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Wii Like Music: Nintendo takes on the Guitar Hero phenomenon 

click to enlarge Somewhere under the rainbow, robotic children play music.
  • Somewhere under the rainbow, robotic children play music.
Somewhere under the rainbow, robotic children play music.
It's been a slow process for Nintendo to release games that use the Wii balance board, but now comes Wii Music. This game was in line to be released with the Wii system, but it ran into a few snags and was more or less left in the dust. Well, it seems a resurrection has occured due to the popularity of Guitar Hero and Rock Band and Nintendo wanted this game on the fast track. Wii Music was overseen by famous Nintendo composer Koji Kondo who has contributed music to some of the best games Nintendo has ever released including Duck Hunt, Mario Bros., Zelda, and many others. The game allows for either single or multi-player action and lets you choose from up to 60 different instruments. Players can choose to play the piano, violin, guitar, bongo drums, harp, trumpet, and other instruments and the Wii Balance Board is used to play the drums with pedals while the Nunchuk serves as the drumsticks.

Unlike most games, there is no right path to play and experience Wii Music. The game works more like a tool to understand music theory and foster some musical creativity. The learning is not done through some sadistic music teacher, but rather the game introduces you to the basic mechanics of different instruments and underlying concepts of music to set you on your way. The game starts with about 20 different instruments to test drive and as you progress with ongoing lessons, games and challenges, you are able to unlock more. The process is quite fun for a person such as myself with limited or no music ability and seems like a great way to introduce children to musical instruments that they would otherwise never be able to experience in real life

Basic instruments such as piano, drums, and the violin are all present, but it gets interesting with selections like a sitar, djembe, or taiko drums. For some laughs you can "play" a dog or cat suit (your Mii barks or meows while in full costume), lay some beats on a DJ turntable, beat-box, or just be a goofy cheerleader shaking your pom-poms. There is quite a bit to do with Wii Music and it gives more dimension to the actual music, unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero, which pretty much just have you hammering away at the keys over and over.

When getting to the actual music, the main mode is called the "jam sessions" where you get to choose what place you want in the band (bass, percussion, melody, etc.) and play dozens of songs from simple stuff like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to some rock n' roll and pop classics like "Mr. Postman" or "Material Girl." What's nice about this game is that you are not graded for your performance like in Guitar Hero - you're free to play however you like. Wii Music does a great job of making the notes played work intelligently and make sense. To play well, you need to work on rhythm, timing and gusto. The lesson mode does a great job of teaching music and slowly gets into the advanced concepts of the art form. On the down side, the game could have used better quality sound in its presentation and is mostly geared to kids. But that said, I had a fun time with it. With yet more sequels to the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band coming, this seems to be a fresh direction in music games. In choosing to keep things simple, Nintendo has made a game that puts a new spin on interactive music and at the same time keeps it fun for the whole family.

Wii Music ★★★✩

Rated: E for Everyone. Platform: Nintendo Wii. Retail: $49.99


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