Before there was Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and the wave of other rhythm games in-between, there was a cult classic about a beat-dropping dog known as Parappa the Rapper. This Playstation One original was a hit with gamers and critics alike. A decade has passed, and creator Masaya Matsuura has worked on Unjammer Lammy, Vib-Ribbon, and the Tamagotchi Corner Shop line of DS games since then. His latest rhythm-based project is an innovative marching band game, Major Minor’s Majestic March for the Nintendo Wii. Is Major Minor’s Majestic March one you’ll enjoy, or does this game march to the beat of a different drummer?
Major Minor, a young cat who is living in the marching capital of the world– March Town, is a descendant of a line of heralded drum majors. Our vibrantly-colored character isn’t completely ready for the baton to be pass to him, however, as he lacks confidence, instruments, and most importantly, a band! That’s all until he receives a golden baton belonging to his Great Great Grandma Gladiola. Armed with the spirit of his great-squared grandma inside the baton, coaching and cheering him on, Major Minor is set to bring a standing ovation to his family, himself, and his ancestors.
The very first thing Major Minor needs to do in order to begin marching along a predetermined path is to set a steady tempo. This is a march– not Riverdance, after all. By moving the Wii remote up and down in an even tempo, Major Minor can begin his march. It’s not as simple as keeping a rudimentary speed either. Sometimes Major Minor’s marching band will parade up and down slopes, and the tempo must change accordingly as not to wear out his marching mates. The problem comes when changing tempos. The Wii remote at its current state just isn’t capable of detecting fast movements like the ones needed in the game. When I needed to slow down the music, I couldn’t fathom whether I was messing up or the Wii remote was. It’s a confusing experience not knowing what you’re doing wrong if anything.
Many aspiring marchers line the sides of the parade route just waiting to be called upon. They won’t join automatically. You need to point the Wii remote left or right in time with the rhythm of the band. Over each animal’s head is a countdown. Point at the animal when the exclamation mark over their head turns green, and they’ll join up with your band. There’s plenty to keep you on your toes as some animals are actually a trick-playing, disguise-dawning customer named Eggplant Fox whose sole purpose is to ruin your performance. Along the paths there are helpful and harmful items that make your band either more or less satisfied, allow you to rack up more points, or goodies to shoo away that rascally rabbit– er– fox. Occasionally, you’ll have enough marchers in your band to play a drill mini-game. Drill team, mind you, not “let’s go drilling for oil that’s really just stuff from our septic tank”. You’ll have a limited amount of time to perform as many formations as possible. Different formations will require you to spin the Wii remote in a circle, shake up and down, left and right, or all around. These motions work well even if they’re the basics of all Wii remote gesture controls.
The game screen is split up into two halves. The top portion shows the action while the bottom displays your current band’s mood. If the tempo you’re playing is too fast or slow for a marcher, they’ll opt to drop out after a warning. The trick is to make as many, if not all, of your bandmates happy so they’ll stay with you. Having a full band at the end of a stage gives you higher points. Get a high score, and you’ll get a high rank. Get a high rank, and you’ll be able to pat yourself on the back for battling with the unwieldy marching controls and winning.
There are seven different levels in the game from Major Minor’s humble beginnings to his majestic march’s meteoric rise to fame. Each challenge features a medley of marching and classical tunes from Pomp and Circumstance to The Marriage of Figaro. The music is appropriately layered in parts, so depending on how many musicians you have and what instruments they play, songs can sound drastically different each time. Now seven levels may not seem like a lot, and actually, you would be very right. Each level takes a maximum of three minutes to do, so it’s possible you could breeze through the story mode in about a half-hour. There are two more difficulty settings that unlock, but it’s still a pitiful amount of gameplay time for a full price Wii game.
Major Minor’s Majestic March comes off as a low to mid-level Playstation 2 game graphically. While it is not offensive on the eyes sporting bright colors and adequate character and art design, it comes off as very basic compared to other Wii games. Cut-scenes progress what little story there is between each level. The story is narrated by someone who comes across as a kindergarten teacher– apparently for the intended audience of the game. She does most of the voices as if she’s reading a storybook to the player, but Great Great Grandma Gladiola has her own voice actor and it’s very grating. This is why I’ll just refer to her from now on as G4. Makes enough sense, yes? Anyway, G4 likes to talk a lot during levels which makes it difficult to focus on the march at hand. Not only this, but she also speaks out of your Wii remote speaker which swiftly becomes nothing more than an annoying novelty.
While there are a lot of interesting ideas here in Major Minor’s Majestic March, I can’t help but think that this game suffers the symptoms of Samba de Amigo. It has poor Wii remote detection, and it should have waited for Wii MotionPlus. The whimsical Saturday morning cartoon art style may put people off if the hit-and-miss controls don’t already, and the length of the game is ridiculously short. If those problems do not bother you or you’re a fan of Masaya Matsuura’s work, then you may want to check this one out. As for everyone else, feel free to march out of the door if someone offers you this game.
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