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A Week with Wii Music


Since the thrilling video that introduced the future potential of a console called “Revolution,” I have been waiting for Wii Music. You might be able to tell from my profile or other posts that rhythm games is a category I follow closely, I’ve got most of them — no matter how obscure, and I’ll play them all at least once.

The hype was getting to me: as long as I had waited to play Wii Music, Nintendo’s family marketing style in the Japanese train stations with posters of pre-schoolers and geriatrics playing the same game started to bring some concern into my heart. “How is one game going to cater to such a broad audience?” 

Still, I bought Wii Music on my way home from work last Thursday, the day it was released here in Japan. My local Momotaro (a game chain in Saitama) had put up orange posters with lots of Miis playing instruments — presumably the games cover — all over the store to celebrate, but when I actually saw the box, something was different… It was wrapped in another, card stock box, with spot-embossed metallic stars and music notes dancing into the center of the logo with behind a large cut-out music note that revealed the original orange cover underneath. The me that was on my way from work at the publishing company began to add up the cost of all these printable add-ons in my head; all I came away with from that video-game store is that Nintendo has an extraordinary amount of confidence in this title, and I was anxious to find out why.

The game got off to a slow start. Already my mind was wandering back to the negative hype behind Wii Music as an italian composer-muppet yammered away at me in Japanese about how much I was about to enjoy myself. “If I were a little kid I don’t know if I’d like this…” I began to wonder, cynically. I played around with some of the instruments as I had seen Miyamoto do in a demo video (with pre-schoolers). I realized at this time that there might be turntables in the game but after searching through each instrument I found no such thing — the only instrument even slightly out of the ordinary was me dressed in a dog costume, which more disturbing than it was funny. Next I tried to arrange a song, but I didn’t save it as a clip because I thought it sounded hasty and I was not a big fan of any of the five songs I had access to.

The next night I went out to meet a friend and told him candidly at the bar “So I bought Wii Music yesterday…”

“So did I!”

But we had both come to the same consensus. The game was slow and neither of us could figure out what the point of it all was. Playing along to songs and then recording them? I expressed my concern that I thought that perhaps the game was to educate very young children about music but because it cost so much to make Nintendo was trying to market it to a broader audience to make up the cost. 

We both decided wistfully that we would keep playing and exchange friend codes later on.

That night I decided to go ahead and push through and record three songs no matter how terrible I thought they sounded, just to see if I could advance the game a little bit. It was pretty time consuming abut I started to like banging out the rhythm to make the recordings and I was definitely able to enjoy making a few album covers, and was then rewarded with a lesson. More reading? More instructions!? At that point it was quite late and I was out of it – so I decided to sleep instead of continuing on.

The next morning I decided to venture ahead and complete the first basic lesson. Even though the song was simple I enjoyed learning how to put all of the parts together to make the song sound whole. Then when it was done I was informed I had unlocked some stuff – so I decided to go over to browse through the instruments again. Just to the left of my piano there they were — two shiny silver platters, the wheels of steel! Not only that, but I had a variety of songs and genre sets to practice them with. In what felt like no time I had enthusiastically recorded a sweet and smooth down-tempo version of Sakura with myself on the turntables, Natsume Souseki (a famous Japanese author) on the shamisen and the Dude from the Big Lebowski on the marimba. I arranged the jacket with care so I could listen again soon, and Wii Music began to click into place for me: I was glowing.

But as much as I couldn’t wait to explore more of what Wii Music had to offer, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit shameful at this point. I had tried to put Wii Music into a box – comparing it to all these other games and genres and it just didn’t fit. It was something new and different and that bothered me when I had began playing. I now felt bad for having been so closed minded about it. 

Wii Music can’t really fit into any kind of genre be it game or software related. If anything, it is a fun and educational tool that teaches you about composition, musical arrangement, rhythm and conducting while you create your own arrangements of familiar tunes. It is a comprehensive musical lesson without focusing to much on any one particular instrument. You can pick up the game and fool around for a bit but it definitely takes some time and devotion to put a solid-sounding piece together. I quickly began to realize that with each lesson my compositions were sounding better and better. I noticed after a while that the more effort I put into getting to know Wii Music, the more I got out of it — and interestingly enough the very same thing could be said about playing music on an actual instrument.

After only a few total hours with the game I got so excited that I unplugged the Wii from my television and stuck the Wii’s sound cables into my DJ mixer so I could actually scratch along with the “Wii Music” theme on a real turntable. A few more hours later and I began to notice new pattern and beat variations in MP3s on my computer, even though I had heard them countless times before. There is no question in my mind that Wii Music is a great jumping off point to get you excited about music and if it works with a professional scratch DJ with 5 years of violin training, I can only imagine what it will do for someone who is new to musical instruments and composition. Even writing this article I booted up the game a few times to reference a couple of menus and I had a hard time getting myself back to the keyboard. 

Sean wrote about this earlier and am not going to ignore the fact that Nintendo spent a LOT of time putting together a very quality musical simulation environment that allows you to make an infinite number of arrangements of familiar songs, some of which can depart so far from the original tune that they become otherwise identifiable — but it is a shame that there is no full composition mode. I can imagine budget, time, complexity and a slew of other factors led to this feature not being included but the game has so much potential that the ability to create your own melodies almost feels conspicuously amiss.

Finally, I know a lot of people are upset with the amount of classical standards and public-domain tracks in Wii Music’s sound selection, and depending on your musical tastes you may really find a lot to dislike about the list. But I would like to add my opinion on this, and I’d like the assistance of my friend Guitar Hero to help explain. Now, I adored Guitar Hero despite not being a classic rock fan, but I’ll admit it- I only knew a handful of the tracks offered in the game before I played, and even being well versed in rhythm games couldn’t get me familiar with songs I had never heard before. Wii Music on the other hand contains almost no songs that I didn’t recognize, and for a game that throws you into freely playing a melody without any visual cues to back you up — the selection makes a lot of sense. 

A couple of hours ago it occurred to me that if I had to compare Wii music to any other game it would be “Freqency” for the Playstation 2. Like Wii Music it is a rhythm game where you have to hit triggers to six or so different parts to a song, but there are elements to the songs arrangement and solos that can be improvised on the fly. As a bonus the game included a remix mode that would basically allow you to take the set note patterns and set their own rhythm to which those notes would be played. Wii Music really isn’t all that different except the importance of the game modes is flipped, and Wii Music becomes all about rearranging the tracks. 

Frequency didn’t make a lot of waves or create any controversy because it was a fairly small release, developed by an up and coming developer called “Harmonix.” Yeah, you might know them as the creators of Guitar Hero.

There are going to be plenty of gamers for whom Wii Music will click, and I’m sure quite a few who just will not want to devote their time to playing around with it. But if you like music or music games and are on the fence about giving it a try — I would encourage you to do so — the worst thing that can happen is you end up improving back-up bass for Abe Lincoln while remixing a song from Animal Crossing. How could that not be fun?


Published on October 22nd, 2008 under

Nintendo Spotting: Earthbound Revenge!

Published on October 17th, 2008 under ,

World of Goo: A True Indie Story


Somewhere in a coffee shop in San Francisco, Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler are crunching code and cleaning art.  The two of them make up the entire staff of 2D Boy, a self proclaimed “unstoppable force on the front lines of the indie revolution!”  In true indie fashion, the pair traded steady jobs at EA to blaze new trails in game design.  What qualifies them?  Kyle Gabler happens to be one of the minds behind the Experimental Gameplay Project, an open Indie game community designed to rapidly prototype new gameplay concepts.  2D Boy’s first game, World of Goo, is based off of concepts Kyle developed with the Experimenal Gameplay project.  I was only able to spend scant minutes with the upcoming WiiWare title at Nintendo’s Media Summit, and though I liked it – I only got a taste of what’s in store.

Check out Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Exclusive Review of World of Goo and look for World of Goo on WiiWare starting Oct. 13, 2008. 

Hit the jump for Screens and Artwork from the game!

World of Goo has an Online “Leaderboard,” measured by how tall your Tower of Goo grows.

The game features and “OCD” mode, for players that want more challenge out of the game.

The white lines preview what link will be made when you place your goo.

World of Goo will be avalible for PC and Wiiware on Oct. 13th, 2008

Published on October 11th, 2008 under ,

Infendo Hands-On – Dead Rising: Cream of the Flop


I’m a big fan of zombie mayhem, and with the Xbox 360 hovering just above my price range, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Dead Rising: Chop ‘till you Drop. Screenshots of the Wii version have been heavily criticized for having bad graphics, and not being able to simulate zombie hordes of the same size as its 360 predecessor. I’m sorry to say that despite some valiant efforts, the “Trial Version” on demo at Nintendo’s Fall Media summit lived up to the negative hype.

Hit the jump to find out why.

Gosh, I just don\'t know how i\'m going to get through this massive horde of Zombies
It may only be because it’s a remake of a 360 game, but expectations for Dead Rising have been high. The most common gripe is that screenshots from the Wii version don’t seem to have enough zombies. The Xbox 360 version of the game could display hundreds of zombies on screen at one time, but the Wii version only seems to be able to display dozens. During my time with the demo, I counted only between 15-25 zombies on screen at any given time, and usually it was on the low end of this range. Possibly worse, the few zombies I did see were so spread out that walking around them was almost no challenge. If the enemy isn’t a threat, why would I bother to engage them? The rebuttal to this complaint is obvious: The Wii is not the Xbox 360, and can’t hope to compete with it in terms of high-end graphical processing power. It’s a valid counterargument, but it’s too true. The demo was an aliasing nightmare, besides, Dead Rising’s selling point is the abundance of mindless zombies, a big empty mall doesn’t make much of a thriller.

The modified Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition engine the game runs on feels solid in terms of gameplay, and actually works pretty well with the new melee weapons. The player can pick up and throw benches, cash registers, merchandise, pretty much everything you could in the old game. Certain items like the baseball bat can be charged up by waggling the Wii Remote, and the game utilizes the remote speaker for weapons sound effects. Another important thing to mention is that the text is large and easy to read, addressing a common complaint with the 360 release. The only real problem with the control setup and the RE4 engine is that you can’t jump, which means climbing flower beds and other obstacles to escape the zombie horde is out of the question.

I sought out Tim Ng, Capcom’s representative at the Press Summit, in hopes that he could address my complaints. Hopefully, I thought, there was a better build of the game out there somewhere. “This is the likely build,” he told me, ”…it’s actually a very early build.” I asked him if this was the only demo the company had out, and he told me what was showing in Japan may be different. Although it’s been reported that vehicles are making a comeback in the Wii edition, Ng told me that vehicles and the zombie filled parking structure from the 360 version were still “to be determined.”

Dead Rising: Chop ‘till you Drop is slated for release in Winter 09, which means Capcom still has until March to polish this title up. If they can manage to add a jump button, clean up the aliasing problem, and get closer to their previous goal of 100 zombies on screen, Dead Rising for Wii will be a great Mature title for Nintendo fans. Until then, we’ll be keeping track of Capcom’s progress on this title. Hopefully, the final build will be much different than the “likely” build.

Published on October 7th, 2008 under , ,

New Game Get – Nintendo releases for the week ending October 4th


October already!  Well, here are this week’s new releases:

Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility
Pipe Mania
We Cheer

HamTaro Ham-Ham Challenge
Pipe Mania
Animal Paradise
Margot’s Word Brain
Pop Cutie! Street Fashion Simulation
Princess Debut
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Unsolved Crimes

My pick has to be Sonic Chronicles, just to see how they pull it off.  How about you?

Published on September 28th, 2008 under

Pirating just got worse on the Wii.


Earlier today, news of a new homebrew coder named Waninkoko, has risen from the depths of the Internet. With his name he brought news of an working ISO loader for the Wii. The details are very sketchy as to how it works, but from what is swirling around the net is that it uses “a special program” to edit the ISO of a game. Aftewards you can burn it onto a DVD and use the Homebrew Channel to launch the burnt copy, allowing you not to have to worry about SD card space. To some this will be a glorious age of fun times, to other a dark age of problems and piracy wars. Who knows what will happen, but this is an interesting development, anyone for pirated Captain Rainbow?

Published on September 15th, 2008 under

Tetris Party for WiiWare to launch fall 2008


PRESS RELEASE — Tetris Online, Inc. today announced that “Tetris Party” — the newest official game of Tetris — will be launched in fall 2008 as a download for WiiWare.

“Tetris Party” will feature 18 game modes with 10 never-before-seen single-player and multiplayer variations of Tetris, including modes that utilize the unique point-and-shoot capabilities of the Wii Remote, as well as the recently released Wii Balance Board.

Online variations will include World Battle and Friend Battle where players can take the Tetris fun online via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, where up to six people can play multiplayer Tetris at a time.

For more information on “Tetris Party,” please visit

Published on July 30th, 2008 under , , ,

Iwata confirms Wii 2 is in Developement!


Is it too soon to be thinking about a successor to the Nintendo Wii, apparently not since Iwata is freely talking about the next generation of Nintendo Hardware.

Nintendo, as you might expect, is approaching things a bit differently. President Satoru Iwata freely admits the company is already working on the Wii’s successor. However, he adds that he doesn’t view the hardware as particularly interesting.

Hit the jump to hear more about Iwata’s depression over the new hardware.

“We are always preparing for the next hardware,” Iwata says. “We are under development. … But the hardware is a kind of box that consumers reluctantly buy in order to play our games.”

To that end, Nintendo will keep its development well under wraps until Wii sales dry up–in other words, not anytime soon–and developers run out of ways to utilize the system’s interface.
Nintendo, though, is in an unusual position. With the company’s huge success with the current-generation console, consumers are going to expect a lot from it whenever the successor to the Wii is unveiled.

“Every hardware needs some revolutionary features,” Iwata says. “This time around, it happened to be we had a revolutionary user interface. Will it be the same for the next generation? I really can’t tell.

“It’s natural for the current customer to expect Nintendo is going to once again do something different,” he continues. “If the people are expecting so many different things from Nintendo, it’s going to be difficult for us to go beyond that expectation again.”

[Via Forbes]

Published on July 29th, 2008 under

Pokémon Stamp Rally arrives to crowd city-wide public transportation


Dear America,

Do you want to cause a REVOLUTION? Do you want to create chaos among the populous and fill every public train with rabid children itching to spend money just to utilize your travel services? It’s easy — just ask Nintendo for some back-up!

In Tokyo this weekend saw the beginning of the Pokémon Stamp Rally, a yearly event where kids are encouraged to ride government-run trains (not those private ones), to select stations in Tokyo where stamps of various Pokémon have been placed over night. Once you collect at least six Pokémon, it’s off to one of the big stations to trade in your stamped card for a lanyard with two Pokémon posing in front of the Japan Railroad emblem — oh, and don’t forget a Pikachu visor (it’s made out of paper)!!

Also, every participant in the rally has a chance to win Pokémon Platinum and one of six plushies.

Ambitious kids who have mind-control powers over their parent’s wallets (and otaku with jobs) can go to all 95 stations and after spending tens of thousands of yen to receive the unique stamps, receive a talking Pikachu coin bank.

I happened to be going to a relatively small train-station yesterday to check out a museum with a friend, and you can bet there were traffic cones tied up with caution tape to create a make-shift line so that all the stampers didn’t bum-rush the pads at once. Just in case those pre-teens and their folks got 

extra rowdy, there were even two security guards with megaphones on hand for crowd-control.

And just so you don’t think I’m poking fun at all the zealous kids who want to “catch ‘em all” and win some goods at the same time, the event lasts 8 days so I can leisurely collect my six stamps throughout the week as well.

Published on July 26th, 2008 under , ,

Hey E3: Change or die (preferably die)


By and large, most of the major publishers phoned in their presentations at E3. There were bright spots all around (yes, even in Nintendo’s presser), but permeating all the news, regardless of your own feelings about the show, Nintendo, or otherwise, was the stink of failure. Not from the Big Three, or the third parties (which were there peddling en masse), but from E3 itself.

Twenty people showed up for the questionably cast “Chainsaw Massacre” keynote from Texas governor Rick Perry. Nintendo said it would no longer showcase “core games” at E3, and would instead use the venue, such as it is, for “new concepts.” In the run up to the show, major publishers dropped out of the ESA, which is the group behind E3. Several publishers showed up in LA this week and put on rogue “un-E3″ shows and parties. Capcom, the huge gaming publisher, held a press conference about a movie. The halls, packed in year’s past, were barren. We saw many games we’ve known about for a year or more (some of which were delayed, again, or worse).

So let’s just get right down to it, then. E3 needs to change, or go away.

Blake and I talked about the show via my shiny new iPhone the other day, and I put forth the opinion that E3, as it is today, is a show without identity or purpose. The driving force in the gaming industry today are the non-traditional players that did not exist two or three years ago. They could care not less about E3 as it exists today.

Now, on that point, don’t take the easy bait and label these people “casual gamers” or “retard gamers,” as MS, Sony and many hardcore publishers like Epic Games would have you do. They aren’t. Related to that is the common misconception that Nintendo is abandoning the base (which, unfortunately, was amplified by the MIDI-fest press conference). There is a mountain of evidence, some of it as old as the Nintendo DS and some of it as fresh as The Conduit/Mega Man 9/Wario Land: Shake It/Etc etc etc, that disproves any such abandonment is taking place.

Instead, the base is growing, and I again ask what’s wrong with having more people, of many tastes and talents, contributing to the gaming gene pool? Even Wii Music, panned by Blake and the core press attending E3 (except Eurogamer, they liked it for some reason), will undoubtedly find a home and make millions. And that’s going to be OK, believe me. Nothing will suffer because of a hot-selling MIDI creator, just as gaming as a whole has not suffered because of Nintendo’s incessant Pokemon franchise.

Who knows, when a final build is available later this year, the game’s unorthodox and even borderline “dumbed down” controls could very well surprise us all, just like a certain joystick-less game console did way back in 1986 (look up any of Atari’s attack ads against the NES for that period, you’ll see what I mean).

But this growing force in gaming is largely unrepresented by a show like E3. At the same time E3, in the past, was THE show for interactive entertainment. It’s a Catch-22. Meanwhile, the media that went in there this week, the media that shapes the message coming out of the show to our eyeballs, is still largely representative of the core gamer. They, and many of us, were expecting an entirely different show than what we received. It led, sadly, to many a negative comment thread or two. Or ten. It will surely happen again, but that’s the nature of the beast.

And as gaming gets more popular, with more people, I only see E3 getting worse. ESA president Mike Gallagher promised to tweak the event once again next year, but his spin reeks of rearranging the deck chairs on a particularly unlucky ocean liner.

It’s quite a quandary. In this light, I’d prefer it if E3 just shriveled up and died. Publishers seem to agree. Just yesterday, EA and Ubisoft (and seemingly Nintendo), all hinted that smaller, private shows, hosted by the publishers themselves, would be a better use of time, effort and treasure. Nintendo specifically, with its “we’re happy making money all year, not just December” mentality, appears to have started down this road already. EA, Ubisoft, and others appear to be on the edge, ready to jump alongside Nintendo into the era of vendor-driven shows, or something similar.

As a former journalist who covered the Linux industry for four years, I can tell you this is how many big vendors do shows today. Red Hat, Novell, and even companies outside Linux, like Microsoft and Oracle, all do big shows that draw thousands of people. Oh, and these people aren’t just journalists, they’re the customers–the people who REALLY drive their business. Blizzard’s annual user show is a great example of how this format could help gaming. At their show, customers and media get to grill developers about the bugs in WoW side-by-side, and the developers openly respond. As an aside, I really hope Activision doesn’t mess with that formula (re: Activision Blizzard merger).

The one big thing most people will remember about this year’s E3 was how forgettable it was. Behind that, probably Final Fantasy XII. And even that announcement, when you dig deep into it, comes with its own set of harbingers, specifically the ones that revolve around spiraling development costs and a niche user base with a less-than-ideal size.

There’s just no need for a show like E3 anymore. It has to change, or die. I vote die.

Published on July 18th, 2008 under

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