At E3 2008, there were about four WiiMusic booths set up in the Nintendo area. WiiMusic, if you didn’t know, is basically a game where you can play songs with your friends. Except, there’s no score, no points, no punishment for being off beat, you just “play” your instrument using the WiiMote in a couple of ways. After you go through a song, you get to watch the performance again. Miis are the characters that are in the game, just like other games in the WiiBlank series.
Although WiiMusic is pretty pathetic when compared directly to Rock Band 2 (it was the loudest thing at the whole show), there is a little bit of enjoyment still to be had. It took me a little bit of instruction from the Nintendo employees as to how to actually play the game, and how to play each particular instrument. There are a vast majority of different instruments that range from trumpet, piano, organ, bagpipes, and the triangle to weirder instruments like the jaw harp, the aptly named “Dog Suit,” and beatboxing.
Categories of instruments dictate different methods of play. For wind instruments, if you tilt the controller up and down, the pitch changes. You press the 1 and 2 buttons to change the notes. For percussion instruments, you move your hands up and down in a drumming-fashion to make different beats. You can also hold onto different buttons while waving your arms around to create different sounds. The guitar is played like an air guitar, except you have a Wii controller and Nunchuk in your hands.
When you are actually performing, there is a metronome to help you keep to the beat, but you can basically go crazy and not go with it at all. The result, at least while playing Yankee Doodle, was that it sounded nothing like the song at all.
In the end, the game itself is pretty barebones. The current songs are pretty lame, since they’re all folk songs or the like. Although there are supposedly “60” songs planned to be included, they’re all going to be lyric-less MIDI-quality songs that sound nothing like their originals. To get an idea of what pedigree of songs will actually end up being in the game, think “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Super Mario Bros.” theme song, “From The New World,” and “Turkey in the Straw” since those were the songs actually featured in the playable demo. Other songs that are known of are the Legend of Zelda overworld theme, “The Overture” (from an opera called Carmen), and an F-Zero song which was played at the Nintendo conference. I can only hope that “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Pop Goes the Weasel” are included in some fashion when the product finally comes out at retail.
The whole idea around the game appears to be creating performances and sharing them with your friends. You can play a performance over and over, providing the instrument for up to 6 different parts of a band. The Nintendo employees at the booth didn’t appear to actually know HOW you’d be able to “share” the performances with your friends – whether it was in video form or save file over the WiFiConnect 24. If you’re supposed to share with your friends so that they add their performances to yours, it will most certainly have to be some sort of save file.
There is also a drum simulator thing where you can use the WiiFit Balance Board as drum pedals, while you wave your arms around with the Wii controllers. There are no beats to play to, there are no other bandmates. It’s just you and an audience of Miis. There is literally nothing to do in the mode. Too often did I walk past the Nintendo booth and see a forlorn Nintendo employee drumming with WiiMusic having the worst time in their respective lives playing out in front of them. Not only that, the Rock Band booths behind them were so loud that they probably couldn’t even hear what they were doing. Eventually it seemed like they’d actually try to play drums to the music Rock Band was playing – it just seemed sad because the feature of actually having music playing while you’re drumming is lost in the mission for simplicity and appealing to the casual market. You have to ask yourself if someone would ever want to casually play this portion of WiiMusic for any more than 5 minutes before never returning it.
Unlike WiiPlay and WiiFit, WiiMusic isn’t going to come with a peripheral. Even the next Wii-titled game out next year, WiiSports Resort, comes with a peripheral. It’s questionable as to whether or not WiiMusic will have the same sort of appeal as its other siblings on account of that. In addition, the game itself just doesn’t have a real point to it. There are no points, there’s no sense of progression, all it is sitting around and listening to crappy computer instruments pretending to be real instruments. I don’t know how that is supposed to be enjoyable, especially with games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band already out on the market and already appealing to the same demographics WiiMusic aims to sell to. Unless WiiMusic has some sort of feature that will validate its purchase (let alone its existence) that we don’t know about, it will be a huge disappointment.