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Ultimate Band

 

Ultimate Band

ESRB: Everyone 10+
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Miscellaneous
 
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Author:

Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Fall Line Studios

Features

Players: 1-4
Co-op: Yes
Leaderboards
Nintendo DS Connectivity

My first exposure to Ultimate Band for the Wii was at Disney Interactive Studios Holiday Event in late 2008. A few weeks later I also had the opportunity to sit in on an interview with members of the development team from Fall Line Studios. Ultimate band presented itself as an interactive music game without the need for additional instruments which seems to be required for other such titles. To play Ultimate Band all you need is your Wii Remote, Nunchuk, a bit of floor space, and some drive and desire to battle your way to becoming the “ultimate” band.

Graphics

The graphics in Ultimate Band are on par with my initial expectations in regards to quality and definition. I found that the character models, as well as some scenery elements, tended to be sharper and more defined in the foreground and became poorly contoured, less defined, and at times an all together blurry mess in the background. This caused some stress and havoc to my vision and made it difficult to focus now and then.

There are multiple performance venues that are creatively themed and designed. Many of these have animated scenery. There are fans in the crowd, speakers jumping to the bass, and additional moving elements such as waterfalls or carnival rides in some. At times all the visual elements can become a little too busy, and to be honest there isn’t much time to look around when you are focused on watching for your next strum, beat or move. I was a tad disappointed that the actions of the band throughout the song did not reflect the actual playing of the game. Regardless of whether you missed every note your band member(s) are still displayed on screen rocking out to the song. It would have been neat to see your on screen persona miss a note or move to reflect when you actually do such when playing the game.

A lot of the venues are outside at night or in a dark club and you really see the attention to detail that was put into such things as the stage lighting and the use of shadows in the crowds. The designer’s attention to detail also comes across in the variety of characters available in the character creator as well as the additional clothing and musical instruments available. The latter allows for a nice visual touch to the characters which gives you an added sense of ownership over your band. All your custom characters are used in the cut scenes throughout the game too.

As far as gameplay is concerned your attention is mostly focused to your instrument note bar and/or frontman bar where your individual notes and moves appear. The display for each is clear and easy to read. The addition of the graphical images that act as visual instructions for the moves to perform is a nice touch that really helps facilitate a positive feel for the game.

Sound

The sound effects for Ultimate Band are well done and even include sound through the speaker in your Wii Remote. There are different sounds for when you hit a good streak of notes as well as an amplified hand clap. Missing a note does not profoundly affect the sound of the song that is played so you will still hear the music instead of the noticeable silence that appears in some other interactive music games. For example, while drumming if you hit the cymbal correctly you will hear an amplified ‘clash’ whereas if you miss timing your move with the note on screen you will still hear the cymbal strike but it won’t be as loud; it will just be on par with the music’s existing audio level. The developers also added a variety of background sound effects by including noises from the each venue’s environments.

Choosing a female or male character actually has an impact in Ultimate Band and is a huge choice. The gender of your lead singer determines if the lead voice of the band is female or male. I know that our Editor-in-Chief will most likely enjoy this feature as he has mentioned in the past that it is a tad annoying in some games when the sex of the lead singer doesn’t match the pre-recorded singer of the particular song. I myself found it a welcome addition to the game.

The bread and butter of any music game are the track lists and Ultimate Band features an excellent and impressive set list (listed below). I know that when some of the staff here at GameBoyz were at E3 and while at Disney’s booth one of the development team noted how they spent a lot of time going through various types of music in order to come up with an enjoyable and diverse track list. Overall, I found that I enjoyed most of the songs available, however it could always benefit from the addition of a few more tracks to round out the game and to add a larger variety.

Track List

• Girls Not Grey - AFI
• Complicated – Avril Lavigne
• Hanging on the Telephone - Blondie
• Song 2 – Blur
• I Want You To Want Me – Cheap Trick
• All Right Now - Free
• Anna Molly - Incubus
• Club Foot - Kasabian
• Won't Go Home Without You – Maroon 5
• Dashboard – Modest Mouse
• Helena – My Chemical Romance
• Get the Party Started – Pink
• Crushcrushcrush - Paramore
• Just - Radiohead
• Stumble and Fall - Razorlight
• When Did Your Heart Go Missing? - Rooney
• In Too Deep – Sum 41
• Unconditional – The Bravery
• Somebody Told Me – The Killers
• Always Where I Need to Be – The Kooks
• Debaser - Pixies
• Fell in Love With a Girl – The White Stripes
• Break on Through – The Doors
• Beverly Hills - Weezer
• Move Along – The All American Rejects
• Rock Lobster – The B-52’s
• First Date – Blink 182
• Whip It - Devo
• Take Over the Break is Over – Fall Out Boy
• Hold On – Jonas Brothers
• Our Time Now – Plain White T’s
• Just What I Needed – The Cars
• All Day and All of the Night – The Kinks
• Steady As She Goes – The Raconteurs
• My Generation – The Who

Gameplay

Ultimate Band includes both a single player and multiplayer mode that can be played in either Practice Jam, Band Story or Battle Mode. In Practice Jam you and up the three other players can play any of the unlocked songs without the worry of failing out before completing the song. Band Story is basically a campaign mode where you take your band on the road, and on a journey to rock stardom. Battle mode is very much a versus mode. In all of these modes you can choose from one of four positions of the band including Guitarist, Bassist, Drummer or Frontman.

The guitar player and bassist are controlled in similar fashion where playing is done by making a strumming motion with your Wii Remote in time with the note bar passing the note catcher (vertical line). The type of notes that you perform vary and work a bit differently. Rhythm strum notes are played in rhythm with the beat of the song, whereas hold notes require you to strum once and hold the note until the end bar passes through the note catcher. Whammy notes are performed by holding down the B button on your Wii Remote while strumming as fast as you can to reach the required number of strums. If you strum fast enough and go beyond the required number you will gain bonus points. Other moves at your disposal are clapping to get the crowed pumped up, or even bigger moves like the Windmill or Belt Buckle Spin.

While strumming along to the song with the variety of notes at your disposal you will also have to change the chords with your nunchuk controller. This only occurs if you play on the normal or harder difficulties. This makes the game a little more accessible to the younger or more inexperienced gamer as the easier skill levels are not as hard while those looking for a challenge will get one in the higher skill levels. The chords are determined by the C & Z buttons on the nunchuk through different combinations, and when playing as the bassist the position of the nunchuk will come into play as well. I highly suggest that people practice on the normal difficulty before progressing to the hard difficulty on the guitar or bass as the chord changes do tend to get a bit frantic.

Drumming is probably the easiest and most natural of the instruments available in Ultimate Band. You move the Wii Remote and Nunchuk up and down as if you had a drum set sitting in front of you. You time your downward strokes so that the note falls into the note-catchers and you flick your controllers to the left or right in time with the cymbal notes. Flashing notes indicate that you must hit them simultaneously, and if a note has a number in it you must drum up and down as fast as you can to reach the required amount of drum strokes. Like the guitar or bass modes, if you are fast enough and go beyond the required amount of drum strokes you will receive bonus points. An extra move that can be done when playing as the drummer is one where you spin your drumstick in your hand. This is done by moving your controller in a circular motion to fill a meter to complete the move.

The final position in the band, the Frontman, is the most physically demanding as you are the entertainer and energizer of the crowd. The most basic of all the moves is punching where you move your controller in a punching motion as it crosses the note catcher to execute the move. There are also four stances that you perform: the Up Stance, the Middle Stance, the Down Stance, and the Wave. The Up Stance is performed by tilting the Wii Remote up into the air like you are singing into an actual microphone. The Middle Stance is performed by holding the Wii Remote in front of you in a normal microphone position. The Down Stance is a maneuver that you often see singers do by pointing the microphone into the audience to encourage them to sing along with you. Finally, the Wave is where you get the audience into the song and is performed by swinging both your Wii Remote and Nunchuk in an arc over your head as you fill up the stance meter.

During the songs you will periodically encounter a note that has two arrows which face towards spotlight points on the stage. When you encounter these notes you will have to flip your Wii Remote into one of the directions to move your Frontman into the spotlight to gain bonus points when you hit correct notes.

During a song you will fill up your performance meter by correctly hitting notes. The more notes you get in a row, the faster you will fill up your performance meter. When you finally fill up this meter you can activate Grandstand moves to gain extra points by playing through a few mini games. The mini games vary from holding the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in certain positions to slashing the controllers diagonally to make an X. The more mini games you complete the more bonus points you will build up.

As you progress during the story mode you will unlock dome awards by completing certain actions within the games. For example, the “Big Spender” award is accomplished by spending money in the in the game’s shops. To earn purchasing power in Ultimate Band you will have to complete songs and earn Style points. The better you perform the more style points you will earn which in turn can be used to purchase clothing, musical equipment and neat gear in the in the game’s shops.

If you happen to be an owner of Ultimate Band for the Nintendo DS you will be able to add a fifth member to your band as the Effects DJ. There are two modes available to perform this position, the FX DJ Mode and Freestyle Mode. I got to try the DS version out to see what all the hubbub was about.

In FX DJ Mode, notes fall down the screen and you must hit the notes with your stylus as they cross the note catcher. The more notes you hit, the more power for an effect you will build up. When you have enough power a mini game will launch and you have to complete it quickly before time runs out. If you are successful you will cause an effect on the stage which will score the band some extra bonus points. In Freestyle mode you control all of the stage effects by selecting the colors and simply turning the effects on. This mode is simply a touch and turn on portion of the game with no gameplay mechanics built into it. This is an excellent option for a young or rookie gamer to play as it does not require very much skill to use and won’t affect the outcome of the song.

The gameplay on the Wii side of the Ultimate Band is a lot of fun and the Frontman and Drummer modes will get you off the couch allowing you to have a lot more fun than the other band positions in the game. The DS connectivity however, is repetitive and not as entertaining as its Wii counterparts. A lot more diversity and depth in this option would definitely have been appreciated.


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