games / Columns

Scrye 11.22.12: Rock Band 3

November 22, 2012 | Posted by Alli Miranda

I found myself in a rather musical mood recently, (I guess five hours of Skyrim will do that to you) and on something of an impulse, I picked up Rock Band 3 for the 360. I didn’t have much luck with previous Rock Band or Guitar Hero titles, but really wanted to check out the mini keyboard and new pro guitar that Rock Band 3 seemed to boast about when it was new.

It’s kind of interesting how accessible music/rhythm games have become over the years. From the old days of DDR games that you didn’t commonly find outside of arcades, (let’s face it, there was nothing like seeing a 700lb 40 year old guy trying to beat his own high score in an arcade on DDR), to an age of wireless guitars that rival real guitars, in features and playability, to drums and keyboards and microphones that can enable you and your buddies to form the best band this side of the plastic instrument factory.

It didn’t start out that way, however. The early Guitar Hero games were more of an exercise in frustration than anything else. Notes would zoom down the on screen tracks faster than you could see them at times, and pressing the buttons in time to the songs, especially on the harder difficulties, would not only result in a lot of cursing, but many busted controllers.

Then along came Harmonix and their Rock Band games and suddenly the bar of accessibility was raised quite a bit. The original Rock Band game, although it featured drums and a guitar and a microphone, for vocals, upped the difficulty substantially pretty early in the game, forcing you to become a master of an instrument, in record time, to progress in the game.

Rock Band 2 upped the bar even further, adding multi part harmonies for vocals and supported more instruments at one time than ever before. What was nice in Rock Band 2 was that I think they realized that some of us casual gamers don’t have the reflexes of a twelve year old anymore, so they made it even more accessible, ensuring that easy mode lasted quite a bit longer, before ramping the difficulty up to medium.

This is something that the series of Rock Band games have struggled with in the past, and it’s understandable, as the series has evolved from simple music/rhythm game to instrument training tool. I like playing my games on easy, and forcing me to up the difficulty to finish the game is annoying, but I understand that it is necessary, especially if you are learning an instrument, via these games, for a more accurate progression of your skills with said instrument.

Rock Band 3, from my initial few hours with it, seems to be more accessible than the previous entries, featuring more options for the casual gamer. For starters, career mode is broken down by instrument, from guitar to pro guitar, to bass, to pro bass, drums, both keyboard and pro keyboard and vocals.

From there you can choose a series of modes for each instrument, in order from the easiest songs for each instrument towards the harder ones. What’s nice are that the new instruments, like the pro guitar and keyboard have mini tutorial sections, so you can learn to use them in little lessons, that increase in difficulty over time.

I haven’t touched the pro guitar yet, but the keyboard lessons are very intuitive. You start with a series of notes, beginning with middle C (which is how Beginning Piano classes usually start), and play progressive notes, adding sharps and flats in alternating lessons.

Eventually you move up to practicing scales on different parts of the keyboard. The regular keyboard only uses five keys to play songs, getting you used to the instrument, while the pro keyboard tunes utilize the entire keyboard itself. An interesting note about the keyboard is that it can be used on a computer as well, with a MIDI sequencer or other programs.

I started with the regular guitar, which I seem to have the most familiarity with, from previous Rock Band games. I noticed that the pro guitar isn’t well suited to regular guitar tracks, unfortunately, and my six year old regular guitar tends to miss notes here and there, so I promptly ordered a new one.

That being said, I did manage to complete one of the guitar career modes (the beginning one), using my aging guitar. Apparently I unlocked a few clothing patterns and a fish shaped guitar for my yet uncreated character. I can only hope better customization options await me as I move through the game.

Rock Band 3 has a pretty exhaustive song list. Right now it stands at 158 playable songs, out of the box. This is also with songs that were imported from the original and part two. I guess there’s a way to import Lego Rock Band songs as well, but since my Lego Rock Band was bought used, there’s no export code insert in my box. Oh well.

This can also be strengthened by the in game (and out of game) Music Store, where thousands of tracks are available for purchase and download. I was browsing the store for a bit and it’s a little overwhelming how many songs can be acquired this way,

Thankfully, there seems to be quite a ton of content here, both for various instruments and for bands themselves, featuring a number of performers. Aspiring musicians also have a lot to look forward to in the user friendly and progressive tutorial system, as well as the ladder system used in career mode.

What’s also kind of interesting about Rock Band 3, is that while it supports importing from older titles and the Lego version, it does not support any way to import any song from The Beatles version of the game. I guess poor old Paul McCartney just can’t catch a break.

Do you guys play music games as well?

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Alli Miranda
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