Joystiq E3 hands-on: Wii Music

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Joystiq E3 hands-on: Wii Music

How does an adult -- a gamer -- explain Nintendo's strongly touted Wii Music without conveying an overwhelming feeling of dread? It's like the Fisher-Price version of music games and in some dark nightmare it could become a major hit. The skill required to play Wii Music is comparable to putting a three-year-old in front of a toy piano and just letting them bang away, but no matter what key the child hits it continues to play the correct note to create a song. Wii Music is not a game, it's a toy; another glorified tech demo to keep Wii Sports and Wii Play company.

If music snobs dismiss the skill required to play games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, which do require talent to play and succeed, then those folks are going to have a full-blown aneurysm if Wii Music becomes a best seller. Our experience with the game was interesting, but we can't imagine spending more time with it beyond testing out the features or using it to entertain a child toddler when company comes over and the adults want to talk.

As for the gameplay, we tested out the standalone drum kit and the band feature.

The drum kit is basically a virtual drum set using the Wiimote and Nunchuk as sticks to bang the air, while Wii Fit's balance board is used as the foot peddle. It works fine and it's better than listening to your kid discover the joys of banging two pots together over and over again.

The jam session is interesting for the fact that there are over 60 instruments to play in six categories: bass, percussion, second percussion, chord, lead and harmony. Here's just a small selection of the midi-sounding instruments: tambourine, castanets, hand clap, beat box, DJ scratching, basic drums, rock drums, marching snare, taiko, maracas, jaw harp, electric bass, upright bass, trumpet, sax, bagpipe, tuba, violin, piano, toy piano, harpsichord, vibraphone, steel drum and sitar. Even though a lot of those sound cool, making music is still nothing beyond wiggling this, waggling that or pressing some button. The notes just play themselves as the player creates the tempo.

The one thing we really wanted to try was the conductor mini-game showed off during the Nintendo's 2006 press conference, but that wasn't available.

Although there may be something we're completely missing, it's quite clear that if the final product is anything like what we experienced, Wii Music is not for gamers. It certainly looks like it could have applications in rehab centers or entertaining a child, but we'll stick with Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Sure, those games are just as "fake" as Wii Music, but at least we feel like we're making music instead of being a tempo creation slave.
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