Rock Band Review for the Nintendo Wii

Rock Band Review for the Nintendo Wii

It’s been a long and laborious wait for Wii owners itching to get their hands on some Rock Band action of their own. The hit music game and its living room-choking array of peripherals hit the PS3 and Xbox 360 full-force almost eight months ago, proving to be a heavy contender in the escalating rhythm game slugfest. Previously resigned to bugging friends to rock out on their higher-powered consoles, Nintendo purists now have the opportunity to buy instrument-like heaps of plastic to yell into, strum, and bang on with their TV set cranked to the max. The bane of parents, landlords, and neighbors alike – Rock Band may be tardy to the party on the Wii, and missing some of the higher-end features of the other console editions, but it’s still one hell of a good time.

Rock Band screenshot

The Guitar Hero franchise may currently dominate the rock gaming market in terms of sheer shred-factor and a superior challenge in the solo experience, but Rock Band brings a completely different dynamic into the mix. When rocking out with a living room full of friends at your side wielding various plastic instruments, the game has the power to instill a sense of camaraderie in the group. For some, this might be the closest they’ll get to the experience of playing in a band. The best part is you don’t have to be a musician to pick it up and dive headfirst into the rock and roll mayhem.

When it comes to the gameplay itself, Rock Band on the Wii is mostly unchanged from the other console versions. Depending on your choice of instrument, you’ll blast through songs while hitting notes in time to the music as they move down a runway towards you. For guitar and bass, players will hit the colored notes on the fretboard while strumming. Drummers must contend with a slightly different visual setup to account for the four pads and kick pedal, and vocalists will follow karaoke-like lyrics scrolling across a box on the screen while watching a small meter to track their pitch. It’s a blast to play through the main game either as a vocalist, a guitarist, a bassist, or a drummer, since each peripheral has its own unique style of play. The order of the track list when playing solo changes based-on what instrument you’re playing, since certain songs have different levels of challenge between the different parts in terms of the instrumentation.

Rock Band screenshot

The game does flow differently on the Wii. Instead of creating your own custom characters and launching on the unique world tour gameplay mode like in the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions, you’ll simply name your band and play through various tiers of songs. This setup is far more like the Guitar Hero franchise than the other versions of Rock Band. It’s not a big problem, since it doesn’t hurt the gameplay itself. However, its one of several reasons why players with multiple current-gen consoles in their house will likely go with Rock Band on the Xbox 360 or PS3 instead of the Wii version. For those without a choice, it’s a no-brainer.

Each of the 63 songs in the game is custom-picked to provide a well-rounded play experience for a full band. There are some guitar heavy tracks, but most feature interesting parts for all of the different players. They may not be as difficult to play technically for certain instruments, but the list is packed with tons of popular tunes from some excellent bands that are simply an awesome fit for group gameplay. Bon Jovi, Nirvana, Rush, The Police, Soundgarden, The Ramones, Garbage, Radiohead, The Who, David Bowie, R.E.M., and many more deliver the goods.

When comparing the level of challenge in the guitar aspect of the game, Rock Band is simply nowhere near as difficult as Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock – even on expert. That doesn’t mean it’s any less fun, but it’s something anyone buying it after spending ample time with the other major music game franchise Guitar Hero titles should understand – this is true across all console versions. The drums are the toughest to master and ultimately the most rewarding instrument to play. They’re a completely different way to enjoy the rhythm gameplay genre, and actual drummers will find the kit offers quite a realistic experience. The vocal parts can be tricky for folks who are unfamiliar with the songs or shy about belting tunes out. However, karaoke fans will feel right at home. Individually, each instrument is fun to play in solo modes, but the real magic of Rock Band comes to the forefront when playing in a group setting.

Rock Band screenshot

At a relatively steep price tag of $170, the full bundle comes packed-in with the game, a USB mic, a four-pad drumkit, a single wireless guitar, and a USB hub to connect all the stuff together simultaneously. Buying a second guitar lets you add a fourth member to your virtual band on the bass. The Rock Band guitar is quite different from what Wii owners will be used with the Guitar Hero peripheral. Some will like it better; others will not. It’s longer, lighter-weight, more realistic looking, and the strum bar is less “clicky,” but the overall design feels a little flimsy. The note keys are set deeper into the neck and have more of a click when they’re pressed. A second set of buttons, located higher on the fretboard, lets players solo by simply fingering the notes. This takes getting used-to, but it’s a cool feature. The guitar is powered by three AA batteries. It works via a wireless unit that plugs into the Wii’s USB port instead of fitting the Wii Remote into the peripheral itself.

Rock Band screenshot

The other two peripherals are extremely different, quite fun to play, and will likely appeal to many players looking for something different than the standard guitar/bass gameplay. The microphone looks realistic and is responsive to vocal pitch and phrasing. Aside from having a slick white look to match the Wii, the drumkit pads are slightly quieter than the original peripheral and are sturdy in their design. The kick pedal has a nice level of spring to it as well. Neither are wireless. The peripherals’ lack of compatibility with the Guitar Hero games on the Wii is a major source of frustration, and it will likely be a deal breaker for gamers with limited funds to shell out on tons of plastic instrument controllers.

Rock Band takes a minor hit graphically on the Wii, but it’s still excellent to see the highly animated bands rendered in a slightly hazy, live rock-video visual style. The bands are made up of a pleasant mix of male and female rockers, depicted in a variety of fashionable styles falling more along the punk, alternative, indie, and grunge end of the hipster spectrum. Character movements are extremely realistic and perfectly in synch to the music and action playing out in your living room – right down to note fingerings and drum hits.

As exciting as it is to play Rock Band on Nintendo’s console, a two other major components have been cut out of the Wii version completely. There’s no online play or support for downloadable content – the latter being a hefty blow, considering tons of songs are available on the other consoles (now including entire albums). This will be remedied by a series of disc-based track pack expansions featuring some of the DLC Wii owners are unable to obtain the traditional way. The first volume comes out this month.

The intensity of playing with other musicians in a real rock group and performing live is a serious rush, and Rock Band emulates the same vibe with incredible precision. The Wii version is not perfect, but the game is easily as enjoyable and addictive as it is on other consoles. It’s an awesome way for gamers to rock out in groups, short of starting their own cover band. The gameplay is tight, the song list is excellent, and it’s tough to put down once you get sucked in.

Fuzzy band visuals emulate the feel of being in a gritty rock club. Character movements are very realistic. 4.3 Control
Some folks will find certain instruments tougher to play than others, but everything is quite solid and a lot of fun. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
An awesome track list of high quality originals and some good covers. 4.6

Play Value
Playing solo or as a group will keep your rocking for many hours to come. Going back and mastering each individual instrument on solo mode is a great way to extend the game.

4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Rock out your way! Players can beat on drums, sing along, groove as a bassist and shred riffs as guitarists (using a licensed replica of the legendary Fender® Stratocaster®) – either in single-player career mode leading a band, in multiplayer as part of the band, or against each other.
  • Unrivaled song library! Major record labels and leading music publishers have signed on to provide unrivaled access to master recordings and legendary rock artists – from punk, metal, and alternative to classic and southern rock of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s, such as: Nirvana’s “In Bloom”, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, Queens of the Stone Age’s “Go With The Flow”, Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly”, The Hives’ “Main Offender”, Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen”, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, The Strokes’ “Reptilia”, The Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach”, Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So”, David Bowie’s “Suffragette City”, Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”, Stone Temple Pilots’ “Vasoline”, Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”, The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – AND MORE!
  • Includes 5 Bonus Tracks! The massive song list grows even larger, with 5 additional songs for the Wii.
  • Wii-styled Drum Set! An entirely new look for Rock Band comes to the Wii in the form of white drums.

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