Rock Band: Five Years of Experiencing a Game Franchise That Rocks – Part II


Show:    Aerrow Shapiro’s Hour of Power (Tuesdays @ 5 PM PT)
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Twitter:    @hourofpowerkssu

Previously on my Rock Band retrospective, I wrote about my experiences with the game’s franchise, starting from when I first heard about the game and played the first installment to playing LEGO Rock Band and The Beatles: Rock Band.  In Part II of my Rock Band retrospective feature, I cover from the introduction of Rock Band Network and go all the way to their latest entry to the franchise, Rock Band Blitz.

I first heard of Rock Band Network (or RBN for short) sometime between the end of 2009 and the first months of 2010. RBN allowed artists, labels, and studios to have their songs played in various Rock Band games, including Rock Band 2 and the then-upcoming follow-up, Rock Band 3.  The concept was similar to GHTunes on various Guitar Hero games (from Guitar Hero World Tour onwards) since it involved making songs for the game, except RBN was more advanced with notable differences, including the use of master tracks (rather than synthesized instrument sounds in GHTunes) and support for recorded vocals, just to name a few.  RBN could serve as a vehicle for various bands and labels who wanted to make their music accessible for Rock Band fans and players.

Also announced in 2009 was another band-centric game in the Rock Band series called Green Day: Rock Band, which was released the following year.  Unlike the previous game The Beatles: Rock Band, the entire soundtrack was exportable for the main series and select songs were playable on LEGO Rock Band.  While it may not have been as big as the game from The Beatles, Green Day: Rock Band gave players the opportunity to play a few of their albums (especially in the main Rock Band series), including their 1994 album Dookie, 2004’s American Idiot, and most of their 2009 effort 21st Century Breakdown (with already-existing DLC comprising the rest of it).  It should be noted, however, that at the time of the writing of this feature, all of the songs are available as DLC, since Green Day: Rock Band may no longer be available.


  As the franchise progressed, a proper follow-up to Rock Band 3 was expected.  In 2010, Rock Band 3  was announced and released that fall, with several improvements.  Among the additions were the introduction of keyboards to the mix and the integration of Pro Guitar and Bass, with the latter making guitar-playing closer to the real thing compared to playing with the typical five-button guitar controllers.  With regard to the keyboards, there are various songs in the game that prove the addition to be a logical choice: “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News, “Roundabout” by Yes, and “Centerfold” by The J. Geils Band, just to name a few.  With those improvements, this could be considered the quintessential band simulation game.  Even when Harmonix was sold by MTV Games (making the former an independent studio) and Activision put the Guitar Hero franchise on hiatus, Rock Band still survived with DLC coming in every week.


Later in 2012, another entry to the franchise came, offering something different.  Near the end of August, Harmonix released a spin-off game called Rock Band Blitz, with gameplay resembling their previous games Frequency and Amplitude, which used a standard controller for beat-matching rather than using an instrument controller.  All songs that were compatible with Rock Band 3 — including DLC, exported content, and RBN tracks — were also playable in Rock Band Blitz, providing gameplay for each song in a different way.  And for added value, the game’s entire soundtrack — which includes songs like “We Are Young” by fun. featuring Janelle Monáe, “These Days” by Foo Fighters, and “Shout” by Tears for Fears — is exportable to Rock Band 3, adding more fun to the gameplay.

As I conclude this two-part feature on an iconic rhythm game franchise, the history of the game is far from over.  With DLC coming in every week, who knows what the future might hold?  So until then, this is Aerrow Shapiro saying, “Let’s fly.”


Aerrow Shapiro is a KSSU.com DJ who hosts a weekly hour-long alt/indie show called Aerrow Shapiro’s Hour of Power, which (as of the date of publication) currently airs every Tuesday at 5 PM PT on KSSU.com.  For more information you can check out the show on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/HourOfPowerKSSU) and on Twitter (@hourofpowerkssu).

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