Issue 21: Buttons Make Music

Sound the trumpets, bang the drums and thrash the guitars. This is music week at Nintendojo.

By M. Noah Ward. Posted 10/26/2010 16:32 2 Comments     ShareThis

Issue 21: Buttons Make Music

Tilting, tapping, strumming, slapping. We’re talking about video games centered on music, from the sublime Bit.Trip series to Rhythm Heaven and Electroplankton to plastic guitars and bongos. Who knew we’d be making such beautiful music with our video game machines?

Things started out innocuously and most notably on Dreamcast and PlayStation, at least as far as the west is concerned. In the arcades there already was Dance Dance Revolution, but in homes there was Space Channel 5, Samba de Amigo and Parappa the Rapper. These games had strong production quality but only niche appeal. Then Harmonix got on to something with the Karaoke Revolution games, which led to Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and old school fan boys whining that western companies were ripping off what Japanese companies had done for years with GuitarFreaks and Beatmania.

Yet the craze over plastic guitars and drums snowballed: the holiday 2008 boom was big, as Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour made huge profits for publishers EA and Activision. This was no longer a niche genre tentatively explored by Donkey Konga and Taiko Drum Master. This was big bucks, and Activision promptly capitalized on it with scores of Guitar Hero sequels and variations in 2009.

Then, as quickly as it had grown, the music genre deflated. Sales of 2009’s marquee music titles dramatically missed forecasts. In 2010, we’re already down another 50% compared to 2009’s numbers. Was it all a fad? Oversaturation? Boredom? Just the friggin’ economy? Probably a combination of everything.

Fortunately, as a hardcore music game fan, I’m happy the genre is still rolling with fewer, more focused releases. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock sought to bring the series back to its hard rock roots with a supernatural twist. Rock Band 3 is delivering a long-awaited keyboard peripheral, on top of real(!) electric guitar support with its range of “pro” instruments. We’ve also received an unexpected DJ Hero 2 from Activision, Konami’s Def Jam Rapstar and smaller, upstart efforts like Big Ben Interactive’s Maestro! Jump In Music and Conspiracy Games’ Rock of the Dead filling out the rest of the selection.

Still no Elite Beat Agents sequel or Band Heroes, though, Nintendo. What gives? Oh well– we still have plenty to talk about this week.


Issue 21: Buttons Make Music

The Best from Mario Paint‘s Music Mode by Aaron Roberts
Some people had fun with Mario Paint’s music mode for a few weeks and quit.  The people featured herein are not those people.

Tidman’s Take: 2-getherness by Matthew Tidman
Guitar Hero II was the best part of my college experience.

Healthy Kongpetition by Andrew Hsieh
I never had much success with rhythm games, until Donkey Konga— though for completely different reasons.

Hot Air: Rocked by Aaron Roberts
Why I HATE most music games.

Nester64x: Wii Music Is Lame/Awesome by Nester64x
Nester64X is confused about his opinion of Wii Music.

Round Table: Favorite Music Game Memory by Nintendojo Staff
There are so many great music games out there. We reminisce our favorite moments.

Rock Band: The Rock of Rock Games by Andy Hoover
There are many music game franchises out there, but only one is the king.

Different Strokes for Different Folks by Adam Sorice
We have plenty of rock games out there. But what of the other music games?

Additional features in this issue…


  • Nightly News Roundup by Evan Campbell


  • Nightly News Roundup by Andrew Hsieh


  • Dojo-Show-Go! Episode 114 by M. Noah Ward
  • Nightly News Roundup by Francisco Naranjo


  • Nightly News Roundup by James Labalokie


  • Nightly News Roundup by M. Noah Ward

Coming Up Next Week…

Issue 22: Beauty Before Brawn
Enough of the testosterone. Time to focus on the women in Nintendo games.

2 Responses to “Issue 21: Buttons Make Music”

  • 678 points
    amishpyrate says...

    oh man, I had many drunken nights in japan playing taiko drum master… only to be beaten constantly by 7 year old girls :(

  • 360 points
    M. Noah Ward says...

    I really wish that Taiko DS game had been localized for the west. I love me some Taiko action… I even have some tiny little Taiko, uh, plushes? I think that’s what they’re called.

    And better than Donkey Konga? Yes. The only think DK had on Taiko was how great 4 konga players at once sounded in some songs, bouncing the rhythm from one player to the next.

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