Major Minor’s Majestic March Review for Nintendo Wii

Major Minor’s Majestic March Review for Nintendo Wii

From developers NanaOn-Sha (PaRappa the Rapper) and artist Rodney Greenblat comes one of the oddest rhythm games to ever appear on a home console. Major Minor’s Majestic March has been in development for quite some time now, and it’s finally hitting stores shelves. Was it worth the wait?

Major Minor's Majestic March screenshot

Majestic March is a kid-friendly game of the Noggin/Nick Jr. kind that follows Major Minor and his Teddy bear friend, Tom, as they take a pied-piper’s journey along the countryside. With the aid of his talking baton, GGGG, Major Minor recruits musicians to his cause, but this is one game that marches to the beat of a very different drum.

Minor’s tale is told by way of a series of beautiful cutscenes illustrated by Greenblat. The narration is expertly delivered, and the entire presentation of Majestic March is quite lovely. It’s when you actually dive into the gameplay, though, that things begin to go awry.

The first order of business is a short selection of tutorials, which do a somewhat poor job of explaining the proper way to execute commands. Additionally, there are elements of the game, such as power-ups and tempo changes, that aren’t covered during the tutorial phase.

Major Minor's Majestic March screenshot

The basic gist of gameplay is this: You hold the Wii Remote (the Nunchuk is not used for this game) upright, with the A button facing you. As you march along an on-rails path, you’ll need to maintain an up-and-down marching motion with your baton, thrusting the controller forward, in rhythm, in order to enlist musicians and collect power-ups along the way.

Sounds simple enough, right? It is actually a fairly straightforward premise, but gestures are consistently misread or not recognized at all, and changing the tempo, in order to please GGGG and the rest of the band, is like trying to stop a freight train on a dime.

Upon starting a tune, it will be up to you to set the tempo. You do this by simply motioning up and down with the controller, attempting to keep a steady rhythm. Once you’ve got the tempo where you want it, just press the A button to begin the march. You’ll have to keep the band happy by finding a medium tempo that’s neither too fast nor too slow for certain band members.

Major Minor's Majestic March screenshot

After each song, you’ll be asked whose performance you enjoyed the most, and this seems to be the game’s way of setting up an optimum rhythm for your taste. It’s a good mechanic, but again, speeding up or slowing down the tempo mid-march is difficult and usually results in sliding out of rhythm to the point of failing the level. When we last previewed Majestic March sometime last year, failing to keep a good tempo merely sent you back a bit to an earlier part of the level. In the final product, however, you simply fail the level altogether and have to restart from the beginning.

In addition to picking up new band members along the way, you’ll also pass power-ups, such as jelly beans and whistles. Jelly beans get the band in a jolly mood, which will help keep them in line if they’re either too bored with a slow tempo or tuckered by a fast one. Picking up whistles is supposed to help you keep the band together when encountering various intersections; throughout each level the game provides short pit stops for you to relax your arm. Unfortunately, the game never explains to you what all these power-ups actually do, and players will be forced to experiment. That can be problematic, since not all items (or band members) along the roadside are helpful to maintaining a good march.

Though we faced much disappointment with Major Minor’s gameplay, we still found ourselves having a good bit of fun with it. The gesture commands were finicky, and adjusting the tempo was always a chore, but there was still something oddly mesmerizing about the whole experience. Keeping a good tempo had less to do with adhering to a song’s rhythm than following the up-and-down motion of Major Minor’s baton on the screen, but once you find the groove, marches can still be quite satisfying.

Major Minor's Majestic March screenshot

As you progress through a level, you’ll often be given the opportunity to participate in a few, gesture-based micro-games. These are presented as marching band competitions in which you have to motion with the Wii Remote according to various onscreen cues. These breaks offer a simple diversion that make for a nice change during marches.

Unfortunately, what enjoyment is here to experience is appallingly brief. With only seven levels (though there are 20 different songs and multiple difficulty settings) to play through in single-player, we zipped through the game in about one hour. You’ll earn points and medals based on your performance during levels, but they don’t go toward unlocking anything extra. You can, however, unlock up to 30 different character profiles by recruiting characters throughout levels. There are a few multiplayer options as well, and they might actually prove to extend the life of the game for folks who can overcome the control issues of Major Minor. Even at $40 ($10 less than your typical retail Wii game), though, the package is extremely light on content.

That said, the game’s production values are top-shelf. Some of the 3D texturing is less than stellar, but the art style is bursting with flavor. The colors are vibrant, and the artwork is extremely polished, as is the way the entire presentation is pieced together. It’s unfortunate the game is mired in load screens, but at least they’re relatively short. Each level has a distinct and attractive look to it, and if you take to the gameplay, chances are you’ll enjoy replaying the levels on offer here.

Major Minor’s crown jewel, though, is definitely its audio presentation. The sound and music are fantastic. The game is chocked full of big, bright and chunky sounds – even during loads – and the music is beautifully lighthearted, both in-game and during cutscenes. The game’s audio is, of course, paramount here, and what’s offered goes a long way to making the experience enjoyable overall.

The tunes during levels are comprised of a selection of marching oldies you’ve probably heard at some football game or pep rally. The cutscenes, however, are accompanied by a wonderful selection of acoustic pieces that do a great job of helping to tell the story of Major Minor’s Majestic March. The stereo separation is brilliant, and all of the instruments cut through with great fidelity, even when your band has gotten quite big.

This is one of those games I’m loath to be critical of; it has so much going for it. The art style is beautiful, and the aural presentation is just out of this world – one of the best soundtracks on Wii so far. The gameplay, too, teeters on being very satisfying, but input recognition is all over the place. The game is obviously aimed at kids ages six to 10, and they’ll likely struggle with it. We lament further because Majestic March seems to have been given an ample development cycle, and there’s just no reason these problems should exist. Still, the game might be worth a rental if you were onboard from the beginning, but even its gorgeous presentation isn’t enough to overcome the lack of content and poor controls.

Some of the 3D texturing is a bit plain, but on the whole, this is a great-looking game, Wii or otherwise. 2.7 Control
The simple approach is commendable, and it’s easy to sense something great underneath. The execution just doesn’t quite pan out, though. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The game has one beautiful soundtrack. Everything from the sound effects to the marching tunes and cutscene accompaniment is simply stellar. 3.1

Play Value
In spite of poor input recognition and other issues, there is fun to be had here. However, it’s incredibly short-lived. Even with its multiplayer options and unlockables, it’s a very hard sell at $40. The production values go a long way, though, in making this at least worth a rental if you’re curious.

3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • March in seven different whimsical locations. Use your best efforts to create the most impressive parade ever while nimbly avoiding obstacles.
  • Your Wii Remote is Major Minor’s “special” bandleader baton, used to keep tempo, recruit new band members, and pick-up valuable items. If your rhythm is unstable confusion will result; band members will drop out and you could ultimately fail the stage.
  • March and keep tempo to more than 20 well-known marching band tunes from around the world, composed into original medleys for each unique stage.

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