No matter what the big publishers would like you to think, music games have been on the decline for well over a year now. Bulky instrument controllers, once a status symbol among casual and core gamers alike, are now embarrassments as friends point to the hunks of plastic taking up space in your living room and chuckle, “you paid how much for that thing?”
While both Activision and Harmonix are trying for a home-console saving throw this year to salvage the fleeting fad, the portable space might be where Rock Band 3
grabs my interest. Sure the big console versions are introducing new story modes and instruments, but what if you want quick, cheap Rock Band on the go? Harmonix might have the answer for you.
While Activision tried to astroturf Guitar and Band Hero onto the DS with cramp-inducing fret-grips and even a drum jacket, Nintendo’s venerable portable hasn’t seen any love from Harmonix until now. Thankfully Harmonix knows that simplicity is key on handhelds, so Rock Band 3 on the DS closely mimics the gameplay of Rock Band Unplugged for the PSP.
With just a plain DSi in-hand, I fired up the game on medium and just HAD to play Sister Christian. I quickly found myself in over my head (even with just four note tracks this game is no pushover) and dialed it down to easy, where I could really get into the gameplay. Like Unplugged, Rock Band 3 DS has you managing four instruments—guitar, vocals, drums and the new keyboard—with a setup very similar to Amplitude. You hit up and left on the D-pad and X and A on the face buttons to match the notes in time, no uncomfortable instrument peripherals necessary. As you play, however, the different tracks will let you know when they need attention; you’ll have to switch back and forth between instruments with the shoulder buttons and play out key sections to keep from failing out.
Rock Band 3 looks decent for a DS title but then again, I never cared much about visuals in a music game. What’s most important is that the game replicates the addictive nature of Rock Band, even if the mechanics are a bit different, and in this respect I can say it has succeeded.