Before I start this article, I am a Nintendo fan. I do love a great majority of their games, though I do think some of their business decisions border on nonsensical of late, but what do I know? Their latest system sells like hotcakes, especially their “Wii Whatever” series.

Contrary to how I feel now, when Wii Music was first announced, I was a bit intrigued. I loved Mario Paint on the SNES with a passion. I still think it’s one of the best console based art programs out there, if not THE best one. There were a lot of drawing options, the ability to animate, create your own music, whether it was based on some tune you liked or one of your own ditties you created, as well as a fun mini game. I had hoped that Wii Music would have captured that same sense of freedom. So far, I haven’t seen it.

The first impression from E3 was an embarrassing one. Nintendo reps came out wiggling and waggling like fools with those basic graphics that look great if one is into tech demos. It was cute the first time in Wii Sports, and now it just looks lazy.

I see a lot of missed potential in Wii Music. For starters, the track list is weak. The majority of the music is public domain faire, that is not out of place in a kindergarten class. Sure there’s a minor handful of more contemporary songs, but with the money Nintendo brings in, they could have had a fantastic, general audience line-up. It doesn’t need to have Metallica, but there’s a ton of harmless songs and artists that they could have chosen from, and just didn’t. I might have even excused a larger emphasis on Nintendo game themes, as they have a ton of genuine classics. Miyamoto was quoted as saying this:

“We wanted the music to appeal to a very broad audience, and if you look at the mass market, probably not nearly as many people would be as familiar with [NES/SNES] songs. We wanted to focus on songs that people will know by ear, because that in and of itself is going to make it easier to play and then improvise the songs.” – Miyamoto

The very fact that Super Smash Bros. Brawl has such a ridiculously deep archive of classic music invalidates this whole explanation, not to mention that many of these games are available on the Virtual Console to play and listen to. It’s a faulty argument, as some of those songs are genuine classics, not to mention could bring in a whole new legion of fans into these games. Play the music, then play the game.

There’s also the lack of online play. One would hope that after Mario Kart and Brawl, this would be the start of Nintendo being more proactive in the online field. Well, not yet. A player can send completed songs to each other for tweaks, but no online jam session options? No means to download new songs? I could have forgiven the weak song list if the option for newer and better songs were there, but it’s not.

And then there’s also the music arrangement issue. Fair enough, you can tweak the songs with new instruments, change the tempo and whatnot, but what about the option to create original compositions? Songs not based on any specific song, but a player’s own creation? Again, it’s funny how Mario Paint allowed this option 16 years ago, and yet Wii Music does not. You can tweak a song to death, but you can’t make your own song that is truly yours.

Not to mention the addition of the whole “players can’t make mistakes” philosophy. A player can tweak a song to death with crazy instruments and tempos, but can never truly mess it up. I’m not a big fan of “hand holding” in games that tell you what to do, and how to play. If there was a “safety net” option that allowed the margin of error to be reduced, that’s one thing, but if this really is meant to be the “music tool” that Miyomoto so staunchly claims that it is, players need the option to make mistakes so that they can learn from it, and improve themselves and their songs.

My impressions are this: This looks to be a safe and harmless game for small children who are working on motor skills and enjoy making noise. If this game did not have the “Nintendo”, and especially “Miyamoto” pedigree slapped on the game, I doubt anyone would look twice at this game. If it was an Ubisoft or Activision title, it would probably be met with scorn or jeers, but again, for the most Nintendo die-hard zealot, the pedigree makes it totally immune to criticism, and the zealots will rudely defend the title to the virtual death (The forums can get particularly nasty on the subject of those who dare to not find interest in Wii Music). The title is $50, which is too much for a game like this. Had it been a WiiWare title at $10, it probably would have found a more accepting expanded audience. Samba de Amigo for the Wii is $40, has downloadable songs, and while the controls get a little wonky on the higher difficulty, is a vibrant visual feast. But I doubt the game will stand a chance against the tidal wave of Wii Music, and the billions of poorly produced cash in clones sure to be birthed in its wake (Musicz, anyone?).

I don’t hate the game (no reason to), but I think the game wastes too many opportunities that could have expanded its potential fan base. At this point, Miyamoto is so established and powerful within Nintendo that he could make anything he wants, and no one would dare to say “no” to him. I have a feeling that this game, he made for himself.

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Filed under: wii gaming