I think it’s safe to say the music genre is not what it once was. After peaking in quality and popularity a few years ago, the genre has now been revealed for what it really was; a fad. I am, of course, speaking specifically of the plastic instrument genre, obviously things like Dance Dance Revolution and Rhythm Heaven have always had their own little corner of the market, and they continue to do so. The plastic instrument genre burned bright and then quickly burned out. Knowing this, Harmonix has more recently focused their efforts on the Dance Central series, as dance games seem to now be the “in” music genre. However, it seems they haven’t forgotten their roots, as they will be releasing a new Rock Band game on digital download services, though is more closely resembles the studio’s early works than it does Rock Band.
For those who are unaware, Harmonix got their start in the music game genre way back on the Playstation 2 with a game called Frequency. If you were to play the game today, it would be very clear it was made by the same studio that would go on to make Guitar Hero and Rock Band. They also made a sequel, called Amplitude, which played very similarly with added songs and slight improvements. Rock Band Blitz is very clearly a return to this style, as it plays very similar to Frequency and Amplitude, only with Rock Band aesthetics.
The basic gameplay of Frequency and Amplitude involved hitting notes as you moved down tracks which represented each instrument in the song. You could freely move between instruments, and you would “lock out” an instrument after clearing a certain amount. Once locked out, the instrument would play automatically, and you could move on to other instruments to increase your score. There were three notes per track, with each corresponding to a button on the controller. Note patterns would be very similar to what you’d find in Guitar Hero or Rock Band, with higher difficulty settings providing much more complicated note patterns.
Rock Band Blitz plays almost identically to this, with a few alterations which I will explain. The biggest change is the presence of only two notes per track, though this may change on higher difficulty settings. The other major change is that tracks never get locked out, so you could conceivably stay on the guitar track for the entire song. However, your combo multiplier can only go up by moving around and playing notes from every track, so you are still encouraged to do so. And that’s about it for differences, it’s still the same controller based rhythm gameplay with the same style of track hopping and the same type of note patterns; and that is awesome. Another cool thing is that the game will be releasing with 25 songs, a good amount for a downloadable game, and all your existing Rock Band music will be compatible with Rock Band Blitz. That means all your DLC songs and any songs you’ve exported from disc based Rock Band games will work in Rock Band Blitz, which could potentially be thousands of songs.
I, like many, have sort of burned out on the plastic instrument genre, but I find myself really interested in Rock Band Blitz. It sure helps that I liked Amplitude back in the day, but I think the game can stand on its own without the nostalgia. If Harmonix has proven one thing over the past the decade, it’s that they are the best of the best when it comes to making music games. Whether it be controller based, plastic guitars, whole plastic bands, or camera based dancing games, Harmonix is always the best, and I see no reason to think that won’t still hold true with Rock Band Blitz.