Review: Music On: Acoustic Guitar (DSiWare)

Good guitar or bad lyre?

Music On: Acoustic Guitar is like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree – its beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you know your way around a fret board, you may see it as a fun tool to mess with when you can't lug your giant six-string around with you. Gamers with no prior guitar knowledge, however, will see it as a useless, complicated enemy that stole their Nintendo Points. The Music On series has brought several musical instrument simulators to DSiWare that are above average but not excellent, and this entry mostly meets that standard.

The controls for the acoustic guitar are confusing, unlike the Music On versions of keyboards and pianos. And when you think about it, that makes sense, because a guitar is arguably much more complicated to play than a piano. Unfortunately, this is no excuse for the entire system feeling disjointed and awkward and lacking a lefty-flip option as well.

The bottom screen displays the strings, which sound louder depending on how fast you strum them. It's also home to three icons that allow you to set chords, choose accompaniment, and save your session. The top screen uses standard guitar tablature to show the frets and strings that should be pressed to play the selected chord on a real guitar.

The button mapping is where everything goes wrong. You can assign chords to each direction on the d-pad, making a total of eight available at any one time. Using the diagonals on the d-pad to hit a chord is a pain, and you'll encounter some problems with it when trying to play a song smoothly. The A, B, X and Y buttons are assigned to choosing four variations of the currently selected accompaniment. The right shoulder button activates a chord-lock function, so you won't have to hold the assigned direction on the d-pad down while playing a chord at length. It's a nice attempt at stopping the bleeding caused from selecting one with a diagonal, but doesn't completely remove the problem. The left shoulder button can be pressed to palm-mute all the strings at once. You can press Start to stop the currently playing accompaniment and Select to access the Help Menu.

Aside from slightly problematic controls, the selection of chords and accompaniments is great and allows you to play pretty much anything, providing it has less than eight chords. Some chords have up to six variations to choose from, giving you plenty of wiggle room to express your creativity and play around. Because each string vibrates louder depending on how fast you strum it, the game mimics the sound of a real guitar quite well. However, longer playing sessions may make your ears feel tired, like you've just listened to hours of electronic pop music instead of practising your acoustic instrument. The sounds don't resonate deeply enough to avoid feeling a bit robotic, and on an acoustic guitar this is a bit distressing. Stick with shorter sessions and play using headphones to make the most of the audio.

The five accompaniment styles are Pop-Rock, Soft-Rock, Country, Ballad, and Blues. With four variations of each accompaniment, you'll have plenty of inspiration to create your own songs or copy some classics. Each version of the Blues accompaniment is especially pleasant and really lends the game some soul. Because the game has a very bare-bones presentation to it, this is even more of a good thing. The graphics consist mostly of your guitar strings and the chord chart against a light blue background – they serve their purpose, but that's all.

It’s worth noting again that this is a straightforward guitar simulator with no tutorials or example songs, so you’ll need to already know several songs on a guitar to get the most out of it. The save feature will be useful if you plan on using it as a writing tool, but your creations will be trapped on your DSi. The lack of SD card support never ceases to disappoint.


All in all, Music On: Acoustic Guitar offers a good variety of chords and, unfortunately, a clumsy control scheme. If you enjoy playing your favourite songs to yourself wherever you go, this title may be for you. Ambitious players can always look up guitar tabs on the internet and practise to their heart's content. As long as you know what you’re getting into before you download it, and are able to play some songs or are willing to learn from an outside source, you’ll have fun.

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