|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bemani||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 13, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Pop'n Music is a huge franchise. Before there was Guitar Hero or Rock Band, fans around the world were enjoying the beat-catching frenzy of Pop'n Music. Unfortunately, those of us in North America have been completely oblivious to this international phenomenon, as not a single entry of Pop'n Music's 15 game library has ever been released here in the US until now. Pop'n Music has finally come to the North American territory, and for a first effort this game is disappointing.
Although Pop'n Music has been released on a plethora of platforms in the past, including the PlayStation, Dreamcast, and Game Boy Color, its first release in North America is Wii-exclusive. Unfortunately, the Wii does not seem to be a very good fit for the series. While other versions have been completely button-based, Pop'n Music on the Wii is 100% motion-controlled. While that might sound like a good idea, the motion controls just don't work well enough for the game.
The game's premise is simple: You play as one of 20 different avatars, and you have to hit special beat bubbles in a song as they come cascading down from the top of the screen. There are five target bubbles, and as each bubble comes closer to the target, you'll have to shake the Wii-mote or Nunchuck in the target bubble's direction. Since there are five target bubbles, you'll have to use the Nunchuk for the two on the left, the Wii-mote for the two on the right, and you can use either controller for the bubble in the middle.
Although the setup of the game is a lot like Guitar Hero/Rock Band with the notes cascading vertically, the control works a lot like Samba de Amigo, which is not a good thing. Tilting the Wii-mote and Nunchuk to hit notes is very imprecise in this game (just as it was in Samba), and I frequently found that I was more successful just flailing around aimlessly than actually trying to tilt the controllers to hit the notes.
Since each controller is capable of hitting three notes, the easiest ones to hit were those on the farthest left and right, since they required the most dramatic tilt. However, hitting any notes in the neutral area (Wii-mote and Nunchuk pointed straight up) or tilted inward position (from either direction) was nearly impossible. The game simply wouldn't read the tilting motions correctly and would hit the notes on the end by default. The game's imprecise control is extremely frustrating, and I couldn't play the game for very long periods of time without feeling the urge to chuck my Wii-mote at the wall.
Aside from the horrible controls, there are other facets of this game that help sink it further into the "do not play" category. When you play a music game, generally there are two things that are important: the gameplay and the actual music. Since the control rules out quality gameplay, you would hope that their might be a decent tracklist to at least shore up the play value a little bit. However, Pop'n Music has a deplorable tracklist that includes overused "hits" like "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter and "Virtual Insanity" by Jamiroquai. There are also some oldies on the disc, including "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire and "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang.
The total tracklist falls at around 40 (which is disappointing considering other music games on the Wii have a much larger tracklist), and most of the songs are covers. What's even more upsetting is the fact that almost none of the tracks are the full song. For instance, "The Final Countdown" only includes the opening guitar solo and the first verse and chorus. Then the song fades out and the track ends. Although I am sure that this format worked well in arcades, it just doesn't seem suitable for a home console experience, and I couldn't help feeling dissatisfied with the audio offerings.