Rock Band Wii Review
Rock Band’s been creating living room legends out of Xbox 360, PS3 and PS2 owners for months, while Wii gamers have been patiently waiting to put together their own virtual band. At last, Nintendo fans can experience their own simulated rock-god stardom, as Guitar Hero’s fiercest competitor finally lands on the casual gaming console. The experience, however, won’t be entirely identical, as Rock Band Wii has dropped a few features to accommodate the comparatively lightweight hardware; online play, character customization and downloadable content have sadly been given the boot. And while these omissions are significant, they’ll really only matter to those that’ve already experienced RB on a 360 or PS3. Those versions, without a doubt, are superior, but if you own only a Wii—as much of the ever-expanding casual gaming audiences does—then there’s no reason not to pick this baby up. In fact, if you’re part of the Wii-only demographic, and you love party games, we suggest you clear a space in your living room for this amazing, addictive bundle.
It’s a testament to RB’s quality and far-reaching fun factor that it’s able to stand out on a console whose success is buoyed by casual games; a few songs in, you’ll forget all about Wii Fit, Wii Sports, Carnival Games, and any other title that’s had a crowd gathered around your television—RB is your Wii’s new best buddy. The game’s biggest draw—on any console—is its ability to create a fantastic, communal gaming experience. Making music with friends and family is just plain cool, and Rock Band delivers this in spades. Everyone will want to try it out, and no one will be left without a smile on their face, unless, of course, some fights break out over who gets to play what instrument or who’s turn it is next.
Now, for those unfamiliar with the RB phenomenon—welcome back from that long nap you’ve been taking under a rock—here’s the deal; much like Guitar Hero, or any rhythm-based game, players use their mock instruments to follow onscreen prompts and successfully string together individual pieces of songs. It’s basically GH with the addition of a drummer, singer and—if you’ve got an extra guitar peripheral—bassist. But, where most music games offer primarily solo experiences, RB requires you work as a team to successfully proceed through your band’s career. And therein lies the real magic, as you’ll depend on each member of your band to deliver a top-notch performance; if your drummer misses a few beats, the guitarist may have to pick up his slack to get through a song. Or, if your screechy singer isn’t hitting the right notes, those on instruments will have to work all the harder. Just learning and honing your skills is a treat, and when it all comes together beautifully, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more satisfying experience on your Wii. You can certainly play RB solo, but to see this game really achieve its true greatness you’ll want to recruit at least a second band member, if not a trio or quartet.
The instruments are all very well constructed, and even the drums can take a good beating, literally. The guitar—made to look like a Stratocaster—is wireless, but the microphone and drum kit plug into a USB hub on your Wii’s backside. While we mentioned the many things missing from the Wii version compared to other consoles, it does have something the others don’t: aesthetically pleasing white drums. This might sound minor—and it mostly is—but for those who love their iPod for its slick style as much as its tech capabilities, you’ll appreciate your Wii having matching drums that look as though they’ve fallen off Apple’s assembly line. In fact, for those concerned about cluttering their family rooms with ugly peripherals, don’t worry; the entire bundle is easy on the eyes. RB's visuals, however, aren’t quite as pretty; characters are a bit blocky, and without customization, you’ll be hanging with the same stable of virtual rockers frequently. As with any party game, the experience is driven by the gameplay rather than the visuals, but it still would’ve been cool if this Wii/RB collaboration supported Mii rockers.
The 63-song track list is an impressive mix with something for everyone. Nirvana, Kiss, Radiohead, The Police, R.E.M.—jamming to Orange Crush is a highlight—and many others will have you rocking till the wee hours. And while you won’t be able to download additional tunes--as you can with the 360 and PS3 versions--20-song Track Packs will be sold separately for thirty bones. You’ll unlock songs as you progress through your band's career, and you can then revisit them individually in a quick play mode. We actually enjoyed going back and playing our favorites as much as climbing the career ladder; the satisfaction in playing a song until you’ve mastered it is unmatched, and getting all your band members to flawlessly sync up on certain tracks will have you playing long after you’ve conquered the career mode.
Despite RB on the Wii being a definite downgrade from its next-gen console cousins, it’s hard to argue with the sheer amount of entertainment you’ll get out of it. As we said, if you’ve got a 360 or PS3, pick up one of those versions, or, better yet, wait a few months and see what RB2 has to offer. However,if you’re a Wii-only household, this one packs unparalleled group gaming, and quite simply, it’s just an absolute blast.