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Hey, No One Ever Wants to Sing, Anyway

Jeff gets his first look at Konami's first domestic entry into the drums-and-guitar genre, Rock Revolution.

You may not realize this, but Konami actually invented this whole Guitar Hero/Rock Band craze around a decade ago with a pair of Japanese games called Guitar Freaks and Drummania. Outside of some occasional arcade appearances, the two games were usually only known to importers and crazy people back then.

Drum Controller,
Drum Controller, "artist's" "rendition"
As an importer, and an occasionally crazy one at that, I have fond memories of both games. I'd occasionally pester people at Konami about the games, and how they should be released domestically, even though I never thought they'd catch on. A couple of people would smile and nod at me like I was insane. One or two people would meet my fervor head-on and say something along the lines of "dude, I know! I keep telling them we need to do Guitar Freaks here!" This year, Konami will re-enter the plastic guitar and drums genre with something called Rock Revolution.

It can be played by a maximum of three players, just like Drummania and Guitar Freaks could when you linked it all together. You can have guitar, bass, and drums--no vocals. It'll have 40 songs on the disc with plans for downloadable content. I skimmed the song list and saw these, among others:

  • Blitzkrieg Bop
  • Magic Man
  • Round and Round
  • Sk8er Boi
  • Walk
  • We're Not Gonna Take It
  • Run to the Hills
  • Cum On Feel The Noize
  • All the Small Things
  • Spoonman
  • Still of the Night
  • Dr. Feelgood

All of the songs in the game are cover versions. In a world where the heavyweights in the genre are working to get the real versions of songs, going all covers seems totally nuts.

Konami reps hinted at a guitar controller of its own being in development, but they were using a wireless Guitar Hero III controller to demo the game. While no images of it have been released and we were told that photos weren't allowed, part-time courtroom artist and full-time nudist Ryan Davis did up an artist's rendition of the drum controller, which has six pads up top and a kick pedal down below. Rather than orienting them in a straight line, or altering the height of the cymbal triggers like the Guitar Hero IV drums apparently will, Rock Revolution uses drums of different shapes and sizes. A large, round pad sits bottom center and acts as your snare. Smaller circular pads sit to the sides and above the snare trigger. In the upper-left and right sides, triangular-shaped cymbal pads. Down below sits a single kick pedal. The drum controller felt sturdy, but also sort of confusing. 

Granted, I only played two songs, but the drums feel a lot less intuitive than Rock Band's, even on the easy setting. That's because the game presents the pads you're supposed to hit as a straight line of seven different colors that fall from the top of the screen. The kick pedal is treated exactly like the rest of the drums, but the icons that fall are shaped a little differently for the kick pedal. It's in the middle, with three drums on either side of it on-screen. The guitar seems to be the same five-button action you've seen in other games, with long bands of color signifying held notes, and so on.

A quick note: for some reason, all of the released screens and video of Rock Revolution imply that the drum controller only has five different buttons on it, including the kick drum. Maybe they're just out of date or something, because even when playing on the easiest of the five difficulty settings, all seven triggers were showing, even though you don't have to touch the kick pedal at all until you hit medium.

Though it wasn't shown during the announcement, the game will also have something called jam mode, where you'll be able to use the drums and guitar to record your own tracks. Up to eight individual tracks can be recorded and saved. The game will also appear on the Wii, and the press release makes it sound like there won't be any instruments in the Wii version, and that you'd just play guitar and drums using the Wii remote and Nunchuk. A DS version is also in development.

So, yeah, I'm skeptical, and I was left feeling a little sorry for Konami in the process. Sure, they may have invented this style of gaming, but a lot has changed since then, and the feature list of this game doesn't seem like it meets what the other guys are already offering. Rock Revolution makes me feel like Konami is bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+