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Mix Superstar - WiiWare App Review

Game Info
Mix Superstar

WiiWare | Digital Leisure | 1 Player | Nintendo Wi-fi Connection Pay & Play DLC available | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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19th December 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Say what you will about Digital Leisure's past WiiWare releases, but Mix Superstar is definitely a step in the right direction for the team and the service at large. This one-of-a-kind application acts as a suite for the musically-inclined who like the thought of creating their own music. It's great to see that it gets so many things right, and it really is a strong buy.

    Mix Superstar presents creative users with the ability to experiment with a large selection of loops which, when strung together, can create a satisfying piece of music. And accessing the Loop Browser at the bottom of the main editing panel will open up a world of possibilities. Loops are classified by the genre of music they belong to, namely Dance, Hip Hop, and Techno, each with their own preset BPM rate. Within each of these classifications exist hundreds of music samples for you to try out. Each individual loop is then categorized by means of a colour-coded system that corresponds to each of the sample types you'll ever encounter. This includes Synth, Bass, Vocals, Guitar, Sound Effects, and Keys (for Keyboard arrangements). 

You can scroll through pages and pages of loops using the D-Pad, or by clicking and dragging the scroll bar using your cursor. To activate playback for a specific loop, aim your cursor at the sample in question and press the B Button. When you've decided on a loop you'd like to bring into your work-in-progress, hold the A Button and drag it outside the Loop Browser window, placing it within the main editing panel. To copy one or more loops, you can press the B Button while the about is being held - a rather straight-forward process. Once you've brought in a few loops, you'll then start to arrange your musical creation, piece by piece.

    Controls in the main editing area couldn't be easier thanks to the Wii Remote's pointing functionality. The Menu option is found on the bottom left of the screen, which of course allows you to save, load and export mixes. Directly underneath that you have the Record function, which allows you to add in your own vocals or sound effects using Wii Speak or a USB Microphone. Not only is it a good idea, but the response is very pleasing as well. Playback controls are found on the opposite side of the screen, and these relate to the overall composition. You can start playback from a specific portion of the song by clicking on the corresponding column with the pointer, then hitting the Play button, or you can start from the very beginning of the song.
    Much of your time will be spent using the A Button to drag and drop loops, putting them in the spot that feels right to you. But once you've gotten a good feel for how things will play out audibly, you can isolate individual loops using the B Button to access even more neat features. The dialog box that appears will allow you to control the Volume, adjust the Balance in the left and right speakers for that specific loop, or mute a track temporarily. You can also apply a favourite tag to the loops you love using the Star icon on the bottom right, allowing for easy access later on. Then all you need to do is pass your cursor over the Loop Browser prompt, and scroll down the left list of options to "My Favourites". 

For those who like to have complexity in the tracks they create, layering has definitely been considered here. The central interface has 10 rows where loops can be placed, meaning that you can have multiple loops going at once to create a mish-mash of sounds (hopefully not a messy one!). Using the speaker icons on the far right of the screen located next to each row, you can mute a series of loops resting on a specific line. So for those of you who have big plans for this application, rest assured knowing that you can definitely create complexity and depth within the tracks you create.

    If you're wondering about transitioning clips together, once again, you have little to worry about. Using the Plus and Minus Buttons on the Wii Remote will allow you to zoom in really close so you can view a smaller number of columns at one time. This affords you to opportunity to get within good proximity for seamless transitions between clips. The result is a track that has a great sense of flow throughout, making it appealing for the listener. Admittedly, this isn't always doable to a perfect degree 100% of the time. But when it works 9 times out of 10, the rare time that the transition isn't flawless, you just learn to work around it. 

    It bears repeating that each set of loops has a BPM rate that will establish whatever rate your track acquires overall. This is important to keep in mind, because when you start to string different loops together that belong to different sets, things can get a bit tricky. Some sets work really well with certain packs while others don't. It's just another thing you'll need to experiment with and figure out for yourself. And further to what I just articulated in the previous paragraph, the 1 out of 10 times where the transitions aren't flawless, the BPM differences are almost always to blame for this. 

Although the execution of each feature was great, there were two main problems I had with the entire application. Thankfully, these weren't big things to stress over, but they're still worth mentioning. The first is that you don't have an Undo button to help make things a whole lot easier when you delete something by mistake or accidentally move something over a few spots from its perfect spot. Secondly, you're forced to use loops in full, with no ability to use excerpts or abbreviations using a trim tool of some kind. In some cases, just a quarter of a full loop may be all you need to tie something together, so it can be annoying that you don't have the ability to use just a portion. Otherwise, there are no major complaints to be had with the whole thing.

    Typically, I find music editors immediately intimidating in the way everything is organized, along with additional elements of their advanced setup that completely turn me off. So it was such a pleasure to see just how welcoming Mix Superstar is. The interface fits really well, and in no way is it overly-complicated, or in your face. It's easy on the eyes, and the entire setup is very welcoming for someone to just get into for the first time. In line with the commendable strength of the application's functionality, the inviting structure helps solidify feelings of approval over the approach. In line with this, although it may not be engaging to sit through, the Tutorial gives you a good grasp of all the ins and outs of the application, and a realization of just how user-friendly everything is.

    The base download costs 500 Wii Points, with over 1,000 loops supplied to your right off the bat. It's not hard to discern that for only $5, this is great value. The loops are generally of good, if not great quality. I didn't encounter any clips that were fuzzy or rough around the edges, and that alone impressed me. There are a lot of memorable loops that I'm sure you'll want to use over and over again (such as the 'Sparrow' samples). Even some of the vocal loops in particular were great to listen to, but not always because the vocals sounded pretty good. Sometimes the lyrics were humorous because of how weak they were.

Anyone who's really motivated by what this suite offers will likely wrestle with the question, "To buy or not to buy?" The developers really covered all their bases by including downloadable content by means of a Loop Shop where you can purchase packs of loops for a pretty penny. The current selection includes such music genres as Latin, Pop, R&B, and Old School. Each pack ranges in price, from as low as 200 Points up to 500 Points. In fact, the sum of all the packs together will run you over 3,000 Wii Points and well over 300 blocks of memory. And it's a shame that you can't load these directly from the SD Card.

    By accessing the official site for this game, you can check out some samples of songs that were created using only loops that exist in the pack. But even then, it can be hard to determine whether or not these are worthwhile purchases. I will say though that anyone with a sincere interest in what Mix Superstar is capable of will more than likely buy at least one DLC pack. For example, I personally think the Drum and Bass pack (priced at 300 Wii Points) is worth downloading, and the Chillout pack had some really nice tunes as well. Digital Leisure plans to release even more downloadable content in the coming weeks, which has me looking forward to seeing what other kinds of music genres they represent. I for one would love to see a pack focused on video game music (both retro and present generations).

Once you've completed your track and are ready to share it with the world, you can send it to fellow Mix Superstar DJ's via WiiConnect24. It's great to see this feature being put to good use here since it's been very underused as of late. Instead of going that route, you can alternatively select the Export option under the Menu box to access your song outside of the application. So long as it doesn't go over the maximum song length, you'll be given an exclusive code once it's uploaded to the Mix Superstar server. When you access the server, you'll be able to download your creation as a WAV file. Listening to my creations on the computer, I thought the feedback was of high quality. In fact, I was pretty impressed with how well everything sounded, especially with headphones on. What you choose to do with your musical creations afterward is entirely up to you!

    Overall, Mix Superstar is a really impressive effort, and it easily manages to take the top spot as Digital Leisure's best WiiWare release. This music studio is a fantastic download all around especially for creative types like myself who just love the idea of making your own music tracks. With strong functionality, a thoroughly user-friendly interface, and additional downloads to boot, Mix Superstar is a near-flawless application that comes highly recommended.

28/30 - Excellent

Functionality 9/10 - Setup and execution are great (even with exporting), inability to trim/undo, BPM rates can be tricky to work with
Presentation 9/10 - Impressive feedback post-export, really user-friendly interface and structure, controls work great, good/great quality loops
Lasting Appeal 5/5 - Musically-inclined gamers will love what you can do with this, lots of different possibilities, fun to experiment & later share with others
Value 5/5 - Start off with more than 1,000 loops for $5, such a good deal, great incorporation of Wii Speak and WiiConnect24, additional DLC packs

Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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