Major Minor’s Majestic March marks the return of the creative team from the PaRappa the Rapper series - game designer and musician Masaya Matsuura and artist Rodney Alen Greeblat. At quick glance you might even call Major Minor the spiritual successor to PaRappa. The two games share a good deal in common with one another, from the animated plants and animals that inhabit their respective worlds to the rhythm and music-reliant gameplay, only Major Minor doesn’t pull it all together nearly as well as PaRappa did when it came out over a decade ago.
Major Minor’s Majestic March tells the tale of Major Minor, a descendent in a long line of accomplished feline bandleaders who inherits his great, great grandmother Gladiola’s (GGGG) magical baton that houses her spirit. With baton in hand, and GGGG’s guidance, Major Minor and his canine pal Tom set out to form the greatest marching band ever.
You lead your band by holding the Wii Remote vertically in front of you, swinging it up and down at a steady tempo. The bigger the marching band the better, so as you parade around you need to recruit new members by pointing the remote in a character’s direction at just the right moment when you pass them by. You can also pick up various items in the same manner. Most items grant bonuses to your band and its members, with a few yielding negative effects. Your goal is to make it to the end of each stage while earning the highest possible score, though several bumps in the road await your symphonic procession; some by design, others by fault.
For instance, you need to strike a rhythm that will satisfy each of your individual band members. The sousaphone-playing pig prefers a much more leisurely pace compared to the trombone-playing monkey or flute-playing sunflower, and so one of the keys to a successful march is finding that median tempo that each of your band members will happily march along to. Colored icons appear above each section of the band, indicating whether the rhythm is just right, too fast or too slow for them. If you’re unable to make the necessary adjustments to the tempo when band members start to struggle, eventually those members will drop out of the band entirely. When it’s just Major Minor and his buddy Tom left, the march comes to a halt, prompting you to restart the stage.
Essentially success hinges on your ability to strike that perfect tempo, and unfortunately this is where Major Minor’s Majestic March trips up. Despite its simplicity, the controls lack finesse. There’s no easy way to gradually increase or decrease the tempo without altering it dramatically. To make matters worse, gestures are consistently misread and at times go unrecognized altogether. When you miss even a single beat the band starts to spiral downward. Good luck trying to regain the rhythm once you’ve lost it. The best way is to try and pick up tempo- or mood-stabilizing items like cake and sun, or to dispense jellybeans – that you’ve collected along the way – to your band members. Even then you have to cross your fingers that your gestures don’t continue to go unnoticed. Ultimately the lack of finesse, precision and responsiveness with respect to the controls lead to far too many a frustrating moment.
And that’s a shame because Major Minor’s Majestic March certainly looks the part. The art style is whimsical. The environments are vibrant and the world is populated with dozens of colorful characters. The soundtrack, while not nearly as catchy as PaRappa the Rapper, is comprised of classic marching songs that have been composed into original medleys, and each song is enriched based on the number of different instruments present in your band. GGGG can get a little annoying whenever she chimes in through the Wii Remote speaker with comments like “Are you holding me properly,” but otherwise the presentation is cute and charming.
With only eight stages, Major Minor’s Majestic March is a very brisk parade that can be completed in just an hour or two. Replay incentive comes in the form of attaining higher scores on each stage, which in itself can be trying considering the control issues. There are a couple of intriguing, if underdeveloped features in the game. When you successfully recruit ten band members during any stage, you enter a mini-game called Drill Mode where you get to show off your baton-twirling skills to score bonus points. This feature adds a little more variety to the motion controls. And when you successfully complete a stage you get to pick your favorite band member, and that band member will supposedly be easier to keep happy during your next march. I say supposedly because, again, the controls are so finicky that it’s hard to notice any difference.
Major Minor’s Majestic March supports local multiplayer. In co-op, two players can join forces; one using a Wii Remote to control the tempo of the music while the other player concentrates on recruiting new band members and picking up items. This mode is far more entertaining than the competitive mode, where players switch up as bandleader and try to score the most points. Unfortunately neither of these two multiplayer modes makes up for the overall lack of content in the game.
And so the duo of Masaya Matsuura and Rodney Alen Greeblat weren’t nearly able to strike that magical chord once again in this Wii exclusive title. The key to PaRappa the Rappa’s widespread appeal was its cartoon art style, infectious soundtrack and addictive gameplay. Major Minor’s Majestic March shares one, maybe one and a half of those traits, but fussy controls lead to a game that is far too frustrating and all too brief. Even younger gamers looking to tune in to the music rhythm genre for the first time will find it too discouraging.