Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#ADecadeofDS: Maestro! Jump in Music

Amount of time devoted to this game in the last week--One hour, 38 minutes.

Most recent boss toppled, location reached or milestone achieved--I finished all 24 of the game's stages (each of which is backed by a different tune, from "ABC" to Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5") at least once, but only on the "easy" difficulty level.

Overall comments on the experience--If I were forced to sum up my impressions of this import-only music game in just one word, the word I'd choose would be "sigh."

That's because Maestro! Jump in Music has so many things going for it--the most noteworthy being its Disney-esque art style, which loses nothing in its translation to the DS' low-res screens, and its admirably diverse soundtrack--yet a few flubs keep it from being the thoroughly enjoyable experience it really should be. Even worse, these missteps actually make the game kind of frustrating--to the point that I'm not sure I'll spend as much time playing this one as I imagined I would before I bought it.

The main misstep, in my opinion: the touch-screen-centric gameplay (the pink bird shown on the cover art above walks from left to right across the screen, which is made up of a series of strings, and you "pluck" them along with music to make him jump, nab items and the like) on offer here isn't always the most responsive.

Actually, it's responsive enough when there aren't a ton of strings to pluck, items to grab or baddies to tap, but when things speed up or the screen becomes too densely packed, things deteriorate pretty rapidly. (As in, it becomes seemingly impossible to do everything you need to do to perfect, and sometimes just to complete, a particular level.)

Another of Maestro's missteps: for me, it features a few too many gameplay elements. Plucking strings so your feathered friend can nab items or change paths is fun, as is tapping certain enemies along with the beat (Taiko no Tatsujin-style, basically), but some of the other elements are far less so.

Specifically, near the end of the game, there are stages (or portions of stages) during which you have to repeatedly strum (rub) a number of strings, while in other stages you have to make continuous circular motions with your stylus--and neither activity ends up being very enjoyable or effective.

That said, the Simon Says-ish boss battles that pop up every fourth stage are a real breath of fresh air and rarely frustrate or annoy, so you'll always have those to look forward to (even if some of the levels that precede them don't enamor you).

Will I continue to play this game in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months?--I'll likely come back to it every now and then so I can experience some of my favorite stages a second, third or even fourth time, but other stages I'll avoid like the plague from here on out--which means I'll probably never play through the entire game again. Which is too bad, as it's a top-notch product in almost every way and it really should have been a much more enticing experience than it has been so far.

Do I recommend it to others?--Considering complete-in-box copies are somewhat pricey, and not all that easy to find outside of Europe (the only region that earned a physical release of the game, I believe), and considering playing it is a hit-and-miss affair, I don't think I would, unfortunately. If you tend to go totally bonkers for music or rhythm games, though, it may still be worth your while.

Next up--Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales

See also: previous 'A Decade of DS' posts

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