Why Do I Keep Coming Back To Music Band Games?

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It’s less than 4 weeks until The Beatles: Rock Band is released and needless to say, I’m pretty excited. I fell in love with the game ever since I saw the opening cinematic at the beginning of Microsoft’s E3 conference earlier this year and I’ve gotten more and more hyped as more information has trickled out from Harmonix or otherwise. It could be my potential game of this year, yet as I hang around in our own IRC channel amongst others, there aren’t many others that are really excited for it. This got me thinking, not just about The Beatles: Rock Band, but the music band genre itself. Ask any of our main whores and they’ll tell you that they couldn’t give a shit about the genre and see it a passing fad like the Dance Dance Revolution series back in around the first half of the 00s. To step back for a moment, I can see why.  But first, I need to go back to exactly why I ended up becoming a fan of the music band genre.


It’s strange how I ended up buying Guitar Hero III. It actually started with me downloading Frets on Fire. If you don’t know, Frets on Fire is essentially a free Guitar Hero clone, which lets you play anything provided you have the song file and a chart for it. I enjoyed the core aspects of it but I wanted the real thing after a while. While you can use guitars on it with adaptors, I only had a keyboard and so it wasn’t exactly the best way of playing. So it was Boxing Day 2007 and I was in HMV when I saw the PS2 Guitar Hero III bundle for £45. Looking at the songs advertised, it looked pretty good, so I picked it up and carried it back for half an hour to my house (no buses on Boxing Day). I set it up straight away and started on easy, being new to the controller. I certainly didn’t regret buying it though, as I was initially having a lot of fun.

I managed to get through easy and medium with little problem but as I moved to hard, my tolerance for the game began to thin as the telltale signs of Neversoft’s poor chart work began to show. At first, this was mostly due to my inability to cope with an extra button, but once I got used to that, I still wasn’t satisfied, especially as I progressed through the hard career and eventually moved on to expert. In the end I couldn’t cope and I pretty much stopped playing the game all together. My short affair with the music band genre probably would have ended there if it weren’t for Rock Band.


If I had to blame anyone for my purchase of Rock Band, it would be Bunnyrabbit2. During the summer of last year (and still does <3), I’d hear him go on about this game called Rock Band, which was the next step in the music band game and made by the former developers of Guitar Hero, Harmonix. I looked at the setlist on Wikipedia and liked what I saw for the most part so eventually I got Rock Band along with a cheap GHIII Les Paul guitar. I haven’t looked back since.

But getting back to the point, it’s easy to see why the music band genre has faced a lot of criticism recently. One reason is the saturation that it’s created in the rhythm genre as a whole. Because of how successful the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises have been, there have been many imitators since, such as Battle Of The Bands. The problem is that none of these games have been any good, but the success of  those two series has stopped most originality in the rhythm genre. While there are still some out there like the Elite Beat Agents series or Audiosurf, the rhythm genre certainly doesn’t have as much variety as it used to.

The days are gone where we’d see the likes of Parappa The Rapper, Gitaroo Man, Vib Ribbon or Space Channel 5 for example thanks to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. This saturation hasn’t been helped by the sheer amount of Guitar Hero games that have been released in the past 2 years either. Before Guitar Hero III, there were only 4 Guitar Hero games including the former. Now, over the next 2 years, there have been 8 Guitar Hero games with Band Hero, Guitar Hero 5 and Guitar Hero: Van Halen all out by the year’s end. On the other hand, Rock Band: Unplugged, Lego Rock Band and The Beatles: Rock Band are the first Rock Band spinoffs, as Rock Band has expanded with DLC. I’m being a bit biased of course but it’s easy to see why rhythm fans would be pissed off.

The overkill of games also links with how much money you can drain with both series. Each game costs around £30-£40 and then you have to buy at least a mic and guitar/drums just to get the core experience, which usually costs at least £50. But what if you want to get a full set of instruments? That’s going to set you back at least £90 and if they break further down the lane then you’ll eventually have to replace them. Then there’s DLC. While I praise Harmonix for not putting what could be DLC into new games, with DLC coming out every week for both series of games, it can quickly burn your wallet. It’s easy to see why the genre could be criticised when you could be putting that money towards other games for example.

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