Wii Music

I decided to take a different approach to reviewing Wii Music and just ramble about it. While a bad E3 demo and toy-like gameplay have plagued Wii Music’s reputation, the former band geek in me still wanted to try it. And plus, despite what they all said, I still had fun with it at PAX. So how is it? Read on to find out:


Wii Music is a different kind of music game. Most music games have strict rules about how you play and place the rhythm. But as the conductor ‘host’ of Wii Music says, there’s no right or wrong way to play music. Granted, you can play music that sounds crappy, but that host guy is right. You don’t get penalized for playing badly in Wii Music, in fact, you score yourself. But if you want to play well with the rest of the band, be they other players or the CPU, you’re going to have to LISTEN to the parts of the song. And that’s just as important of music fundamentals as playing the rhythms right.

In the main game, up to four players can play a part in a band on a song. Use the Wii remote to imitate simple motions to simulate playing an instrument. You can do melody, harmony, back up chords, bass, or percussion. Choose from about 80 instruments or so to play. My favorites are the NES Horn, cowbell (gotta have more), Taiko drum, jaw harp, and anything with ‘galactic’ in the name. Then you pick from more than 60 songs to play. You can change the tempo, musical style, and stage background for your Miis to perform on. After you play, you can save your video, design a CD jacket for it, and even send it to other Wii Music users on your friends list. (Dear Bobby C., I’m sorry my little brother sent you so many BAD Wii Music videos.) You can even edit and play in other people’s videos, too.

There are also three mini-games that I wish were a little more fleshed out, because they really seem like fun. The handbell game has a lot of the Taiko drum gameplay feel to it, and ringing the bells in your right and left hand can get tricky! The Perfect Pitch game feels like an educational version of Wario Ware, as you use your ears to pick out low and high pitches, as well as matching notes in a chord. But my favorite mini-game is the conductor game, which is a version of a demo game I saw back when the Wii was first shown at the last E3 I went to!

We all have secret dreams that we’d like to have come true in our life. Some of my dreams include riding a hot air balloon, seeing an opera, and dating a hot ninja chick. OK, I’m just joking on that last one. I like to say stuff every now and then to throw you for a loop and keep you on your toes! But one other thing that I’ve always wanted to try is conducting an orchestra. I mean, how hard can it be? All you have to do is wave around a stick until the music stops, and then you turn around and bow? Anyway, the conductor mini-game has you waving the remote around like a conductor’s baton, and the music will play depending on how fast and wide you wave it. (I’d love a Wii version of the PS2 classic Mad Maestro). I really wish they would’ve flashed out that mini-game more. I was having so much fun with it.

Wii Music is certainly more of a toy than a video game. And even though Nintendo will never admit it, it’s purely educational. You can learn so many music fundamentals by playing it, I can’t even list them all. Just listening and hearing how different instruments sound and affect parts in a band, improvising, the fun of performance, and so much more!

Of course, Wii Music isn’t without its problems. A lot of people complain about how Nintendo caters only to the causal and ignores the core games and players. While I think that claim is a little ridiculous, I can kind of understand where they’re coming from, as the only other BIG Nintendo game I’m looking forward to this year is Animal Crossing: City Folk. I mean, the lack of quality Wii games is what made me gravitate toward the 360. It’s like the N64 all over again.

Another problem with Wii Music has to do with the music and sound. The instrument audio effects are more like a CASIO keyboard representation instead of the actual sound. And the song selection, full of public domain classical fare and cheesy 80’s music is a little lacking. Though in its defense, I like 80’s music (it was cheesy, but it sure was fun). And many of the classical songs are ones you would play in a beginning piano class, so they seem right at home in the Wii Music educational game, somehow. I wish they had more Nintendo game songs. It’s cool they had Zelda, Mario, even F-Zero and Animal Crossing. But I sure would’ve loved some Kirby music.

The last main problem I have with Wii Music is that other games with “Wii” in the title were just as simplistic, but they offered something extra. Wii Sports was a pack-in game, Wii Play came with a controller, etc. But Wii Music is just a full-price stand alone game. I think it would’ve fared better if it had come out earlier, when we were more impressed with motion controls and having Miis in games.

Oh yeah, one last minor problem. You can’t play the instrument I played in high school band in Wii Music: bass trombone. Heck, I would’ve even settled for regular trombone!

So anyway, Wii Music is fun, but it isn’t perfect. So I’ve created a little questionnaire to see if Wii Music is right for you. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these, then you might like Wii Music.

Are you a band geek, or a former band geek?

Do you or your kids like to play around with the sounds and beats on a CASIO keyboard or other easy to use musical device?

Do your kids take music lessons and/or have a genuine interest in learning about music?

Anyway, Wii Music has at least been a smash hit in my house. When I come home from work, little brother Jeff is usually playing games with his friends. And this past week they’ve played nothing but Wii Music, beating out other popular titles they just got, like Fable 2. Of course, Jeff and his friends are all band geeks, too. And that’s about all I feel like saying about Wii Music. What are YOUR opinions on Wii Music?

6 Responses to “Wii Music”

  1. Thanks–this is probably the most in-depth review of Wii Music I’ve seen to date. Unfortunately, it won’t appear to me (I’m fairly tone deaf, so the listening part will be pure frustration) but my kids *might* enjoy it. $50 is a stiff price for a game that might be ok. I might have taken the chance at $30.

    I’m really starting to look at a XB360 or PS3–but that’s probably still 6m to a year away.

  2. I think Wii Music is extremely well put together.

    One fun part you didn’t mention is the drum simulator. If you have the balance board you have a robust simulation of a small drum kit. And there are 15 real drum lessons that you can work your way through and a jam mode where you practice and play whatever you want. For anyone ever interested in playing the real drums without the expense and hassle of storing them this has major appeal. The potential here for learning is huge.

    Wii Music does have a weakness though.

    And that weakness, which is also its strength, is that it’s probably too rooted in musical theory and construction to immediately appeal to those without some musical background or a strong interest in learning music as Cary said.

    That’s why I believe you see alot of low scores for this game. I don’t think many reviewers “got it.” They dismissed it as a noisemaker for kids because they understand how in depth the connection to making real music is with this product.

    AS this article, http://blog.wired.com/games/2008/10/miyamoto-wii-mu.html#more, says, Miyamoto is struggling with where they maybe went wrong in connecting to the novice.

    IT’s a good read. One of the mistakes they probably made is to put a guy in charge of the game who never made games. They put one of their accomplished musicians in charge. Hence Wii Music really comes from the point of view of a knowledgeable musician.

  3. Oh yeah I forgot about the balance board stuff, mainly because I don’t have one! –Cary

  4. I considered buying this until reading your review… Very insightful. I figure i’ll just stick to guitar hero 😛

  5. So do you think a toddler could have fun with it, especially if parents are playing too? We’re band geeks, and the toddler loves musical toys…

  6. I definitely think so … so long as you keep control of the WiiMote strap situation 😉

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