(the box art is more exciting than the game…)
It was just a week ago that I declared I was not too keen on getting a copy of Wii Music. Initial reviews scared me away from buying the game, at least at full price. Well, I caved and got a copy. Since this game is all about music, I’ll make this SoTM a review of the entire game rather than just its soundtrack.
Short three word review: A Major Disappointment
Longer review: I was looking forward to this game since the day I first heard about it, which I believe was around the time the Wii itself was released. Back then I heard it had conducting and that was enough to get me excited. What a perfect use of the Wiimote that would be! I was looking forward to conducting song after song of my own virtual orchestra. Since that was going to be the highlight of my experience, I’ll start there.
Conducting is indeed pretty cool. The orchestra will follow your tempo and adjust their volume according to how vigorously you conduct. If you stop conducting, they’ll hold their note and all look at you which is pretty hilarious. It’s a good time for at least a little while. But there are some issues. One problem I have with the conducting is that if you do a regular conducting pattern, it doesn’t always register your beat. It seems as though it was designed for a one beat pattern. Also, if you beat too delicately to try and get the orchestra to play pianissimo, it sometimes won’t register the beat. Anyone who’s had difficulties hitting delicate shots in Wii Golf can understand that problem.
The main problem with the conducting minigame is that you only have a whopping five songs to choose from. Sure, Zelda is fun but that’s by far the most interesting of the lot. Even if all five tunes were killer, they’d get old in no time. You’d think Twinkle Twinkle would be the worst, but it’s actually a pretty good rendition with fun harmonies. The limited song list pretty much kills this mode after the first hour. You can extend the life of the mode a little by having four people at a time conduct. Everyone has to agree on the tempo and when to hit the cymbals but that’s pretty much a novelty. Even the high score system was mediocre. You don’t get the top ten scores for each song, just the very top score.
Turns out the minigame that is the most fun is the handbell game. Up to four people can control two handbells each and play in their own handbell choir. You can adjust difficulty and tempo if it’s too easy. Ironically, this game is the most like music games that are already wildly popular, Guitar Hero and Rock Band. You ring your bell when your color hits the “bell hit” line. Sadly, this mode is also hampered by a limited track list, another whopping five songs.
The other decent minigame is an ear training test of sorts, where you identify pitches, order pitches, and do other assorted musical quizzes. There are 8 levels of difficulty, but we couldn’t for the life of us tell the difference in difficulty between the first and eighth levels. With the less-than-stellar musical samples they use for the instruments, it’s also difficult to identify which instrument is playing a wrong note in some of the tests, too. Nintendo missed a chance here to implement a deeper ear training mode which could help budding Mozarts really develop.
Speaking of kids, that does seem to be the demographic this game is aiming at. I can see them having some fun with the Jam mode and the minigames. The songs are also geared toward younger humans. I would, however, rather spend my time introducing any 5 or 6 year olds to a real instrument. They can handle piano or violin. Giving them their first taste of making music through the warped Wii Music music making just seems odd, maybe even detrimental to their development as a musician.
I haven’t mentioned the jamming mode much in this review because it seems like a waste of time. It’s hard to tell what you’re supposed to do, if anything. But if you just randomly play with your Wiimote you’ll make sound and maybe contribute to the song you’re playing, but often it just sounds wrong. And ultimately it’s just not a satisfying way to make music.
The Mii’s inhabiting your Wii are implemented very well. I give them a big thumbs-up for that. From your orchestra to the handbell ringers to the crowds, you’ll see your Mii’s everywhere. I love Wii games that use Mii’s so effectively like that. We spend a lot of time making our Mii’s so it’s nice to see them in our games!
It’s quite a shame that the best mode in Wii Music (handbells) is based on a proven game mechanic. A big opportunity to use the Wii controls innovatively has been wasted. It seems Nintendo just couldn’t come up with a fun way to make music using their spiffy controller, which is quite surprising considering how long the game was in development. Of course, Nintendo probably looked at the Wii Play sales figures and decided they could shove another cutesy mediocre game out the door and sell a zillion copies too. And… they’re probably right. But if you read this review, please don’t make the mistake I did. The game is worth a try, but not at full price. Whenever it hits $30 or less, then give it a try. It’ll be a good for an hour or three.
Verdict: Not Too Shabby (but not at full price)
Wii Music has been released today. Months ago when I first heard about the game, I was pretty excited about it. But after learning more about the game, I’m not that keen on getting a copy. Maybe it’s the limited song list (Twinkle Twinkle?). Maybe it’s the lack of challenge of playing the instruments. Maybe it’s the poor MIDI-like sound quality of the instruments. But mostly I think it’s the fact that almost any time I want I can sit down with my wife and friends and play music as much as we want.
I don’t think I’m the target audience for this game. And I’m kind of disappointed that they couldn’t have expanded the track list or made more challenging modes for people who have a little more experience with making real music. Guitar Hero and Rock Band were able to bridge that gap as even people who play guitar could enjoy those games. I don’t think it’s that hard to do.
So it looks like I’ll be waiting for the price to drop to $30 or so before I play with the Wii Music toy. I do think there’s some fun to be had. I’m still looking forward to trying out the conducting minigame and I’m sure jamming will be fun for awhile, but I can’t get too excited beyond that.
All that being said, Nintendo needn’t worry about my business. They’re going to sell millions of copies of this game. And I’m happy about that. It’s going to get lots of kids excited about music and maybe our nation’s orchestras will thank Nintendo years on down the road.