With the recent surge of rhythm-based games it was only a matter of time before the copy-cats started rolling in. I guess in a way that comment is pure irony because if you want to get technical Konami really pioneered the genre. Ever since Guitar Hero revolutionized the idea that a plastic guitar could make you feel like a rock star though, all other games have simply fallen flat. Now the originators of music gaming have returned to take a stab at the current trend of rocking out and the results are sadly disappointing. Rock Revolution takes all of the ideas set forth by games like Rock Band and removes most of the fun that comes long with them creating a title that falls well short of expectations.
Much like the games it attempts to mimic Rock Revolution allows players to play one of three instruments (guitar, bass and drums) or collaborate with two friends for the full band experience. For some reason though vocals have been completely omitted, this is peculiar considering Konami created Karaoke Revolution. Perhaps they did not want to compete with their own game, but regardless it is an illicit oversight. There is no officially licensed Rock Revolution guitar peripheral so you will need to own either of the competition’s axes, it does however have a drum set, and I cannot stress enough how much of a pain it really is.
Instead of the traditional setup Rock Revolution’s drums use a six pad setup that varies between size, color and shape. The problem is that during any given song the notes fly by so fast on harder difficulties it is nigh impossible to memorize where any of the notes are. Thankfully you can opt to change the game to use the Rock Band drums, which I highly recommend, although things still do not flow nearly as well regardless of which kit you are using.
Most of this is thanks to the fact that instead of using the angled note highway we have become accustomed to, Rock Revolution uses a vertical note dropper similar to its other Bemani games. This design causes notes to stream by much faster than normal and creates confusion giving you less time to react to complicated notes. You won’t notice this until you bump up the difficulty to Hard or Expert, but as soon as you do things get out of control. The note charts themselves are also pedestrian at best. Being a musician myself it is easy to spot when the game has no idea what the real notes are and is throwing in extra chords to simply amplify the difficulty.
The game comes packed with forty songs and looking at the list on paper it isn’t a bad selection. Unfortunately every song in the game is a cover, and we are not talking about Guitar Hero covers from the early years where the bands sounded somewhat close to the originals, these covers are borderline terrible in some cases. It is also amazing how the game never credits the artist performing the song. If you don’t recognize the song from hearing it you will have to do some digging to figure out who sang it originally because the game, for some odd reason, does not want you to know.
The core game revolves around you recording albums in front of a live audience and each tier consists of the usual number of tunes that progressively get harder. The downside is that career mode is entirely single-player and you cannot bring your band along for the ride. You also cannot create a custom character and are forced to deal with the pre-set stable of avatars that range from stereotypical to just plain bad. To spice things up the developers have also added some challenges to the career mode that you will either love or hate. These include forcing you to obtain a specific score during your performance to throwing what are dubbed “poison notes” at you during a song. Avoiding them is imperative as after a few mistakes you fail the song. This is a nice change of pace, but personally I found it wasted effort as I play these types of games to pretend I am a rock star not to prove my brain can process wrong notes in a song.
Playing these types of games multi-player is where they really shine though and Rock Revolution does manage to be more fun when playing with friends. There is an online mode, but as of this writing there were less people online than you will find polite gamers on Xbox Live. Playing locally can be enjoyable for a while, but if you have played either of the competition’s games this one sorely pales in comparison, even if it is ten dollars cheaper. There is also a music studio that allows you to create your own tunes, but it ends up being so cumbersome you will likely give up before you even finish your first creation.
Rock Revolution is a bad attempt at cashing in on the genre. It really does nothing to separate itself and actually siphons most of the enjoyment out of playing music games. With Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour on the market there is no sound reason to pick up this title. The song list is chock full of lousy covers, the note charts are disappointing and the lack of vocals takes a big part of the fun away. Combine all this with the fact that the game is not fun the majority of the time and you have a disappointing clone of a fantastic genre, which is made all the more demoralizing due to the fact that it comes from the pioneers of the genre.