A focus on classic orchestral tunes immediately sets Mad Maestro apart from its more contemporary brethren. A rhythm music title, Mad Maestro allows players to assume the role of a conductor whose job it is to "manage" the music, instead of actually playing it. The three aspects of each piece, namely, the transitions between sections of the piece, the volume and the tempo are controlled by the D-pad, the pressure applied to a particular button, and the timing of button presses, respectively. Depending on the particular piece of music, up to five points can be displayed onscreen at once. A constantly moving cursor provides cues, informing the player when to press the button. The color of the point currently highlighted by the cursor changes from blue to green to red, indicating the amount of pressure to be applied to each button press.
The distance between points changes based upon the tempo of the current piece of music, with slower pieces giving rise to greater distances and faster sections punctuated by shorter distances. Players will also be required to press a button as well as a direction on the D-pad at certain points in the piece. A horizontal meter fills up with each correct input; filling up the entire meter will initiate "angel mode." Only by being in this mode when the song ends can you successfully complete the stage. Make too many mistakes however, and a "devil mode" will ensue, during which time the meter does not fill up. Not making a mistake for after a brief period will return the game to "angel mode." The goal of this incessant orchestration is to drum up support by aiding the local townspeople, with the ultimate goal of saving the local concert hall -- a story told between chapters through the use of CG cut-scenes.
During each stage the backgrounds change dynamically in accordance with your performance: perform well and the screen will be filled with frenzied action, lights, and objects, do poorly however and the stage will begin to darken and eventually fall apart. A performance-based ranking is provided at the end of each stage allowing players to gauge their conducting prowess. A Free Play mode lets you play through any beaten stage; a Replay mode allows you to view past performances; A Music room lets you listen to unlocked pieces, and ten unlockable bonus games round out the selection of gameplay choices. A total of 35 songs are included within the game, many of which must be unlocked.