We've already seen several companies break their past retail releases down into pieces and sell them off as individual DSiWare releases, so it really comes as no surprise to see Neko Entertainment following suit with their first DSiWare release Maestro! Green Groove. The good news is that this release comes from a game that was never released in the US and was made available only in very limited quantities in European territories. Now DSi owners can take on one area from the retail release that combines music/rhythm gameplay mechanics with various platforming elements to form one of the more unique gaming experiences you're ever likely to encounter.
The goal in Maestro! Green Groove is to guide your bird along the many strings in each level, collecting fruit and strumming the notes to the rhythm of the music playing in the background. And while strumming notes will play the biggest role in earning a good grade for the level, there will also be times when you'll have to jump up to higher strings or drop down to a lower string in order to stay on track and grab various fruit for points. To do this you'll have to strum the string from above to bounce your bird into the air or strum from below to drop him down. Once you reach the end of the level you'll be given a grade based upon your performance and you'll have to score at least a B+ in order to move onto the next level.
As you progress along through the levels in Adventure Mode, you'll occasionally come upon a boss that must be dealt with. This is where the game turns into a Simon-like musical challenge where you'll have to mimic the exact musical performance of the boss in order to damage him, but if you mess up you'll be the one that ends up taking the damage. Once you've taken out the boss, you'll then move on to the next regular level.
As you unlock levels in Adventure Mode, you can then choose to go back and play them again using the Track Listing mode. This gives you a chance to better your grades in each of the levels you've beaten and can also be a good way to practice up on certain techniques that you'll encounter in later levels. You can also play through the levels using Free Play mode, where you can just play the levels for fun and strum the notes any way you choose without having to worry about a penalty or scoring points.
No matter which mode you choose to play, the play control is perfectly responsive to every strum or tap you make, so you've always got the tools with which to beat any of the levels: if you make a mistake, it's all on you in this game. Of course most of the fun is figuring out the best way to manoeuvre the levels while managing to not only strum all of the correct notes, but also pick up as much fruit as possible in the process. It's attempting this balancing act that will create such a hectic playing experience once you hit the more challenging levels later on in the game. And going back after you've finished the game to better your earlier level grades can be every bit as much fun as they were the first time around.
Since this was originally a retail release, the audio/visual presentation is obviously quite solid. The visuals in the game are extremely vibrant and detailed and you won't' find a better package of classical music to play along with. You'll be treated to Beethoven, Chopin and Dvorak as you strum your way through each of the game's many levels. You'll even be able to change the sounds of the various instruments in Free Play mode if you feel like mixing things up a bit.
Maestro! Green Groove manages to take two very different gameplay styles and combine them into one of the most unique and enjoyable gaming experiences available on the system to date. Not only is the game extremely playable, it also features some absolutely diabolical challenges in the later levels that should challenge even the most seasoned gamers. Although the game only features one area from the retail release, with all of the extra goodies and rampant replay value, you'll more than get your 500 Nintendo Points out of this wildly enjoyable DSiWare release.