- Buy the Game
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he verdict is still out on whether or not the Nintendo Wii is just another device for churning out family-friendly gimmick titles, but with the release of “Wii Music,” it's one step closer to being true. Though past games (like “Wii Sports” and “Wii Fit”) have made great use of the console’s innovation, “Wii Music” is nothing more than a shallow attempt at cashing in on the current rhythm game phenomenon. It’s one of the most gimmicky titles in the Wii catalog, and though it sports all of the ingenuity you’d expect from a company like Nintendo, it has none of the execution.
Nintendo has been very vocal about the fact that “Wii Music” isn’t about playing music, but rather emulating the experience, and while that may be true, the game doesn’t even do that very well. It’s the equivalent of fooling around on an electronic keyboard preloaded with different instrumental arrangements: it may be fun to play around with for an hour or so, but at the end of the day, it’s essentially just an expensive noisemaker. The diverse collection of instruments does make for some interesting combinations (for every acoustic guitar there’s a shamisen), but the fact that every instrument is played only one of four ways makes it less innovative than it sounds.
Percussion instruments are played by swinging the Wiimote and Nunchuck up and down; string instruments require you to press the B or Z button while moving the Wiimote left and right; horn instruments use the 1 and 2 buttons with the Wiimote facing towards you; and guitar-type instruments are strummed with the Wiimote while you hold the Nunchuck up high like a fret. Of course, that last part is optional, and it only seems to have been included to give the impression that you’re holding a guitar. It’s the least the game can do, really, since it won’t actually make you feel like you’re playing one, but it’s also not the only thing “Wii Music” does to try and make the experience as deep as possible. Along with the basic controls, you can also change the way your instrument sounds. For instance, holding down A while playing guitar will cut the note short, and raising or lowering the Wiimote with any one of the horn instruments will make the sound respectively louder or softer.
If one could summarize “Wii Music” in as few words as possible, it would be “playing songs and making videos.” That’s about the extent of the game, as you take part in a series of Jam Sessions (either with friends or AI bandmates called Tutes) from a list of 50 songs made up of Golden Age classics like “Yankee Doodle,” orchestral favorites like “Ode to Joy,” and even a few pop songs like “Material Girl” and “Daydream Believer.” Selecting Quick Jam will throw you straight into your next session (picking the song, instrument and venue for you), while Custom Jam allows the player to add and remove parts to the arrangement, customize instruments based on musical styles, and even change the tempo.
When you’re done with the performance, you finalize the video by assigning it a point value (from 1 to 100) based on how much you liked it, create a CD jacket using a collection of backgrounds, frames, and Miis and Tutes that played the song, and then view it in its entirety. From there, you can do a number of things. You can either go back and re-record the song using each instrument (thus creating a band made up entirely of the same Mii), you can send the video to a friend and let them overdub one of the instruments with their own performance (in what Nintendo is calling a virtual jam session), or you can start all over and make another video.
Sound fun? It is, for the first few times, until you realize that’s all there is to the freaking game. Sure, you can take lessons and learn more about different arrangements (that is, if you’re in the mood to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” 20 different times), and there are some minigames included (Handbell Harmony is the best of the trio). But aside from that, there isn’t a whole lot of replay value to “Wii Music,” which isn’t great news when you consider how shallow the game is right out of the box. The addition of Drum Mode (a virtual drum kit that uses the Wii Balance Board to control hi-hat and bass drum pedals) is a cool application that was likely added in response to “Rock Band,” but the controls (which requires a mastery of the analog stick) are ultimately too difficult to make it worthwhile.
Those who read this review may scoff and say, “He just doesn’t get it,” but believe me, I do. I understand that the supposed appeal of “Wii Music” is to express your creativity by improvising with different instruments on songs you normally wouldn’t hear them on. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that the game isn’t very deep, or that the controls aren’t even as remotely intuitive as advertised. On numerous occasions, I found that strumming my guitar in synch with the Be-Bops (geometric rhythm guides that bounce in time to the music) actually made me play the notes slightly late, while other instruments simply didn’t make the sound they were supposed to during the song in question. Maybe I’m just being overly critical of a game whose only agenda is to promote good clean fun, but when that fun only lasts for hours instead of weeks, months or years, there’s something terribly wrong.