A flawed code of conduct.
Musical prodigies are few and far between. Beethoven. Mozart. Louis Armstrong. Stevie Wonder. Fat Albert. Yes, Fat Albert.
I know what you're thinking, but I contend that Fat Albert was brilliant. How many other musicians have the fine schooling and nerve to play a radiator? A radiator, people. Musical talent like that doesn't come along every day.
Now add another musical maestro to that hallowed list... Takt. Takt is an out of luck junior conductor. He's got the mad skillz, but his musical band is short several players.
It seems the old Concert Hall in Bravo Town is about to be torn down, bulldozed away in the name of progress. Goodbye musical culture, hello mini-mall. Luckily, Symphony, the resident fairy of the Concert Hall, has found the Concert Hall's savior in Takt.
Mad Maestro is a music game riding the coattails of forerunners like Parappa and Beatmania. This time the theme is classical music, as you play the role of the conductor keeping the volume and tempo of your orchestra.
The original Japanese Playstation version of this series (yes, it's a whole series, originally called Bravo Music) included a conducting wand. While I never got to play it with that peripheral, it has to feel closer to the real thing. Suffice it to say, pressing and pounding a button with your thumb is quite a stretch from waving your arm in the air.
The plot is lame, and Takt rather lifeless and mute. Other than recruiting and aiding some atypical musicians, such as aliens, a fashion model, and a guy in a bear suit, the story is just a prop to get you to the next song. There are a few quirky asides here and there, but I would have liked to see something edgier in the plot along the lines of Incredible Crisis and Mister Mosquito (which was also developed by Fresh Games, the minds behind Mad Maestro).
Overlaid across the screen are either 4 dots (or 'Cue Points') in a square for 4/4 time or 3 dots in a triangle for 3/4 time. A cursor moves around these dots, completing little laps. Pressing the button signifies a cue for a beat and allows your cursor to round the corner to the next cue marker.
The amount of pressure you use to hit button changes the volume. You can adjust the amount of pressure in the options - light taps, normal button presses, and then completely hammering the key.
At certain points, you use the D-pad to supposedly direct orchestral cues, but it's really nothing more than something for your left hand to do. Why can't the D-pad be used to separate the different sections, with "up" directed towards your strings, "left" to your winds, and "down" to the percussion? Hmmm.
Mad Maestro is missing an essential element in a music game - true musical freedom and a chance for freestyling. Settling for just the volume and tempo doesn't fulfill the full and mighty power of a conductor.
The game keeps track of your adherence to all the different cues with the 'Tension' bar, roughly the same as the 'Cool' meter in Parappa. The better you do, the higher you raise your bar. Once the bar is full, you reach Angel mode. If you make some major mistakes while in this mode, you get knocked hell-ward into a Devil mode. Simply finish out the classical piece while in Angel mode to beat the stage.
The graphics are very simple and work fine, though everything that happens in the background looks like PSone graphic and character modeling, only with smoother lines and edges. But with all the wacky activity in the foreground, you will pay little attention to the craziness in the back.
The classical music selection covers a decent range, from the Ride of the Valkyries to things you've never heard of by Muggorsky. But for a music game, the music sounds pretty weak. While it comes out better than bleeps and bloops, these tunes still sound electronic at their core due to the MIDI recordings. It really takes the bang out of the classical tunes.
From a gamer's perspective, Mad Maestro is missing a lot. Pressing one button over and over at different pressure levels doesn't ring my bell, and I doubt it will ring most of yours. Though I guess it can offer kids a good start to keeping a steady beat, it doesn't offer enough for more mature gamers. I'll stick with the world's greatest jug band, thanks.