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Wii Music Full Review

Wii Sports, with its simple, but fun (and in the case of bowling, surprisingly deep) control mechanics, has proven a runaway sensation for Nintendo. I still pick up the compilation now and again, especially when I've got some friends over, and bowl a few rounds or even hit some virtual tennis balls back and forth. And I have supported the developer's innovative exercise program, Wii Fit, since it was first unveiled; it is another piece of software that I continue to use -- it has, in fact, become part of my weekly workout regiment. On the other hand, I've remained outwardly skeptical of Wii Music since its unveiling because, for all of Nintendo's demoes of the title, I've never really been convinced that there is an interesting or fun mechanic to playing the wide assortment of instruments housed within. And disappointingly, my extended time with the finished product has not wiped away that skepticism. If anything, it's only confirmed my suspicions, specifically that Nintendo's first step into the music / rhythm genre is actually a misstep, one resulting in a product so unsophisticated that it practically plays itself.

Before we even get to the gameplay breakdown, though, take a second and think about what you might value in a game dedicated to music. I imagine a robust roster of popular classic and contemporary songs tops the list for obvious reasons. What about an assurance that the songs included will be presented in the highest audio quality possible. I mean, people went nuts when they found out that the musical tracks in the Wii version of Guitar Hero were outputted in mono and for good reason: we expect a certain caliber of presentation from today's software. Unfortunately, with Wii Music Nintendo has demonstrated that it doesn't care to satisfy expectations. Not only are most of the 50-plus tracks lifted from the public domain -- such timeless hits as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, O Christmas Tree, My Grandfather's Clock and Bridal Chorus -- but they are also rendered in archaic, amateur MIDI. I've heard some good MIDI renditions in my day and let me tell you, you won't find any of them in Wii Music. It is a good thing that Beethoven is long dead because he would not ever wish to hear the game's lifeless version of Ode to Joy.

Nintendo has tried just a little to include a handful of songs in the mix not designed entirely for the eight-and-under or sixty-and-over crowd. Company fans will undoubtedly be delighted to try their hand at playing versions of the Legend of Zelda theme, F-Zero's Mute City theme, and more, including tunes from Super Mario Bros. There are also some more contemporary tracks, from Material Girl to Wake me Up Before You Go-Go and Daydream Believer. The lineup isn't offensively bad, but if you want to play a lot of Nintendo songs, you're out of luck for they are discouragingly scarce and if you'd rather jam to a roster of today's hits, keep dreaming because you aren't likely to find anything created this millennium. I find the roster of music and all of its shortcomings to be a fundamental problem because I frankly have little interest in playing bad, MIDI versions of songs typically heard in elevators. That is not what I want from a game that revolves around music. Obviously, a MIDI soundtrack has its advantages, namely spontaneity -- the option for players to quickly add or remove instruments from a piece. It's really too bad it couldn't have sounded a little better.

Moving past the music and into the mechanics that make up the game, Wii Music is a difficult title to judge because it's hard to know exactly who the title is made for. On the one hand, you don't really compose music so much as you cue the next note, a fact that transforms what might've been a very creative process into something that feels intentionally dumbed down. If you waggle the Wii remote to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, you will play the song one way or the other regardless of your timing. Sure, it'll sound better if your pace is right and you stay with the rhythm, but even if you go into a seizure on the floor, you'll bang out the chords all the same. To its credit, the game allows you the freedom to pepper songs with your own style -- you can add notes, hold notes, and alter pitch with some items, a truth enhanced by the fact that there is a robust list of instruments to choose from, some 60 total. But when all is said and done, you're not so much creating as you are modifying songs, so if you're accustomed to really taking the reigns of your videogames, I think you will be left wanting more from Wii Music's setup.
Then there is the point that your waggles don't always seem to mean much. In the music maestro, a mini-game in which you take on the role of a symphonic conductor, you must wave the Wii remote around in order to effect changes in the pace and rhythm of songs. If you go slowly, the symphony will follow suit and if you move quickly, so will the musicians, beating out the song. Except, if you really experiment, you'll play the song incorrectly and lose points, so there's no benefit to doing anything but waving the Wii remote about wildly. In fact, when I legitimately tried to conduct the virtual symphony, I scored less points than when I simply waggled rapidly. So much potential, wasted.

There are four different techniques to playing the 60 instruments in Wii Music, some more satisfying and entertaining than others. To play a guitar, you will hold the nunchuk outward like a fret and strum with the Wii remote. Of course, you won't have all the frets of a real guitar at your disposal and you will quickly notice that most of your inputs are simply pushing the notes of a pre-selected song forward, anyway. Meanwhile, if you're playing the flute, you will hold the Wii remote upside down and to your mouth and play using the 1 and 2 buttons. Couldn't be simpler, but I prefer this style because your inputs register with greater accuracy and speed than they do with waggles, another common issue with instruments tied to gestures. And for an instrument like the piano, you will simply bang forward with the nunchuk and Wii remote, although admittedly you can also change up your performances by again holding a combination of buttons and pushing up or down on the analog stick. Everything works just well enough, but none of it, with the exception of flutes and horns, feels very intuitive. On top of that, I think seasoned gamers will be turned off by the entire process for it does push the limits of the gesture gimmick, often with unrewarding results.
Closing Comments
I wouldn't qualify Wii Music as an abysmal failure. The truth is, I like some of the concepts powering the game. The ability to dynamically alter music using a variety of instruments. The fact that you can layer together different songs and really create your own style. And the integration of Mii avatars, not to mention WiiConnect24 support, definitely add further polish to the fun and simple presentation. I think for all of the above reasons, kids may really latch onto Nintendo's latest effort (although I feel a little sorry for parents who must endure the cacophony of noises coming from their child's bedroom).

That said, I think most adults will quickly recognize that Wii Music is little more than a noise maker tied to a series of gestures and grow bored of the experience in a matter of hours, if not minutes. The controls aren't particularly intuitive , but gimmicky, and the selection of music is fundamentally flawed with both dated public domain songs rendered in equally dated MIDI. That Guitar Hero World Tour's complementary modes -- namely Mii Freestyle and advanced studio -- completely obliterate the entire Wii Music package is proof just how much Nintendo's game either doesn't do or doesn't do well.
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posted by admin @ 15:55,

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