Hands-on / Wii Music

I tried. I really, really tried with all my might not to have fun with Wii Music. I desperately yearned to be able to tear apart this game for you, the reading audience, screaming about how Nintendo had finally gone totally crazy with this casual thing and created a game that really had no point at all. Really, I did. Even when I started playing it I was in the mood to hate and when the Nintendo guy chose Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as the song to be played I quietly laughed inside knowing he was just making my job of ripping Wii Music a new one all the more easy.

Then he put the stupid Wii remote in my hand and told me to choose an instrument. Flipping through the plethora of musical instrument choices – including DJ, vocals and the now infamous dog suit – I laughed inwardly at how pointless it all was since all I’d have to do to play was press a few buttons or wave my arms around. Every song has a choice of six instrumental parts including percussion, rhythm and lead rhythm. Players can choose whichever part they wish to play and an instrument appropriate to that category. They can also choose what the rest of the band will be playing.

I chose the saxophone as the controls seemed even simpler than the already simple standard, and I figured a jazzy version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star might be a bit more hip and/or with it. Evidently, the demo guy had other plans and chose a beat boxer in order to accompany me, ruining my dreams of a jazz sextet.

But I ventured forth. The saxophone controls like most of the wind and vocal instruments (the strings, percussion and other instruments control much the same as each other, so really it’s one control type per instrumental group). The player presses the one button and then the two button to change notes back and forth, or if you want to hold a note or not change it and play it repeatedly you just hold down the corresponding button. The players raise and lower the end of the Wii remote to change the pitch of the note and damn it all if I wasn’t holding the blasted thing up towards my mouth like an actual sax before the first two notes were over.

It literally does not matter what you play. One could play the first note of the song for ten minutes straight if they felt that it was artistically worthwhile. And here is where Wii Music got me. Before, when I really wanted to hate it, I was looking at it like a game, but much like Wii Fit, it isn’t. It’s really just a way for you to mess around with music and before you get your hands on it you don’t realize how fun that can be. It probably comes as no surprise, but my saxophone accompanied by the beat box stylings of Mix Master Nintendo did not make a pretty rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but it was fun trying. It almost felt like I was in a jazz band making the music as I went, except I sucked and no one would have wanted to listen to it.

While the player is playing, the game is recording a sort of graphically gimped music video of their performance, one that the player can go back into and add in more performances. Had I had times in the demonstration I could have gone back and recorder all six parts for the song and gotten rid of the beat boxer had I wanted to. If I had had five other friends with me we could have all played at the same time. Then once my musical composition was done, I would have sent it off to all my friends so they could judge me and they could rearrange it and send it back. It really is an interesting idea as far as music creation and sharing goes, and anything that allows people like myself, who can’t read, write or perform music, to create music themselves is worth a look at.

I’m not saying I’m totally sold on this concept, in fact far from it. The demo I saw only had five or six songs and they were all children’s or Nintendo songs. That might be fun for a day or two but performing music like that for anymore than a day would become insanely boring and with no real goals, the only thing driving a player on would be creating good music based on good music. Plus, graphically the game looks like Wii Sports, which was released a year ago. I know Nintendo is going for simple graphics that don’t scare anybody, but a bit more effort in this department would be greatly appreciated, especially now that companies are showing that the Wii can do so much more.

Half the draw of Rock Band is the ability to rock and so far Wii Music has demonstrated an extreme lack of that ability. This could change as the people at Nintendo told us that we would be seeing not only standards and classical music but also modern pop songs. Without lyrics though, Wii Music could just be the poor man’s Rock Band 2 since both that and Guitar Hero: World Tour are offering music creation modes. Once again though, Nintendo’s version is supposed to be easier to access and play with, but whether or not this is a good thing will be hard to decide until the full version of the game comes out. In short, I did actually have fun with Wii Music but it’s hard to say if that enjoyment would be anything more than a flirting glance.

[See also: Wii Music gallery]