Wii Ware’s first music title falls flat

Even the medicine colored title screen of Yudo’s “Aero Guitar” that was released on the Japanese Wii Shop Channel last week told me that the game might not really satiate my desire for a quick-quality music title to play while waiting for “Wii Music” and the pointlessly late Japan release of “Samba de Amigo.” Nonetheless I figured it would at least make for a fun review and I flushed my 800 yen down the digital drain.

Time to call the plumber.

Aero Guitar tries to capitalize on the stateside success of “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” and lack of attention from Konami to port their original “Guitar Freaks/Drum Mania” series onto the Wii.

Let’s get the most crucial part out of the way: the music. A music game has to have good music to be a good game and this one does not. It’s got four cheesy songs pre-loaded from bands you have never heard of (with vulgar names, no less) that appear to be mimicking other songs like the kinds they use in low-budget commercials that couldn’t afford to use originals. It appears you can buy a couple more songs with your hard earned Wii points but it’s hard to justify paying a premium for songs you don’t know. 

Forgoing any peripherals, the game uses the wiimote (or the much less fun A-button) to strum and all the while you press either up, down, or nothing at all on the nunchuck to simulate the holding down of a string. In theory this isn’t a terrible way to simulate how a guitar might feel, but the wiimote strumming is a hair-trigger. It ended up being more effective to hold the remote like a drum stick and swing it forward over-hand with my wrist, rather than moving it up and down in a strumming motion.

In addition, any note can be played by flicking the wiimote forwards or backwards, but some bonus notes can only be activated with the backwards flick. These are notoriously hard to pick up and presumably add a level of challenge though the points system doesn’t make a lot of sense. Also the lack of any tutorial or practice mode before the game started made sure I wouldn’t hit at least the first 4 or 5 bonus notes without any trial and error. Overall the effect is fun for a bit, but you end up pounding the wiimote quite hard and it kind of gets tiring quickly.

Oh yeah, and once the notes get fast? Forget about it. I cleared all but one song on normal mode with relative ease but the hardest song “How the hell?” contains a few quick notes that just don’t seem plausible — as if strumming the previous note keeps the wiimote from sensing the next one. Aero Guitar actually gives you quite a bit of control over how fast the notes go by, and the faster you make them the easier it is to figure out these quick strums, but most of the time they still seem not to work.

This brings me to Aero Guitar’s biggest problem: the overall interface. All selection can be done using the D-Pad and buttons but the default is to point at it with a guitar-pick shaped cursor. Now a pick is shaped like a triangle (right?) and one would assume that the tip of the triangle would be the part of the cursor you need to put on an icon in order to select it… right?? Apparently Yudo did not see my way and you actually have to point the fat bottom end of the pick on an icon to select anything. Now if you went ahead and read the instructions you might know that you can use the d-pad to circumvent this issue, but here’s one you can’t fix. Let’s say you pick the wrong song or the wrong difficulty – there is no pause menu, you cannot quick-fail the song by fudging every note, and you can’t even go back to the Wii menu. You have to either wait until the entire song has finished or reset the console just to get back to a menu. This is an oversight that encourages users to turn the game off — which is never good.

I don’t know if this is normal but I also had one of the three commands (up and stum) simply stop registering on one song — quite frustrating when you can’t pause or quit in the middle.

Now I make it my business to pick up almost every rhythm game and play it at least once no matter how terrible, but Aero Guitar doesn’t really need to be picked up again after that. Unless you’re really itching to try out the strumming or… can think of another reason, I wouldn’t recommend buying Aero Guitar if/when it is released stateside. Let’s hope if it is, though they fix some of the above problems.