If you’ve ever played Guitar Hero or Rock Band and it came up in conversation somehow, then you would probably talk about yourself as having played and experienced “music games”. Though it may be pedantic and nit-picky, I would have to vehemently disagree with you on this because you are simply wrong.
Rock Band isn’t a musical game that requires you to understand music any more than the act of listening to a song on the radio and playing air guitar along to it does. Rock Band merely asks that you simply press buttons in time with basic visual clues that could just as easily be ticks and crosses littering a blank screen; it is a game of song and not of music that involves pressing buttons in time while a song just so happens to be playing. Wii Music – in spite of some fairly slating reviews for its lack of real challenge – can accurately be referred to as a musical game because it more readily deals with the skills and general structure involved in playing layered compositions of music and understanding how they work from the inside out, and not simply from the aesthetic, shallow perspective of say Guitar Hero.
The difference between a game of musical arrangement and that of a straight-up, button-mashing song game is exactly why this game has received such poor reviews on most of the websites you will come across after a simple Google search. Many have reviewed this game as one that is attempting to compete with the likes of Rock Band, which are for all intents and purposes not truly musical but simply metronomic affairs that require pressing buttons at the correct time for points.
Wii Music is a more natural experience than this, allowing you to actually arrange an existing song’s layers, swapping out the layers (chords, melody, bass, rhythm, and two additional percussion layers) with whichever one of the huge range of musical instruments you fancy.
There isn’t an all-or-nothing points system in Wii Music where crowds cheer or jeer depending on your performance and you are punished for wrongdoing, which is why this game has fallen on deaf ears for hardcore gamers out there that just want to be given a cookie for pressing buttons at the right time to a backing of an unimaginative song from a mediocre band that just so happen to be well-known in the musical world.
With the abolishing of this rigid structure of its rivals also comes the opportunity to actually improvise during songs, adding in notes where there originally were none and nurturing creativity rather than chastising you for not doing exactly what the computer says (the big console games aren’t the only ones guilty of this; flash games like SC Guitar Maniac DX 3 is equally as rigid in its approach).
Though the song selection isn’t exactly a browse through the greatest hits of the most popular bands on earth, the available songs are musically challenging and will allow you to explore the relationship between the instruments themselves instead of just reciting exactly what the game tells you to.
And so it becomes obvious when playing Wii Music that it is indeed one of the more creativity-inspiring music games out there. It could be said that while other console games like Rock Band are for the shallow gamers that want to be patted on the back for “playing music”, Wii Music is a title that provides the serious musician – one whyo actually understands (or wants to learn about) the structure of music, the relationship between instruments, and the intricacies of arranging – with a platform to do so in a visually exciting and interactive manner.