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As My Guitar Gently Clicks November 23, 2009

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Wii.
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My wife asked, “Can we get something better than that crappy Wii Music?”

We’re still down on Wii Music around our house.

But this time, my wife was planning out how to keep 20+ people entertained at either end of Thanksgiving dinner this coming Thursday.  She was wondering if there was some Wii game we could get that would help out.

I pondered the new Wii Resort, but decided that the reference to Wii Music ought to focus the search.  So I went about looking into the Wii versions of the popular toy guitar games.

The first step last Monday was to walk over to the tech support department at the office, which is where most of the console gamers reside, and loudly ask the question, “Guitar Hero or Rock Band?”

They looked at me for about two beats and pretty much unanimously said, “Rock Band.”

I am going to guess that there was a certain amount of “pity the old guy and his Wii” in that recommendation because they followed up the response with a lot about Rock Band being easier, having “no fail mode” and such.

Which was the correct reasoning for a recommendation, since what I know about Rock Band and Guitar Hero wouldn’t have filled a thimble at that point.

I left to go look up reviews on Rock Band while they were still talking about sound/screen synchronization and the merits of the stage kit fog machine. (XBox 360 only I’m afraid.)

Some leafing through reviews showed that people thought the instruments with the original Rock Band were “teh suxor,” but most reviews seemed to really like the instruments that came with Rock Band 2.

Rock Band 2 was the choice.

The Choice

(Pictures for this post were all snatched from a Google Images search because, frankly, it wouldn’t have any pictures otherwise.)

So I went over to Amazon.com, forgetting to go through anybody’s web store front yet again, and ordered Rock Band 2. I opted for second day delivery despite the free delivery option being available.  I wanted to make sure we had it by Friday night so we could figure it out before Thanksgiving and I was afraid it might go via UPS, which has a habit of holding packages in their local warehouse until the delivery date has arrived.

Wednesday I got a call at work from my wife.  She told me that Rock Band had arrived, but that this giant box had also been delivered.  In her mind, a Wii game is about the size of a DVD, which she assumed was in the small box we got from Amazon.com.  I explained that the big box was Rock Band because it comes with a guitar and a drum kit.

I think this came as something of a surprise, but she was enthusiastic about it.

The box, about the size of Herve Villechaize‘s coffin, was deposited on the floor at one end of our family room, where it sat for over 24 hours without so much as a remark from my daughter, a level of obliviousness that I did not think we would see until the teenage years.  I finally had to ask her, “What’s in the box?” before she looked at it, looked at me, then asked back, “What’s in the box?”

Then I told her she would have to wait until I got home from work on Friday to find out.  That built a level of anticipation in her that lasted for about 2 minutes, then she was off doing something else.  Spoiled child indeed.

Friday night finally rolled around, I got home from work, pizza was ordered, and my wife went off to some girl gathering leaving my daughter and I to unpack and setup of Rock Band 2.

I opened up the outer, then the inner box, and dumped all the bits and pieces onto the family room floor.  Then the impatience began as my daughter wanted to get in there and play right away while I had to do the Christmas Eve parental assembly routine.

This is what you get in the box:

Microphone, Drums, and Guitar

(annotated picture swiped from here just to make sure you knew which was the microphone)

About 30 minutes later, we had just about everything together and were ready to try it out.

The Guitar

The guitar… or the guitar controller, rather… is actually very nicely done.  It does not look or feel quite as much like a toy as other similar controllers I have seen.  It feels solid, if not as heavy as an actual electric guitar, and the buttons on the fret board are nicely colored only on the top of the neck, where you can see them when you’re holding the controller, as opposed to on the face of the fret board, where everybody except you can see them unless you tilt the guitar up.

The strap adjusted enough to accommodate both myself and my daughter at need and we were both able to at least get through the tutorial and an easy song or two right away without screwing up too badly.

The Drums

The drums controller is also reasonably solid.  It stood up to both of us beating on it for a few minutes.  Unfortunately, it only had to endure a few minutes until we gave up in frustration.

The drums are hard.

Or, rather, the drums are not as easy, even on easy mode, as the guitar.  When you select easy mode on the guitar, you only have to deal with three of the five possible buttons.  With the drums, even in easy mode, you have all four pads to beat on and the pedal to mash.  That was more than either of us were ready for on a Friday night.  Add in the fact that hitting the drums was somewhat loud yet unsatisfying and we went anti-drum pretty fast.

So the drums got placed over in the corner of the room, where they have remained untouched.

Mr. Microphone

With two of us playing the game, that left the microphone as the only other option.  My daughter wanted to play with the guitar still, so that left me on vocals, the front man for the group.

So where the drums are hard, even on easy mode, the vocals seemed very easy.  On easy mode I was belting out extremely high percentages and pretty much holding the act together while the audience was booing my daughter off stage.  Show biz is tough.

After having gone through a couple of songs though, I became pretty sure that one of those multi-tone car alarms would score moderately well in easy mode.

Still, it was nice to not be completely out of my depth for a little bit.  I did find that my own natural range (which runs from F-flat to C-you later) was so limited that I had to move straight to a low falsetto in order to keep my pitch on track with the little meter at the top of the screen.

That worked, but I have my usual problem of singing just as badly compounded by doing so while trying to sound like I am in one of the Monty Python “pepperpot” sketches.

The Songs

Rock Band 2 comes with 84 songs.  You can only play a few of them in Quick Play mode it seems, even after entering the alleged “unlock all” cheat code, so I am probably missing something.  Of the list we were allowed to choose from, we favored:

We Got The Beat – A song I chose because I knew the words.  Or I thought I did, anyway.  It can be amazing to find out you’ve been singing along WRONG for 25 years.

Hungry Like The Wolf – Again, thought I knew the words… I didn’t.  Even my wife was surprised at how much the lyrics varied from her own imagination.  Still, manageable on easy mode as long as we leave the drums out of the picture.

Cool for Cats – My daughter’s favorite, the one we have to play over and over.  This is where my daughter and I are of different minds.  She likes to pick a song and, you know, practice and get better, while I just want to turn on “No Fail” mode, crank through the whole play list, shout, “Thank You San Jose!” and call it a night.

We are getting better at it.  I think my daughter likes the song because it implies that cats are cool.  I am certain that she doesn’t understand the actual lyrics.  Hell, I’ve sung it more than a dozen times now and *I* don’t understand the lyrics.  But it is rock and roll, and it is better to sound good than to be good… or something.

Eye of the Tiger – The only other song on the Quick Play list that I knew.  My daughter wasn’t keen on it, despite having “Tiger” in the title.

We did try a few other items on the list, but few were familiar to me at all, so we seem to always end up back at “Cool for Cats.”

Downloadable Content

We went and explored the list of downloadable content for Rock Band 2.  There is quite a long list available.  Since we had some Wii points available, we grabbed Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) because it is the basis for the parody Pretty Fly (for a Dranei).  I was up for it, but it was quickly pulled from our rotation by my daughter because it contains a bad word.

I also threatend to download White Rabbit until I let my daughter listen to it on iTunes first.  That got the axe, which was probably just as well, since the downloadable content uses up a big chunk of the memory on the Wii and we seem to have filled up our SD Card with pictures from Pokemon Ranch.

So I have to figure that out before we can spend any more Wii Points on downloads.

Second Guitar?

After a few days fooling around, what I really want to get is a second guitar.  The guitar controller is the obvious cool aspect of the game.  I would go by Fry’s on the way home and buy one today, if I could find something somewhere online or in the written instructions with a simple title like, “How to add a Second Guitar to Rock Band 2.”

I have yet to find that, and the guitars look to be expensive enough that I’m not going there unless I know it will work.

Overall

So far we are having fun.  We have woken the Wii up from what has been a long summer sleep and we jump around in the family room in front of the TV for 30-45 minutes at a stretch, usually right before bed time.

We’ll see how things play out on Thanksgiving.  Maybe we can get somebody to play the drums.  As for songs I know, my backup plan was in that small box that arrived at the same time Rock Band 2 did.

Comments»

1. Wavemancali - November 23, 2009

I got to try Rock Band for the first time when I went back to Canada this month. One of the friends I visited had it. Please, please, do not give up on the drums.

They may seem really hard at first, but you do get into a rhythm after a bit and they are extremely fun.

Many people I have spoke with mention that it really does make you better at playing real life drum sets too.

I was sucking up the joint with 40-45% on easy mode when I first started but after 4 or 5 songs I got into the rhythm and I was usually in the 85-92% range. Then my weak ass arms got totally tired because I was really beating the crap out of those drums and I slipped back down to 80-85%.

I was soar for 2 days, it was genuinely pathetic, but I had such a great time.

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2. Elisten - November 23, 2009

Rockband is way better than Guitar Hero. So much easier, better songs.

Also, check out: Lego Rock Band! It’s great fun and is more tailored towards younger audiences. It even filters out bad songs.

Have fun!

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3. Snafzg - November 23, 2009

Wii standalone guitar: http://www.amazon.com/Wii-Rock-Band-Standalone-Guitar-Nintendo/dp/B001BXAC62/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1259016731&sr=8-1

Seriously, keep at the drums. They rock once you get the hang of them. It isn’t obvious at first, but try switching kick pedal feet if you find it too hard. I found drums to be insane and then decided to switch from my right to left foot. Now drums on easy mode are a piece of cake and I’m working my way up on medium.

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4. Graktar - November 24, 2009

How to add a 2nd guitar to Rock Band:

1. Plug it in
2. Play

Unless the Wii version is bizarrely different than all the rest that’s all it takes. Rock Band is actually designed to be played by 4 people – 1 microphone, 1 drum, 2 guitars (1 guitar, 1 bass). They only give you 1 guitar in the box because, well, they just do. You definitely want a 2nd guitar — well worth it. We’re lucky(?) in my household that we also have purchases Guitar Hero 2 and 3, so we actually have plenty of guitars.

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5. Wilhelm2451 - November 24, 2009

@Snafzg – Thanks for the info on the guitar controller. For some reason, my search on Amazon.com on “Rock Band 2 guitar” did not turn up that particular result, and I am dubious about the third party guitars if only because I am old and have been burned many times by things that should have worked.

I was also a little concerned that the instructions with the RF adapter for the guitar and drums said they had to be plugged directly into the Wii USB ports and not daisy-chained. Since there are only two ports, that seems to indicate that you can only have guitar+guitar or guitar+drums.

The drums. They key problem for me is finding the right sitting position. Sitting on the ottoman in our family room leaves my knees sticking up close to my chest, making the foot pedal a royal pain to operate, regardless of which foot I use.

We’ll have an 8 year old boy over for TG. I’m sticking him on drums first. I’m betting that would be a good mix.

Either that or I am inviting the high school kid next door, who has a drum kit and is in a band, over to show us how it is done.

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6. Randomeis - November 24, 2009

If you were looking to good TG choice I would have gone w/ the beatle’s rock band option for a few reasons.
1. w/ the Special Value Edition Bundle you get most of the kit
2. mass appeal of the songs
3. harmony mode means grabbing a few more mics is worth while and occupies more people(added bonus you can get them cheap used)
4. you can always pick up the RB disks

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7. Zoso - November 24, 2009

Another option for an extra guitar is to get one of the Guitar Hero peripherals; apart from the first Rock Band most of the games are cross-compatible with instruments from the other franchise. The GH guitars and drums have slots that you plug a Wiimote into rather than using plug-in RF adapters so no worries on that front; grab a bundle of Guitar Hero 5 + guitar and you get another 85 songs ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_in_Guitar_Hero_5 ), and GH5 is geared up really well for party play (you’ve got access to the entire setlist without having to unlock stuff, there’s a specific party play mode where people can just drop in and out of different instruments as they fancy, default no fail for easy difficulty IIRC, you can use any combination of instruments etc.)

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8. Rieger - November 24, 2009

Rock Band on the 360 is a family favorite in my house still. My 4 year old belts out Roxanne on the mic until we make her switch songs. I agree with Snafzg, stick with the drums. They aren’t as easy to get started with as the other instruments, but with a bit of practice you will get it. There aren’t a lot of video games that leave you breathless, but playing Rock Band Drums on some of the harder levels does that. Good times.

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9. Sinnir - November 24, 2009

Guitar Hero on the Wii…I got pwned by Ted Nugent playing Stranglehold :( nuff said

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10. We Fly Spitfires - November 24, 2009

Rock Band is a lot of fun although I’m starting to tire of it all a little bit. It was such a novelty when Guitar Hero first came out yet now it’s all a bit over the top. Still, can be a blast with the right people… and alcohol :)

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11. Bob - November 26, 2009

Rock Band, if you had never played with any of the music games before then, is probably the better choice. Guitar Hero is not very forgiving with its delay – if you strum 1 millisecond too late or too early you missed it. Rock Band has a little play with it, and seems more about having fun than being a good virtual musician.

I have RB1 and RB2 on the 360, but only because it has the larger space avaialble for DLC. My brother has RB1 for the Wii, and the instruments just sync up wirelessly… so if you get a second guitar, i would think it would sync up like the first one no problem.

The only thing GH has that RB doesn’t that I would like it to have is, starting with Guitar Hero: World Tour on, they give you a 3 second timer when you pause to get ready to start strumming again. If RB had that, it would be just about perfect.

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