I’m not sure what to name the Guitar Hero/Rock Band fan community, as they are far from the only rhythm games in the world, and “western rhythm games” sounds retarded. Let’s just say that in this not-yet-named community, the majority of fans realize and accept that both Guitar Hero 3 and Rock Band have strengths and weaknesses. Some players may prefer one over the other, but they also have enough reason to give them both a try, and maybe even a purchase.
Still, while the mass market seems to stand by Guitar Hero and its now titanium strong name brand, there is a contingent of folks who have sworn an oath to Harmonix and Rock Band, citing that a game with more instruments just has to be better (amirite?).
As anyone who has played Guitar Hero knows, whoever doesn’t get to play lead guitar in co-op is often screwed over with a really mundane bassline. Thankfully, there are ways around it – since we’re only dealing with two people, it is very simple to alternate who plays what part. With Rock Band the problem grows larger. Now you have twice as many parts to deal with, and finding a full set list in which everyone is happy all the time is an impossible task. It was easy to guess that there would be some songs in which different instruments might be a little bit bored. Actually, there was no guessing involved – as much as I enjoy Nevermind, I don’t think every song on the album has a rollicking bass and drum part.
Now we have the proof, thanks to this interview at MTV Games. And I quote:
We look for songs that have great interactions between parts and good band moments,” Brosius said. “Or sometimes we find songs that one or two instruments are just great even if the other two aren’t the most interesting – that’s what part of what being in a band is. Sometimes you get to step forward and do your thing, and other times you’re just holding it together while other people in the band do their thing.”
This doesn’t sit well with me at all. Of course not every song is going to face this problem, but I don’t at all buy the idea of sacrificing my fun for the rest of my plastic band, especially when I’m paying more for the game than a PS2. I’m glad Harmonix is being ambitious, but we play games for fun, plain and simple. If I want the sacrifice that comes from being in a band, I’ll pick up my trumpet again and do some jazz.
This is at least one advantage that Guitar Hero in its current form has. It is fairly simple, so the developers can pick songs that focus exclusively on guitar (and a few bass) parts. I can already see my friends and I shuffling around in Rock Band, and considering only one of us actually wants to grab the mic, there may very well be more arguing than playing.
Conclusion – I’ve been a Harmonix fan since before Guitar Hero even existed, having cut my teeth on Frequency, Amplitude and a bit of Karaoke Revolution. I love the guys and the idea they have for Rock Band. It is clear however that the formula is going to need some fine tuning, and much like the original Guitar Hero, this first entry will help them learn some valuable lessons. That also means that some of the kids in the Harmonix Army need to calm down a bit before running out and buying what may boil down for them into a $160 copy of Guitar Hero. This genre still has some room to grow and plenty of room for competition. The last thing we need is a return to blatant, Bemani style fanboyism in which nothing but the original is acceptable.