The Wii Remote can be many things, but I never knew it could be a glockenspiel

Wii Music

Wii Music (2008)

Never one to miss a bragging opportunity, I can tell you that I was once a well-respected member of a band. Unfortunately it wasn’t the type of band where four unlikely lads come together with whatever instruments they can conjure up, and loudly wail butchered versions of Clash songs from their garage to get the bohemian girls onside.

No, mine was the school band, and I wouldn’t have had a choice anyway – I was conscripted. The band leader was also my teacher, a regimental Kerryman who could never accept you giving it less than 100% for the band. If you weren’t giving it socks when you put your lips behind the tin whistle, he sussed you out straight away, got all ruddy-faced and shouty and asked you what the hell was going on.

Because I was very much the swottish, finger-on-your-lip sort of boy, I graduated from the peasant tin-whistle to the bourgeois glockenspiel. I got a real bang out of calling it a glockenspiel because, I don’t know, it just looked like a regular old xylophone to me. Maybe the old glocker is what the Germans bands played? Anyway, playing it was a far easier job for me, and everyone always wanted a go on it. It was well for me too, because the other main component of that band was accordions, and you try lifting one of those beasts when you’re 10 years old.

I didn’t exactly rush to buy Wii Music when it came out. In fact, I wasn’t even speaking to it for several years. The problem was with its reveal, the infamously bad Nintendo E3 2008 show. We were in the height of the Wii casual era then, or the vaguely paedophilic Touch Generations as Nintendo dubbed it. Instead of having the dearly departed Reggie (not dead, just departed) up there coming out with his usual insane PR lies but then following up with Mother 3, this time Nintendo ensured that legions of ADHD-riddled 12-year-old Nintendo gamers were sent into meltdown by having an alien creature known as a “woman” lead the keynote speech instead.

But Mick Jagger and James Brown combined with a hint of Billy Connolly couldn’t have saved that show – it was an abomination. It confirmed all Nintendo fans’ worst doubts about the direction the Wii was going in, and indeed we began to think that the Wii was going out. The bit that made my teeth itch the most, and this is probably absolutely unique to me, was the show’s final reveal.

See, I watch Nintendo Directs and E3 shows for one reason only, and that’s because I still live in hope that a new F-Zero is revealed. It used to be Star Fox as well as F-Zero, but then they did Star Fox – only to mess it up. Oh well. I’ve been like a battered wife, you know, coming back to those shows every year for what must be the guts of 12 or 13 years now, considering we last got an F-Zero game in North America and Europe in 2003.

The E3 2008 show was drawing to a close with a badass electric guitar riff and a load of smoke and there it was – F-Zero, it had to be! Alas, it’s the hope that kills you. An overexcited drummer, with the imaginative name Ravi Drums, began banging a Wii Remote and Nunchuk like his life depended on it. What happened next was destined to end up top of the list of several hundred Top 10 E3 cringe videos – four Nintendo personnel, including Shigsy himself, took to the stage and used the newly revealed Wii Music to play a horrendously out of step version of the Super Mario Bros Ground Theme.

I don’t care that it was four fully grown men waving the remote around. After all, if someone had gone up there and flawlessly shredded Through the Fire and Flames on a Wiimote, then that would have been incredible – I’d have fully backed that. Alas again. The show ended, and we all immediately took to the internet to register our displeasure. And crucially for me, at the end of it all, no F-Zero.

Well, hell if I didn’t use my Wii for rugby lineout practice and as a horseback archery target that night. I was livid. I hoped Wii Music would fail and get wretched reviews. Now, I doubt any game on the Wii sold poorly, because I even saw M&M’s Beach Party for Wii on shelves before. But thankfully I wasn’t the one going insane, because other people trashed it critically – even the paid-off organs and the Nintendo fanboys were fully sick of Miis and their silly animations getting shovelled down their throats.

Still, I thought ten years was long enough to hold a grudge, so when I saw the game going for €3 last year I thought, why not? It cost less than my lunch, though it might make me barf it back up. But I’ll say, in spite of myself, that the game is actually pretty funny to play. I have to begrudgingly admit that. You’re just holding on to a Wii Remote and making approximate movements, so you won’t exactly learn the trumpet off it. To play the instrument, you have to move the remote and press some buttons with the correct timing, although most of the time you’ll miss the beat completely even despite your best efforts.

And you have to laugh, because the end result really is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen. When they did it at the E3 show, it was objectionable. You just wanted your internet to cut out, a timely meteor to strike Los Angeles maybe. But when you’re at home, and hopefully playing with a sympathetic pal or your confused lover, you’ll have a great old giggle together.

But what stops you going forward is the fact that you’ll only begin the game with five tracks from the game’s total of 52 songs in the game. And the starting tracks aren’t exactly belters – you’ll be sick of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (or is that Baa Baa Black Sheep? The Alphabet Song?) before long, and from the popular songs list you’ve only got a shortened instrumental version of Daydream Believer to keep you going.

Everything else has to be unlocked by going through tedious lessons with mountains of dialogue. If you quit halfway through the lessons, you’ve got to start them right from the beginning – possibly this is an attempt at realism, in that if you don’t pick up that hateful guitar and smash calluses into your fingers each and every day, you’ll lose all your musical ability in the blink of the eye.

Anyway, I looked up the remainder of the tracklist and I wasn’t surprised. Nothing from Slayer’s Reign in Blood is on there, nor are there any songs about bitchsmacking hos. Not a single ho ever gets bitchsmacked in Donkey Konga, or Mario DDR, and it’s the same here. But as usual, to pad out the tracklist and to give the game a few songs that were composed after 1978, Nintendo throws in a few of their own ditties. The idea of listening to the annoying instructor for hours on end before I’d finally get to play F-Zero Mute City and Material Girl by Madonna didn’t give me much cause to go on, I’m afraid. It meant that Wii Music was quickly left to gather dust, a lot like my old acoustic guitar.

12 November 2019

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