Rocking Hard

Many people wondered if the music game genre had hit the proverbial wall.  Slipping sales and a lack of innovation have been a hallmark for these games, outside the harmony vocals found in The Beatles: Rock Band.  Rock Band 3, though, is breathing a whole lot of new life into music games with Rock Band 3, and even outside the usual expanded set list and improved presentation, Rock Band 3 is doing the legal equivalent of forcefully shoving content down your throat.  This is going to be big, folks.

Let me start by telling you what’s returning.  The game still features all the standard gameplay from the past Rock Bands.  Guitar, bass and drums still work based on scrolling “gems” which pop up along with the music.  Singing also returns in the form of the aforementioned three-person harmonization found in The Beatles: Rock Band.  The game features a boat-load of songs (Rock Band 3 will have 83 on-disk, and all 1000+ downloadable tracks will remain playable).  Last but not least, the game has the same Career Mode centerpiece, allowing you to create a band and work your way from bars to stadium shows.

So what’s new?  Well, first, there is a new instrument.  A keyboard/piano/ol’ Joanna is being added, which is beyond welcome.  Aside from the fact that it allows for seven-person multiplayer, it adds a unique feel to many songs, and makes many previously unwieldy songs, in particular the playable-on-the-show-floor Bohemian Rhapsody, possible.

The biggest addition, though, is the new “Pro Mode”.  What Pro Mode does is give an authentic feel to playing Rock Band in new, innovative ways.  You can play three different instruments “Professionally”, being the keyboard, drums and guitar.  Keyboard is normally played similarly to guitar, using only a few keys that are mapped to a handful of keys.  Pro Keyboard has you using all twenty-five of the keys…meaning you actually play the song…FOR REALS.  Pro Drums is available with the help of the optional cymbals, giving you additional new things to hit for a larger, more realistic kit.  

The biggest thing, however, is Pro Guitar.  Pro Guitar actually has you cutting madd riffz and jamming out phat lickz…in a way that actually teaches you real guitar.  During E3, there were two guitars shown off.  One was a Fender Mustang look-alike tricked out with over a hundred buttons down the neck, and six strings on the body, giving an eerily accurate feel to playing guitar.  What’s even more similar to playing a real guitar, though, is actually playing a real guitar.  That’s right, Rock Band 3 has an authentic Fender Squier Stratocaster guitar that can be used in Pro Mode.  And unlike other music games, Pro Guitar has you fretting the song as it is meant to be played…on a real guitar!  You’re really playing guitar…in the game!  That’s pretty awesome.

Even outside these additions, polish was liberally applied to the existing Rock Band formula.  Various things were added to the game, such as the ability to hop in and out in the middle of songs, as well as changing the difficulty on a whim.  Some other time-saving features, like an easily-accessible “No Fail” switch and a high-power song-sorting tool, are also included.  All this makes the Rock Band experience even easier to just jump into.

So if you’re stingy like me, you’ve got to be wondering how much all this is going to cost.  And with a million Guitar Hero games coming out since Rock Band 2, with very little in terms of importable songs, you’ve got to be wondering just how much of the content you’ll be able to take with you.  Well, MyGamer got a chance to sit down with Rock Band 3 lead designer Dan Teasdale during E3 to discuss pricing on all this stuff.  Many of the details haven’t been stamped out yet, in terms of bundles and other things, but we do know a few things.

First, and perhaps most importantly, almost every song from past Rock Band games will be playable in Rock Band 3.  According to Teasdale, all the downloaded songs will be available for play in Rock Band 3.  This includes both the regular Rock Band Store, as well as the Rock Band Network.  So what about your Rock Band 1 and 2 songs?  Well, Rock Band 1 had a pair of songs that got left behind between games and the licensing business is not yet squared away.  Because of that, we may see a couple songs that can’t make the jump, though the fact that only two songs didn’t make the Rock Band 2 cut out of over fifty means there’s no reason to freak out.

So what about those songs like Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, Foreplay/Long Time by Boston and Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie that would greatly benefit from the keyboard, harmony singing and Pro Modes?  Well, the Pro Drums will be available on all songs, straight up.  Everything else, though, they are “actively looking at” but there’s no confirmation, one way or the other, in terms of getting all that new content added to your current library.

Last but not least…the bundles.  Rock Band 3 can still be played with the normal Rock Band gear, though obviously there’s plenty of new hardware to work with.  Details are scant, though they did announce one bundle…the game and keyboard bundle.  Naturally, this comes with the game and keyboard, and will be hitting stores at $129.99 USD.  The “MIDI Box”, which will allow you to hook any ol’ MIDI keyboard (or MIDI drum kit) to the game will cost $39.99.  No word, however, on the guitars.

The one accessory they’re not talking about, though, is the Rock Band Helmet.  It won’t prevent your mind being blown by the game, but it will keep the cleanup to a minimum.  Keep an eye out for Rock Band 3 this holiday season, and stick with MyGamer for more details on the game as they become available.

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