Pop’n Music Review for Nintendo Wii

Pop’n Music Review for Nintendo Wii

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.

Pop'n Music screenshot

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.

Pop'n Music screenshot

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.

Pop'n Music screenshot

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.

Still, there are some things that Pop’n Music does get right. Though the control was a consistent problem, if don’t mind just flailing your arms to get points there are some fun multiplayer modes to be had. One of the most memorable was a robot mode where players are split into teams that can control each side of a robot with Pop’n bubbles. There are also more standard multiplayer modes including a points-based versus mode. I really think the developers were on to something with their multiplayer modes, and I wish the control was up to par so that they could have been fully enjoyed.

Pop'n Music screenshot

Another thing that Pop’n Music has going for it is its visuals. The game looks surprisingly crisp on the Wii, and everything from the background to the character animations runs smoothly and without jagged lines. The overall style of the game is also quite good. There are plenty of bright colors and fun characters that include everything from an ancient chicken to a funky rabbit. It really is a shame that the visuals are so good, yet the gameplay is so bad. The great graphics prove that there was some solid effort put into the development of the game, and it is truly unfortunate that this effort was squandered with poor controls.

Pop’n Music is one of the most popular franchises abroad, and it would have been nice to see its success translate to an American market. If the button control from the original titles had been kept for this release, the review would have been a lot different.

Fans abroad have consistently praised other versions of the game for its uniqueness and difficulty. However, Pop’n Music for the Wii doesn’t feel unique or difficult; it just feels like a lot of frustrating shaking set to bad music. Here’s hoping Konami doesn’t give up on the American market and gives this game a proper release with button control (or at least improved motion control) sometime in the near future.

Background animations are crisp and anime-style avatars look great. 1.5 Control
It’s easy to hit the beats at the both ends of the spectrum, but the three notes in the middle are almost impossible to hit accurately due to the poor controls. 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s an odd mix of pop music, oldies, and original tunes. Songs are of low quality, and several of them are unfinished. 2.3

Play Value
There are some fun multiplayer modes, but the tracklist is very thin. The poor controls inhibit any real fun.

2.4 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Customize your very own avatar, upload your Mii, or choose from a diverse selection of amusing characters
  • Difficulties range from the standard mode for casual users and challenge mode for core users.
  • Assortment of licensed and original music to play with your friends!
  • Downloadable song content will be available through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

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