Fans of rhythm games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero usually have gaming areas that look like the backstage of a rock concert. Usually, there are multiple plastic guitars, drums and mike strewn about the area. The unique selling feature of Ultimate Band from Disney Interactive is there is no need for a room full of fake guitars and drums.
Ultimate Band for the Wii lets the player use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to “play’ the instruments used by the on screen band. If you have been ingrained with the Rock Band or Guitar Hero instruments, then these controls will seem a bit foreign in concept, but are easy to pick up and start rocking out.
There are three modes of play: Practice Jam (for 1-4 players), Band Story (1-4 players) and Battle Mode which is for two players only. There is also an online mode to check out leader boards, but no online play for head to head competition.
The Band Story mode is the main game and involves the band you create trying to work its way to the top through the Rock Dome tournament. While the Guitar Hero storyline usually involve some deal with the Devil or “Lou” as he calls himself, the story line here is more sedate and relaxed. Remember this is a Disney Interactive title.
Players are able to create their own RockStar by tailoring preset avatars. As you play and earn style points, you can unlock additional clothing, instruments and accessories. The Create Your Band Screen lets you use your created or pre-made avatars to form a band. You can create a band name, select a logo or use a pre-created band.
There are three difficulty levels – Easy, Normal and Hard. Normal is the best one; since Easy will eliminate the use of button presses and hard is well, very difficult since the controllers become less accurate in their response to user movements.
During game play there are several meters to keep track of; these include the Crowd Meter, the Performance Meter and the VS. Meter. The Crowd Meter will rise and fall with the play quality of your band. The VS. Meter replaces the Crowd Meter in any Band Battle or with two player competitive battles. This meter indicates which band is winning the competition. While the Performance Meter fills us during play and lets the user perform Grandstand moves which will increase your Crowd or VS. Meter. Adding Flourishes will speed up the filling of the Performance Meter.
Poses are shown before every song and are represented by a set of Wiimote and Nunchuk movements for each instrument. Perform a perfect pose and the Crowd Meter is boosted to start out the next song. During multiplayer mode, the band who holds the pose the longest gets a boost on their VS. Meter.
There are four members of the band: the Frontman, the Lead Guitarist, the Bass Guitarist and the Drummer. Depending on which member of the band you choose will determine which motions are used to play the “instrument”.
One interesting feature is the ability to use the DS version to add a fifth person who can run a lightshow using the DS. But it seems to be the virtual equivalent of being a soundboard guy; a unique idea, but with little enjoyment for the poor sap on the DS.
The songs are cover versions and range from passable to the original to awful. One unique feature of Ultimate Band is if you choose a male FrontMan, then the vocals will be male for all the songs including ones originally sung by female singers, and vice versa. That is definitely a nice touch.
Set list includes tracks from older bands such as The Who and Cheap Trick as well as more modern fare from The White Stripes, Weezer, and the Killers. Here is the in game set list.
Girls Not Grey
Hanging on the Telephone
I Want You To Want Me
All Right Now
Won’t Go Home Without You
Get the Party Started
Stumble and Fall
When Did Your Heart Go Missing?
In Too Deep
Somebody Told Me
Always Where I Need to Be
Fell in Love With a Girl
Break on Through
Take Over the Break is Over
Our Time Now
Just What I Needed
All Day and All of the Night
Steady As She Goes
Graphically, Ultimate Band looks like a cross between its competitors and the Mii avatars of the Wii System. Cartoony would be the best description of the band. The graphics are nothing spectacular but are on par to the other rhythm games titles on the Wii system
Ultimate Band – Wii
Rock and roll comes in all shapes, sizes, flavors and colors, but there is one truism. All great bands don’t just play their music, they live it. And now you can do the same as you play and perform moves just like a rock star with Ultimate Band for Wii. Ultimate Band puts players on the track to Rock n’ Roll stardom by advancing their music careers and popularity from playing in a neighborhood garage to performing in front of an international audience at a world famous venue. But this isn’t your typical rhythm game.
Unlike other games in the music genre, Ultimate Band utilizes the innovative Wii Remote and Nunchuk that players already have to provide the ability to play the drums, bass guitar, lead guitar, or take on the role of the front man, without the extra cost of music-mimicking peripherals. Players also use the familiar, intuitive controls of their Wii Remote and Nunchucks to create and customize characters that reflect their own unique personalities and attributes. Along the way, players unlock new songs, venues, and accessories that can be used to customize their band members as they experience a new type of musical gaming experience that will take them where they have never been before.
Key Game Features:
Eight Varied Gameplay Environments: Eight Imaginative and invocative venues, including ‘Jamhalla,’ ‘Aztec Palace,’ and ‘Dome Debut’ come to life during gameplay and react to how well players perform.
Gameplay: Out of the Garage and on to ‘Stage Breaks’
Although there are many ways to play Ultimate Band, one of the most exciting is through its compelling storyline, told via cutscenes. Players begin by choosing the gender of their character, crafting their image with a wide variety of clothing accessories and choosing a band name. Once the other members are added in a similar way, the touring cycle begins that will lift player’s bands out of the garage, into the clubs and possibly on to the biggest stages in the world; but the story doesn’t end there. Once players have hit the big-time there is the challenge of ‘Stage Breaks.’ These are special events that only happen when musicians are in their groove and are in context with the theme of each game environment. For example, in ‘Jamhalla,’ a Viking-themed Rock n’ Roll fortress, a dragon punctuates the performance of your song. Just make it through the song, and he just makes an appearance. But rock the house and he blasts flames. Now that Rocks!
Nintendo Wii/DS Connectivity
If you have Ultimate Band for the Nintendo DS you can sit in with players on the Wii version. Simply set your DS to search Wii versions of Ultimate Band in range and you can join in the fun. While the Wii gamers roam from gig to gig and in and out of the studio, you have the ability to play VJ by altering the color of the lights, as well as turning on and off stage effects among other things.
Unfortunately, while concept sounds simple enough to implement, it does not translate well into the game play. Using the Nunchuk in your left hand in conjunction with the C and Z button simulates frets on a guitar or bass, while the remote is used for strumming. Other gestures include the windmill motion as made famous by Pete Townsend of The Who or “hitting” the whammy bar or even clapping. Does not really sound like a true guitar simulation, does it?
Drumming involves holding the nunchuk and remote and moving them down to hit drums, flicking them to the side for the cymbals and spinning the sticks in your fingers by making a swirling motion with the remote.
Playback is too dependent on the proper orientation of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Hold the device at an angle and the Wii becomes confused which action is being attempted. This makes the accuracy and precision an issue while playing guitar, bass and drums.
Playing as the Frontman does not involve singing for the user, instead the player gestures with the singer character by using the controllers to clap, punch the air, pose for the crowd and waving your character’s hands.
If Ultimate Band came out before the release of Rock Band or Guitar Hero, then this game would probably have a much wider appeal. However, that is not the case, so fairly or unfairly it will be measured against those games and will not be judged in a positive light.
While those other games make you feel like you are playing the song, Ultimate Band does not. Playing accurately is not as important as posing and preening is to advance in the game. Back in the 80s, this game would be described as the “poseur” game. The game relies more on “flourishes” and “grandstanding” than actual musical playback ability.
Ultimate Band is a good concept that could have been implemented better. Its selling point is the lack of need for fake plastic instruments. Ironically, that is also its downfall. The controls are frustrating as they tend be inaccurate especially as the difficulty level gets ratcheted up.
A plus for Ultimate Band is that younger gamers who may have trouble with the coordination required for the instruments used in Rock Band and Guitar Hero, can easily pick up and play Ultimate Band. In addition, the price point is much lower for this game as opposed to the others. However, the price difference may be justified by the replayability of the other games as they have deeper and better song libraries and downloadable content.
Ultimate Band is not a bad rhythm game; it just does not match up to the standards set up by its predecessors.
Easy for younger gamers
Quick learning curve
Easy to pick up and play
No need for fake instruments
Cover songs could sound better