Major Minor’s Majestic March Review: One Time, At Band Camp…
There is absolutely something to be said about innovation, especially in the world of video games. It’s not something that comes along every day, and when it does, there’s always a level of trepidation on the game publisher’s behalf over how well it is going to be received by the always-hard-to-impress gaming public. “Major Minor’s Majestic March” is one of those titles that offers a taste of innovation, but, overall may fail to wow a lot of gamers.
“Major Minor” is basically a new take on what is becoming a very saturated corner of the market - rhythm games. However, it is less like your more traditional games in the genre, your “Rock Band”s or “Guitar Hero”s and more like the video game version of a metronome. While that may not sound as appealing as rocking out to covers of Black Sabbath, keep in mind the creative vision behind Majesco’s latest Wii title is the same one that really introduced the entire rhythm genre to the mainstream over twelve years ago, with a rapping dog, and an onion.
With “Major Minor’s Majestic March” Masaya Matsuura has created a game where you play as drum major, and title character, Major Minor, as he tries to bring music back to his village courtesy of his marching baton. Major Minor’s family have been band leaders for the past four generations, going back to his Great Great Grandma Gladiola (GGGG) who now lives on in the family’s baton, which is also, for all intents and purposes, your Wii remote. Throughout the game you’ll travel to eight different locations where you’ll march with your band, and try and recruit additional members from passersby to join your merry musical troop. All the while you’re being coached by GGGG courtesy of the Wii remote’s speaker, offering suggestions, and questioning whether you’re ready or not… just like your grandma. Sure, it’s a little weird, but it’s different, and different is good right?
The main gameplay element in the game is to keep time for you and everyone that is marching with you, by raising and lower the controller to keep everyone in time with the music. As you pump your arm and Wiimote up and down, you also have to monitor the happiness of your band, and adjust your speed to what they are looking for in a leader - some like a faster tempo, whereas others appreciate a slower one. It sounds simple, but it takes quite a bit of practice to get used to. The movement detection doesn’t feel completely accurate, and, while there is an on-screen gauge to help you keep time, your movement’s and Major Minor’s don’t sync up, making it hard to coordinate your movements with your characters (think of patting your head and rubbing your stomach, it’s a little like that). Additionally, keeping time with the music is hard enough, but it’s also rather challenging to recruit additional musicians into the band and collect items along the way on each march, because those movements break from the up-down-up-down pattern, and can throw your beat completely off. It’s challenging, but not always in that fun, “I’m determined to beat this” kind of way.
It funny, because I usually tend to be against the use of peripherals in games, but this is one game that would could have really been enhanced with the inclusion of some kind of Wii Balance Board control. As Major Minor is leading the group, you can see that his steps are in time with the music as well, and that could have been a natural fit for the Balance Board to come in. In fact, the game’s controls are actually easier to grasp if you get up off the couch, and mimic Major Minor’s moments anyway, even if they aren’t an in-game mechanic.
On the upside, the game has a very unique, and enjoyable art style, especially for a game targeted at the younger audience. You should recognize Rodney Greenblat’s work other rhythm games that Masaya Matsuura has worked on, since his art is tied to the “PaRappa the Rapper” and “Um Jammer Lammy” games. It’s very kid oriented, with bright colors, and whimsically designed characters, it may remind older gamers of “The Busy World of Richard Scarry.”
“MMMM” offers a co-op multiplayer mode, so this game isn’t only for soloists. If you want to split the challenge of controlling the tempo and recruiting additional members you can, so there is some level of replayability in the game. However, the single player mode is short, and going back just for high scores is a little redundant.
Overall, even though “Major Minor’s Majestic March” is a valiant attempt at doing something different both on the Wii, and with rhythm games in general, it does fall a little short. Sure, it is rather refreshing to be trying to keep time, instead of hitting specific notes, but it just doesn’t feel as tight as it should. Perhaps the game could have waited a few months, and been improved with (yet another peripheral) Wii Motion Plus support. While “Major Minor” may not leave as lasting of an impression as “PaRappa” did it’s still a more enjoyable, and challenging experience than “Musika” was.
“Major Minor’s Majestic March” was released on April 2nd by Majesco for the Nintendo Wii.