Music to your ears, or a cacophonous mess?
Wii Music has been quite the discussion piece since it was first demonstrated at this year's past E3. Its presentation at the press event rubbed many gamers the wrong way and the floor impressions were no better. After extensively combing through the game, it's obvious that the game is not deserving of all the derision it has received, though it is far from perfect.
To save people the effort of reading this whole review, I strongly suggest that if you have no one to play Wii Music with, refrain from purchasing. As with Wii Sports, Wii Music is meant to be played in a group. Solo players will not truly enjoy the centerpiece of the game, Jam Mode, and will quickly exhaust the side games, Mii Maestro, Pitch Perfect, Handbell Harmony, and Drum Mode. However, in a group, players will greatly enjoy implementing the various pieces that compose a song.
Contrary to popular belief, Wii Music's Jam Mode isn't really about playing a variety of instruments. Instead, it's more about playing the various parts which comprise a song. Melody, harmony, bass, and percussion are the real choices, and each part can be played with an assortment of instruments. Surprisingly, the band cohesion required to produce a melodic rendition of a song is much greater than in Rock Band. If each band member is set on his own course that doesn't match up timing-wise with the rest of the band, cacophony is destined. However, if each band member can manage to play in sync with each other, the result is truly something to behold.
As players obtain a better understanding of what exactly is harmony, as opposed to melody, they can start using more of the advanced moves while mimicking the instruments to produce unique-sounding parts, making the game more challenging and fulfilling. The ability to then save performances, create album cover art, and share with Wii friends (who can in turn alter the rendition) extends alone play when the party is over. Players can also relax and create their own semi-random music in the free play mode with any given instruments, using tutes to fill in for the missing parts.
Mii Maestro mode and the Handbell Harmony mode complement the Jam Mode and provide a more game-oriented spin on the game's concept. In Mii Maestro, a single player will be graded on how well the orchestra is conducted, whereas with multiple players, the game will rate how close each of the performances are to each other. In either case, the mode's scoring system makes it quite fun to play, giving players a tangible goal to work towards. Handbell Harmony will instantly remind players of Donkey Konga (or Guitar Hero): players need to ring the two bells (the Wii Remote and Nunchuk) as notes pass over the markers on the left side of the screen. Regardless of the number of human players, the song is a four-part effort. Success or failure is immediately obvious as it is being played though a score is still assigned based on percentage of correctly hit notes. Unfortunately, while both modes are enjoyable, they have limited appeal due to the small number of songs available.
Players considering Wii Music should immediately discard any interest in picking up a Balance Board for the Drum Mode. Pressing the Wii Remote and Nunchuk buttons to hit different pieces of the drum kit is awkward and aggravating. I don't care what Ravi drum master extraordinaire says, Wii Music drumming is terrible and should've been scrapped during internal play-testing.
In contrast to the awful Drum Mode, Wii Music's presentation is actually very solid. The game uses your system's Miis in fun ways and mixes them in with the Henson-like tutes, another nice addition. Wii Music hits a flat note again, though, with its MIDI renditions of the songs. Though MIDI was a necessity to produce the desired experience, it seems as though better fidelity could've been included with some more determined effort. The song selection also leaves quite a bit to desire. None of the songs are particularly modern (or very good, for that matter), and the library is light on Nintendo tunes, which is a shame because they are the most enjoyable songs in the game.
It's odd to finally experience the infamous Wii Music. The game is a great learning tool for the musically inexperienced. It teaches rhythm and music composition, and helps foster creativity. Its focus is totally different from the more typical rhythm games, and it accomplishes its goal. However, the game is not meant for solo play and isn't really suited for the more musically apt, either. Players who are versed in music may find themselves quickly bored by the experience, as it retreads concepts they are already clearly familiar with.
Overall, if you were excited for Wii Music, you should not hesitate to purchase the game. However, those on the fence should wait for a price drop and pick it up as a formidable and unique party game to experience with friends and family.