Review by FFandMMfan

"Get ready to Jam With the Band"

Back in 2005, Nintendo released a game for the DS called Daigasso! Band Brothers. Unfortunately, even though it had been given a tentative title for an American release, it never saw a release outside of Japan, even to this day.

In 2008, Nintendo released the sequel to that game, Daigasso! Band Brothers DX in Japan. It was a critically acclaimed game, just like the last game, and just as before it seemed like the West would never see this game released on their shores.

But one day, Nintendo of Europe gave us a surprise announcement. Daigasso! Band Brothers DX was coming out in Europe! Now known as Jam With the Band (which was the tentative title given to the original Daigasso! Band Brothers), the West would finally get to experience this wonderful rhythm game series. So grab your DS and get ready to Jam With the Band!

STORY
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You've managed to find yourself in GB Music, a hole-in-the-wall music store, which also functions as a recording studio and concert hall. You meet Barbara the Bat, the manager of this store, who suckers you- er, hires you into playing music for her and the crowds that the store attracts so she can make lots of money. Barbara expects you to adhere to your binding contract and play until you can't play any more, but that's the least of your problems - you won't want to put the game down.

GAMEPLAY
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The primary mode of Jam With the Band is a free-play mode where you can choose any instrument from any song in your collection and play them to your heart's content, trying to get high scores. Additionally, there is a single player career mode where Barbara will remix songs from your collection and challenge you to play increasingly difficult songs/instruments. Of course, we can't forget the Karaoke mode that lets you sing along to any songs with lyrics in your collection, as well as the 8 player single-card Multiplayer!

But HOW do you play it, you ask? It's simple. The note chart will scroll up the screen and you have to hit the correct button at the right time. This is a rhythm game after all, don't fix what ain't broke, right? Ah, but Jam With the Band is different from other rhythm games! You're actually playing the music! This isn't like DDR where you just hit arrows to a beat, or like Guitar Hero where a pre-recorded track plays and cuts out when you screw up. In Jam With the Band, your button presses directly translate into sounds. The notes you see don't actually make sounds, they are merely your guide, and when you make the right sound, you clear a note.

Sounds easy, right? Well, that depends on your skill level. There's 4 difficulties in Jam With the Band, each considerably harder than the last. Beginner mode lets you hit any of the DS' face buttons and it'll automatically play the correct note. Amateur mode expands the buttons you press to A, B, Y and Left on the D-Pad. Pro mode is the first true challenge, requiring you to press A, B, X, Y and all of the D-Pad directions as the game dictates, and even throws in R and L for Drum parts. Master Mode is the true difficulty, and the note charts of Master mode are the true note charts - each earlier difficulty being simpler versions of these charts. In Master, R and L are added to normal instruments, and must be pressed at the same time as other notes when prompted.

But that's not all! There's also a mode which lets you use the DS like a guitar, pressing buttons and strumming on the screen with the stylus. Of course, this is a completely optional mode, and it also supports all 4 difficulties.

All in all, the game has an extremely solid engine that lets you play any instrument from any song in your collection, and can be played by players of all skill levels, from newbies to the hardest of hardcore gamers, and everyone will find something that will challenge them.

Ah, but considering this is a rhythm game, the music is the most important part, right?

MUSIC
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Let's get this out of the way first - this game uses Midi. You won't be hearing the vocals of your favorite bands, and the instruments don't sound as incredible as they do in real life, but such is the tradeoff for being able to play any instrument from any song in your collection - a collection that can grow to over 200 songs large.

Wait, what? 200 songs!? That's right, my friend! You see, the game comes packed with 50 songs, right off the bat, then you can utilize the Wi-Fi Download server to download up to 50 more tracks, and then there's 100 more slots for songs that you create, or have had your friends trade to you over local wireless. Plus there's a few unlockables as well.

The pack-in song list is a mixed bag, consisting mostly of older pop and rock hits, such as A B C by the Jackson 5, We Are the Champions by Queen, Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, The Final Countdown by Europe and Material Girl by Madonna. You'll also find a few Nintendo Medleys from series such as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. Rounding out the default track list are a number of classical songs, either in their original form or arranged, such as Funiculi Funicula, Aura Lee and Fur Elise. You may or may not like the selection, but really, the pack-ins aren't the main attraction - the download songs are.

The Wi-Fi download server lets you download up to 50 songs - any 50 songs you want (provided they have them available...) and play them whenever you want. However, and this is really important here folks, YOU CAN NOT DELETE THE SONGS YOU DOWNLOAD. EVER. Not even deleting the game's save data will remove them, and that's all you get, 50. It doesn't matter if someone uploaded a better version of a song you have, or if your dog downloaded a song for you, or the song you downloaded is too hard to play and you just don't want it, you CAN NOT delete them, so make sure you download wisely.

However, the selection on Wi-Fi is much more varried (and arguably much better) than what comes packed in with the game. I won't make a list of what you can find, since the download list is ever growing and includes hundreds of songs to choose from, ranging from your favorite hits, to video game songs, to classical pieces. You're sure to find something you like, and you will soon be wishing you had more download slots than just 50. In fact, the Japanese version of the game had 100 download slots! This was reduced in the European version, likely due to licensing issues, but there is sadly nothing you can do about it.

But you're probably asking yourself. Where do these songs come from? Why, they come from you! Yes YOU! Well, and other people! You see, the game comes with a fully featured song creator, letting you create your favorite songs in a sheet music format and sharing them with the world over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, or with your friends over local wireless.

Could this package get any sweeter? Sure it can! The game comes with a key that will let you download a channel for your Nintendo Wii that will let you connect your DS and Wii so you can play Jam With the Band on your big screen with your big speakers!

With potentially over 200 songs, many of them being your own custom soundtrack, everyone will find something they like to play in Jam With the Band.

FINAL THOUGHTS
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Jam With the Band is easily one of the best and deepest games on the DS, with tons of replay value and fun to be had. There's something for everyone, no matter what their musical taste or skill level are. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy and Jam With the Band!

Pros:
+ Fantastic gameplay engine
+ Able to play any instrument in a song
+ Multiple difficulties which cater to all skill levels
+ Large custom song list
+ Song creator
+ Infinite replay value
+ 8 player multiplayer on a single game card
+ Wii Speaker Channel
+ Karaoke
+ The Final Countdown

Cons:
- 50 download song limit (The Japanese version even had 100 download slots)
- Can not delete or edit download songs
- The L Button (You'll understand when you play Master mode)
- Can only upload songs to Wi-Fi that are approved by Nintendo (Check the official JWTB website for details)
- Default song list is over-saturated with classical songs instead of spending more slots on modern songs and/or video game songs.
- Much fewer downloadable songs than the Japanese version, largely due to the Japanese version having a huge promotion campaign and the European version having... absolutely no advertising, resulting in less players, which results in less songs.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/09/10

Game Release: Jam with the Band (EU, 05/21/10)


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