When Namco Bandai announced it would release We Cheer to the Nintendo Wii last year, people didn't know what to think. Up until that point, a cheerleading game had never been done on any console, mostly because there wasn't any interest for one. Most male gamers weren't fans due to the subject matter, and female gamers sighed because it sounded like another game intended for them but aiming for profits instead of fun. Those who saw gameplay videos wondered if the control scheme would work since most Wii games hadn't really mastered motion controls at the time. In the end, Namco Bandai had the last laugh because the game controlled well and was lots of fun. With success at hand, the development team not only set out to make the Japanese port of the game (it was originally developed only for the American market) but the sequel as well. The result is We Cheer 2, a game that refines the original formula and ends up being a better title overall.
The game's concept is quite simple. You select a cheerleader (female or male this time around) and choose both the song and venue. During the song, you'll be given a path and be asked to move the Wii Remote down that path. The game can be played with one hand or, if you have the equipment, two hands simulating both pom-poms. At the end of the song, you'll be graded on your performance and be given a score as a result.
The primary single-player mode has vastly changed from what was seen before. In the original title, you had to select a location on a map and complete the selection of songs for that location. This time around, you have free rein over any song and location. You also have three different difficulty levels instead of just two, each one differing in how precise you have to be with your movements. The beginner difficulty is easy enough so that new players can enjoy the game without the frustration of the first game.
Two new changes have been implemented to deepen the experience just a bit. First, the bonus movements from the original game have been modified to be a bit more forgiving. Previously, you had to complete all of the indicated movements before you reached a mode where shaking the Wiimotes garnered bonus points. Now, completing any of the movements gets you into the mode, with the number of completed movements determining how much time you'll remain there. Also, there are moments in the song when part of your squad will attempt to do a stunt. By completing certain movements, you'll be able to earn bonus points when that stunt is completed. While both changes don't affect song progress, they add something more to the game than just following the routine.
At the end of each song, you get a ranking and cash for stuff to buy in the store in addition to experience for your character. The experience system is key to unlocking several items in the game, but other activities, such as playing in certain venues or playing a certain number of songs, will unlock more songs, song difficulty levels, venues, day/night cycles per stage, and new characters and outfits. Despite the fact that there isn't a structured story mode in We Cheer 2, it feels rich due the number of things to unlock, and it'll keep players going for quite some time.
There are a few other modes for the solo player to tackle. Squad Challenge is more like a proper story mode, as you go from trying out for the cheer squad to trying to win the championships. It's short, but you'll end up unlocking more characters as well as gaining more experience and cash for your cheerleader. You have your basic tutorial mode as well as Cheer Camp, which gives you lessons on how specific moves are done in the game. Workout mode makes a comeback here, with five different songs specific to this mode in addition to short and long versions of each song. Despite what they tell you in the manual, this mode can get pretty grueling, and you will feel a bit winded after each one. Finally, you get customization options that let you change everything from how your individual cheerleader looks to how your whole squad looks. All of these serve to complement the main Championship mode, and they do a pretty good job of giving the player something else to do outside of the main mode.
Multiplayer has a bit more to it, thanks to the inclusion of a few mini-games. Cheer Off is back, and it's the same as before. Two players with two Wiimotes or four players with one Wiimote each can pick a song and compete for highest combo number and points. Hot Balloon is a variation on hot potato, where a balloon is inflating constantly and threatening to pop. Players have to successfully perform their indicated moves in order to pass the balloon to the next person, and this continues until only one person is left standing. Balloon Survival is similar in the sense that you have to stop your balloon from popping. With the balloon constantly inflating, you have to successfully perform your moves to slow it down. Both mini-games are fun, but the standard Cheer Off mode will probably get the most playtime since it ends up being the most enjoyable out of the three multiplayer modes.
The controls are much improved over the last title. The game still only has you using the Wiimote to control pom-pom movements, and the option to use two Wiimotes for one player is still there, but this time, you don't have to hold down the A button to get movements recognized. This makes it much easier for both new and old players, since they don't have to worry about holding down the A button or pressing it at the right time to get movements to work. The system also seems to read movements much better than the first game, so it's markedly less frustrating than before. The only thing it can't read is slow movements, but since there aren't too many of those in the game (and a regular speed movement is recognized as being fine), there's nothing much to complain about.
The graphics may seem unchanged unless you start looking at the finer details. The backgrounds still look good and there are more of them around, though it isn't helped by the fact that a good chunk of those backgrounds come from the first game and seem to be untouched, with the exception of a few logos. All of the backgrounds can be set to a day or night setting, which adds some variety to each performance. The character models carry the same anime style as before, and while the females look the same, the males look more generic, especially when it comes to their faces. It doesn't help that character changes only affect skin tone and heads, with the rest of the body remaining the same. Luckily, the animations are smooth and the overall look is sharper than before, thanks to the game being presented in true widescreen.
The sound in We Cheer 2 is exceptionally good. As is the case with all rhythm games, the main focus of the sound is on the music, and it's here that the development team shows that it has a better pulse on good cheering music than it did before. Almost all of the songs either fit the cheerleading theme perfectly or are high-energy pop songs from artists with which the target audience is already familiar. None of the 30 included songs feel too old or completely out of place due to bad tempo. Interestingly enough, the previews for each song play different samples depending on which difficulty you're selecting.
All of this is nice, but 31 songs seem a bit skimpy since you'll be able to unlock most, if not all, of them in about an hour. This makes you long for a song import option — not only because the older songs would have benefited from the more relaxed control scheme but also because there were some really great songs in the first title. There are a few voices here, and only one of them is good. The same squeaky voice for the workout section is back, and while it may be hard to catch some of the orders she's saying at first, it somehow becomes charming to hear. This isn't the case for the cheer announcer, who sounds bland and repeats the same lines. An option to shut him off would have been nice, since he tends to get in the way of some songs and really adds nothing to the performance.
Overall, We Cheer 2 is a fun rhythm game. The graphics are bright and colorful, the songs fit the theme nicely, and the controls show that a game like this can work well without Wii MotionPlus. It's a game intended for girls, but it doesn't insult them by being all about graphics and gimmicks without any gameplay substance. Young female gamers looking for a fun Wii game will have lots of fun with this title, while those who are willing to open their minds can also find some fun in We Cheer 2.
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