Review By: Jared Black
|# Of Players:||1-2|
A dozen years after its release, Parappa the Rappa remains one of the most fondly remembered titles of the 32-bit era. Thanks to an awesome combination of striking paper-thin 2D art from Rodney Greenblat and catchy music from developer NanaOn-Sha, it was one of the first true rhythm games and a nice change of pace from the 3D platformers and shooters that dominated the period. Ten years later they've reunited once again for Major Minor's Majestic March, which replaces the rapping dog with a marching band-leading cat. While the graphics and sound hold up their end of the bargain, ultimately the gameplay is too limited for MMMM to be destined for the same classic status.
Major Minor lives in March Town, where everyone dreams of becoming a famous drum major and leading their own marching band. Major's family in particular has a storied history of drum majors, which of course puts great pressure on him to live up to the family name. His big break finally comes when he gains possession of a magic baton holding the spirit of Great Great Grandma Gladiola, courtesy of his best friend (and blue teddy bear) Tom. GGGG was once the greatest drum majorette in the world, and offers up sound advice and encouragement to Major Minor throughout the game.
Which brings us to my first complaint: this game is very short. A couple of solid hours is all it takes to march right through the game's seven stages, and its required to play through the beginner mode in its entirety before taking on the slightly more challenging normal mode, so that entire playthrough is a breeze. Although there's a definite difference in difficulty between the two, even younger gamers should be able to tackle the normal mode pretty easily as well, thus rendering the beginner mode pretty pointless. Worse, the two multiplayer modes are locked until the beginner mode is completed. When unlocked the multiplayer modes include a contest mode (players swap scouting and keeping the rhythm tasks every 10 beats and steal each other's band members) and a co-op mode where two players scout and keep the rhythm simultaneously.
Beyond the length of Major Minor's Majestic March, the gameplay is solid but hardly spectacular. The controls are very simple: swing the Wii Remote up and down to establish a tempo, then continue to swing it throughout the march while adjusting gradually to speed up or slow down the tempo. The goal is to set a tempo that satisfies as many band members as possible, building up a large marching band while keeping everyone happy. Band members are added throughout each level by swinging the Wii Remote left or right towards them at just the right time (when a “!” over their head turns green), while staying in step with the tempo. Items are also acquired the same way by swinging the Wii Remote at the right time, while several in a row can be “scooped” up by holding a swing.
Current band members are displayed at the bottom of the screen, with an icon over their heads to symbolize their current satisfaction with the tempo. A green circle means they're perfectly happy, an arrow pointing forward means they want to go faster, and an arrow pointing backwards means they want to slow it down. The colors of the arrows will shift from orange to red, and eventually band members leave altogether if they aren't satisfied. There are plenty of power-ups to acquire to help out though, including jelly beans that temporarily even out the tempo (thrown with the B button), candy (more potential band members and items appear), a sun (improves overall mood), etc. There are also a few bad items that must be avoided, including a water ball that figuratively rains on the parade and worsens everyone's mood.
What Major Minor's Majestic March lacks in sophistication, it almost makes up for in style however. Rodney Greenblat's artwork is simple and appealing, just as it was in Parappa the Rappa all those years ago. I don't personally feel it matches the sheer awesomeness of Parappa the Rappa, and Major Minor is definitely not as “hip” as Parappa was, but it's still appealing. The stages are bright and colorful, and the characters are almost cute to a fault. The music selection is excellent, with many well-known marching band standards I recognized instantly despite never having been in an actual band. This includes classics like The Marriage of Figaro from Mozart, Pomp and Circumstance by Edgar William Elgar, The Thunderer by John Philip Sousa, and more. Having GGGG speak through the Wii Remote's speaker is also a nice touch, since it is in essence the player's baton.
It's hard not to like Major Minor's Majestic March due to the appealing artwork and excellent selection of marching music, but the basic gameplay and short length really hurt its long-term appeal and replay value. Overall Major Minor's Majestic March is an excellent rental, but no more than that unless you find it really cheap.
Posted: 2009-06-23 18:07:21 PST