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Video game previews
Ultimate Band preview for Nintendo Wii
 
Ultimate Band Nintendo Wii box art
Gamermall.com rating:
N/A

Ultimate Band is a rhythm game that seeks to bestow you with rock-star status without any of those pesky instruments getting in the way. This kid-friendly game from Disney Interactive--a game we've previously covered a couple of times--replaces guitars, drums, and microphones with motion controls that either mimic the instruments you're meant to play or drop you in the role of a Flavor Flav-style hype man who uses hand gestures to get the crowd amped up. You could say that's where the "Band" half of the title comes into play, but we recently got a chance to see where the "Ultimate" tag comes from. It turns out that it's a nod to the game's storyline, which places you in a quest to take your group of tween garage rockers to the pinnacle of rock stardom, also known as winning the Rock Dome battle-of-the-bands competition.

The game is far from being a series of unlockable difficulty tiers like other rhythm games. Instead, the story mode in Ultimate Band is a big focus. For instance, the narrative unravels through actual cutscenes featuring up-to-the-minute visuals of your created characters. We were shown a snippet of the band practicing in the garage as they witnessed a television ad telling them all about the Rock Dome competition, which is the catalyst that awakens their innermost ambitions of fame and fortune. The production values--that is to say, the quality of animation and voice work--were right on par with the Disney name.

Seeing these cutscenes rendered with every last bit of character customization intact is a nice touch considering the number of options available to you when you're dressing up your musicians. When creating a band, you can enter in your own custom name and then choose from a selection of premade artwork to act as your band's logo. Once that's done, you can get to customizing every member of your band. That's right, you're not simply customizing one character only to see him or her accompanied by a random smattering of musicians in the story mode; you actually get to design all four members of your rock posse.

You'll begin by choosing a gender (which, for the singer, determines which of the gender-specific vocal tracks you'll get to hear). Then you can customize the look of your musician, which includes a dizzying number of clothes and accessories. In your virtual closet, you've got everything from tiny top hats to fringy leather pants, proving that just because your rock star isn't old enough to drive doesn't mean he or she isn't old enough to look totally awesome.

Once you've got enough fans built up, you can answer fan mail via the in-game e-mail system. Of course, like with any e-mail account, you'll get your fair share of spam, but that just goes with the territory. One of the cool little features accompanying this e-mail/message-board system is the music; you'll hear cheesy little MIDI renditions of a few of the game's songs, including a gloriously lo-fi version of "My Generation."

We also took a quick look at the DS version of the game. It's based on the Hannah Montana DS games in which you tap the stylus on visual representations of guitar and drums to play them. However, the DS and Wii versions of Ultimate Band aren't completely separate games. You can actually connect your DS to the Wii via Wi-Fi to use the DS version of the game as a sort of stage-show control center for the lights and fireworks going on in the Wii performance, but only after you build up enough points in a scrolling-note minigame.

Ultimate Band for the Wii and DS is slated for release on November 4. You can expect to see our review arrive right around then.


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