Mark Marrow
30 Jan, 2005

Jam with the Band Preview

DS Preview | The DS killer app has arrived.
Most gamers out there can admit to singing or humming along to a tune in any of the games they’ve played. We don’t blame you, since games tend to have splendid tunes that force gamers to get up and boogie. Well, thankfully Nintendo has packed some of the more traditional Nintendo classic tunes along with songs famous the world over and television shows – a perfect mix for all tastes – into a nice package for a music-based game called Jam with the Band, Nintendo’s first music recreation game for the Nintendo DS.

Honestly, I’m not much of a music game fan. I’ve played Singstar and the DJ recreation game, DJ: Decks & FX, both of which only interested me slightly. The problem with these games is the fact that the game’s music library is often restricted and only targets certain music genres. They become plain, repetitive and old fast. However, Jam with the Band brings something new to music-based games - a unique flavour that opens to a number of interests in the music world.

Jam with the Band is the first music game for the DS, and is a very good one at that. The game allows gamers to play various instruments from a selected tracked featured in the game’s song library. You’ll be able to choose from a number of instruments including a bass guitar, drum kit, banjo, pipes and even the keyboard. There’s never any sense of similarity between songs, since the instruments tend to change making each song as unique as the last.

The gameplay structure of Jam with the Band is simple, yet challenging. Gamers will have the opportunity to play a single instrument from the game’s many songs. There are a dozen rows that spread across both screens of the DS, similar to traditional sheet music, and across these lines are indicated buttons that gamers will have to press successfully to play the song selected. There’s a cursor that will indicate the exact location of a song that passes horizontally through each measure, whilst two lights on the left indicate each beat. There are three separate ways for gamers to play an instrument in a song: the D-Pad, the face buttons and the console’s touch screen. The touch screen only has to be touched to play a string of notes automatically.

The game begins fairly simple with gamers only having to press any section of the D-Pad or Face buttons to play each note, and it doesn’t matter which direction or button you press – just press what’s indicated on the screen in the certain measure shown on the screen. In addition, gamers will be able to unlock harder difficulties for each song once they’ve successfully survived three consecutive song recordings, where three randomly chosen songs are selected for gamers to play in the difficultly rating they’re currently up to. In this session gamers will be playing as if they were recording their own music, so messing up isn’t an option. If gamers make too many mistakes, a bomb will explode and gamers will be forced to try again. If gamers survive through the session they’ll be able to hear what they’ve recorded, how well they played, and also unlock the next difficultly star for each song. After the completion of each song gamers are given a score depending on how well they performed. On the bottom of the screen, it’ll show how many notes you performed correctly, slightly off, well off or missed entirely. Your final performance will then be tallied up into a score out of 100. The scoring system is a great way to motivate yourself to replay each song so that you can beat your existing score, and it’s always a good indication to brag to your friends that you’ve played Smoke on the Water flawlessly.

There are a total of five difficultly levels for specific songs and their instrument, with some instruments obviously harder to play than others – since they’ll either have more notes to play, or each note is so close to one another it’ll take skill to successfully pull them off. Therefore, just like in the real music world, it’s a good idea to practice. Later on, the game’s difficultly increases by requiring gamers to press specific buttons on the D-Pad or any of the face buttons. Each button listed on the screen is shown in a different colour, making it easier for gamers to familiarise themselves with the button layout. Also, once gamers hit expert level, the songs will throw in the L and R trigger buttons as well, that’ll indicate high or low notes.

While the single player mode of Jam with the Band offers a lot for gamers, the game’s killer punch is buried within it’s multiplayer mode. The game offers from 2 to 8 player link-up, which allows gamers to be assigned to specific instruments in the game’s songs. You, and your friends playing, have literally formed your own band, where each player must listen to each other and must play successfully as a group. Whether you’re an expert and your friend is a beginner doesn’t matter, since you can assign which difficultly you want to play on in the song. Despite only having another friend to play with, I found myself having hours upon hours of enjoyment as my friend and I each played through various songs, laughing at each others mistakes and how we tried to distract each other so we would mess up.

The game’s audio quality is top-notch, despite being in MIDI form. The game’s song library includes various tracks that’ll no doubt interest almost any Nintendo gamer, with a total of seven Nintendo tracks (including classic Zelda, Kirby and Mario tunes), half a dozen world famous tracks and the rest of the list is made up of Japanese songs. Obviously, some gamers might not find themselves becoming immersed with the list, however, that’s not a problem. Thankfully, Jam with the Band features a pro-editor mode where gamers will be able to make their own songs or recreate existing songs if they have the song’s sheet music available. Gamers will be able to save up to five various self-made songs to be added to the game’s library, as well as being able to send them to friends to try out. Therefore, the potential of this game is endless. In addition to the game’s pro-editor mode, Jam with the Band features a music creation mode where gamers can make songs simply by humming or blowing into the DS’s microphone hole. Nowhere near as precise as the pro-editor mode, but still just as fun.

Since the version of Jam with the Band that PALGN received is obviously the Japanese version of the game - and a localised version hasn’t even been scheduled - readers will want to know if the game is import friendly. For the most part, the game is easy enough to pick-up and play from the start. The opening cut-scene uses English dialogue, the important gameplay modes features English text underneath the Japanese letters, each song plays before each time you select a song, so you won’t be backtracking when you’ve selected the wrong song and the instruments are often easy to understand once you’ve passed the learning curve of familiarising yourself with each instrument. There’s quite a bit of dialogue that you won’t be able to understand and the pro-editor section of the game takes quite a while to successfully understand if you don’t know basic music terms and symbols beforehand. Overall, the game is easy to understand with a bit of common sense and trial and error. Jam with the Band is far from a game that involves in-depth dialogue and it isn’t necessary to read most of the dialogue mentioned anyway. Jam with the Band is definitely a perfect import choice for music-loving fans.

Jam with the Band is by far one of the best purchases for the DS at the moment. The crew here at PALGN have found themselves enjoying this game far more than any of the other titles we’ve had access to, games such as Super Mario 64, Feel the Magic and Spider-Man 2. With all those games combined, we’ve found ourselves playing and enjoying Jam with the Band a lot more. There’s a lot to do, improve on and it’s an endless madhouse of fun and enjoyment amongst friends. Jam with the Band is the sort of game that’ll introduce new gamers into the music game genre and will no doubt leave a lasting effect on existing fans of the genre. By far one of the best DS titles for the console at the moment. It’s definitely worth importing, but if the Japanese version is too much of a trouble for gamers then be sure to pick up the localised version once it hits our shores.
This game is simply amazing. The single player involves numerous modes that’ll keep gamers occupied for a couple dozen hours, whilst the multiplayer modes will keep gamers occupied even longer. The inclusion of a pro-editor mode makes this game even more worth the purchase, it’s the cherry on the cake. We’re currently enjoying the Japanese version and we can’t wait to see what’ll be changed for the localised version and what new tracks will be seen. If you can’t bare the wait to owning one of the best music games, then Jam with the Band is a must-import.

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9 years ago
Woah. To tell the truth, I didn't think much of this game initially. Recently though, I've become addicted to DDR and this looks to be right up my alley. Very interesting concept - looking forward to it. icon_smile.gif
9 years ago
Nice review icon_smile.gif
Simply not my type of game, though, so I won't buy it. icon_kero.gif
9 years ago
Yeah, bit fat pass from me, too many other DS games I'd rather buy..
9 years ago
Looks like a good idea! I remember the old days mixing beats on the gameboy colour, with the camera! icon_wink.gif
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