E3: Nintendo plays a different tune with Wii Music

By Mathew Kumar, Special to CBCnews.ca

LOS ANGELES - During its press conference Nintendo was happy to boast about its success in the currently popular music-game space, with Guitar Hero III selling more on Wii than on any other system. It also announced of a sequel to Guitar Hero: On Tour, called Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades.

But Nintendo’s first party entrance into the genre is worlds away from what we’ve come to expect.

Rather than relying on the bundled peripherals and licensed master tracks that allow us to feel like we’re “really playing” our favourite songs in Rock Band and Guitar Hero, Wii Music takes a different tack. The game is played entirely with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck – plus the Wii balance board, if you’ve got one.

Shigeru Miyamoto introduced the game by playing the “saxophone”- really the Wii Remote held to his mouth – after a drum solo from a professional drummer using Wii Music. Nintendo even promises you’ll be able to learn the drums simply by playing Wii Music!

Shigeru Miyamoto and his band desperately trying to stay in time with each other.
(Mathew Kumar)

Much like “traditional” music games, it seems you choose a song to play (for example, a theme from Metroid) and play it. But unlike other games where you are limited to simply matching the original track, Wii Music allows you to “flavour” the music by the way in which you move in order to play it. As a result, the game doesn’t evaluate your ability to match the original track – it instead records music videos.

Miyamoto led (on cowbell) a team of Nintendo staff through an unusual version of the Super Mario Bros. theme that both looked fun and was funny. Still, despite Nintendo’s perfect track record so far on Wii branded titles – Wii Sport, Wii Play and Wii Fit – I’m not sure that this will reach the kind of success the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises have.

That said, Nintendo have never been interested in “competing”- Wii Music is so different, and such a clever twist (aping the feeling of “performing” rather than “playing” music) that it will certainly succeed in its own right.

(The author is a Canadian freelance writer blogging for CBCnews.ca from the Electronics and Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.)