on your own. The game doesn’t tell you your song sucks, but if it sucks, it sucks.
You get from multiplayer whatever you want to. If you can find some people who want to play, odds are they’ll enjoy it. Trying to play in-synch with the other players and make your own version of a song can be very fun, and has a charming appeal. Nongamers would also enjoy being able to play with a gamer friend, trying to make music using the game’s simplistic controls. Going in with a negative mindset is bound for disaster, and there’s literally nothing in Wii Music that can turn a hater into a fan. Actually, this is sort of the theme of the entire game. Expect fun and be rewarded, start bitter and quit quickly.
Old and young should have no problem finding joy in the game, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nintendo made and marketed this title for non-gamers, and getting upset at that is a little ridiculous. If that becomes normal, than there will be no introductory level titles, just games created for the hardcore. Core gamers need to realize that this isn’t really a game; it’s more of a toy, and it wasn’t made for us. We have Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Wii Music was meant for us to play with people who don’t have time to learn Raining Blood on Expert. It’s for non-gamers to play side-by-side with gamers, and in that respect, the game is a raving success.