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December 22, 2014

Rock Band 3 DS (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here!

Hello everyone! Welcome back to this (sadly non-)musical review of Rock Band 3, on the Nintendo DS! I don't mind so much the fact that I couldn't make it into a musical review after all, because I love music nonetheless. My MP3 player (yes. still got one) is almost full. And we're talking 4 gigabytes here! ...What the Hell do you mean, that's not impressive?

Anyway, even if my talent in this type of game is limited, I'll always have a fondness for Guitar Hero-type games. What can I say? I can just agree with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. It's stronger than me, really; I can't help it. I love rock'n'roll. And metal, and prog metal, and prog rock, and psych rock, and comedy rock, and field rocks... Oh wait, scratch that last one.

So, last week, I stopped just as I was getting around to discuss the “Story Mode”, in which your band does a few tours, upgrades their vehicle, makes a few more tours, upgrades again... When you're on a tour, you can't allow yourself to screw up on a song. Hate to paraphrase bands, but as INXS once said in a song, every night you perform, the people in the audience need you tonight at your best. Don't mess it up. Thankfully it's just a game, so you don't have the pressure of playing real music. But at the very least, you have to try playing music the best you can. Still aim to hit every note! Get 100% on every instrument! Ace that darn song!

And if you do, the public will give you their approval in spades.

As an example, in the case here, depending
on the mission, you'd get spades either for
achieving Group Groove, for using the
Trance or for doing both.
...No, seriously; it's a pun in the game itself! I didn't make that one up! When you're on tour, and you play a song during a concert, you can still get the Stars you aim for when you normally play a song; you can have up to 5 Stars on each song. But you can also collect 5 spades. To obtain the spades, you must complete a secondary objective that changes depending on the song, the tour, the blah blah blah. An example of such a challenge? Successfully complete sequences of notes while using the Trance. Sounds easy? It is... at first. The point of a Story Mode is to get harder as you go up the levels; that's normal, this is a video game after all. After some time, you'll be forced to play in Pro Mode (Count this as a... Pro-Mode-tion... That was bad? Hey, at least I'm trying!), you'll have to play songs you might not have gotten used to (Heck, you will most likely have to play every song at least once while you're playing through this mode). Thankfully, you will always pick the difficulty setting for each show. But for most shows on the later tours, you won't have the choice between Normal or Pro; the game will force one of those on you and you have to do your best. See the importance of practicing regularly?

Anyway, with a possible maximum of 5 Stars and 5 spades per song, with a few songs per show and a few shows per tour, that means you'll have to make sure you get as many of each as possible. Every tour comes with Bronze, Silver and Gold medals, which you earn by collecting an amount of Stars and Spades out of the total. Collect them by the kilo, really, and like Rilo Kiley, you'll impress everyone. Perform poorly, and you'll be portions for foxes. And no medals for you. You pretty much need those Stars and Spades to get forward in your career, and the only thing that's stopping you is this crowd (which you have no control on) and this solo (which is a breeze in Easy and alright in Normal, but feels rather... impossible at any difficulty higher than that. Have fun!).

Also to note is that on the early tours, you'll collect about 70 Stars and Spades maximum, but wait till you get to the World Tour... There will be a LOT of songs. The Gold medal for that last Tour requires 170 emblems... on 180 songs. Oh yeah, that leaves a tiny margin for error. Better not screw up.

Okay, so... without further ado, let's start! Your band was created, they made their first practices, somehow people were attracted to the loud music that poured out of your garage, and you managed to get some fans. Time for Hardcover's first tour around their hometown! Shouldn't be too difficult, right? ...Did I mention that until you finally get your van, you need to travel around in the metro – with your instruments, including the friggin' drum set? Good luck with that!

The virtual band does three shows during their first tour and then four more in their second, which is done all across town. Some of the shows will ask you to play one or two songs, not selected randomly, while other places will ask you to play either a selection of songs or let you make your own picks. Or sometimes, if a "Random" option is available, the game will randomly select songs for you. It's quirky like that. Keep doing shows at bars and Rock Lobsters, and you'll feel like the B-52s: Crazy, zany and adored by certain cartoon characters!

Wait. Wrong version.

Now that's more like it!

Also, I meant Red Lobsters, but I don't think they accept rock shows. Whatever. Once the second Home Tour has been completed, you should have gathered enough fans to be able to make shows in the neighboring cities. Yep, you got a brand spankin' old, polluting, secondhand minivan! Pack your stuff in the van and go on the highways! You and your music-playing doobie brothers, you're going out to see the world now. Will you find your personal China Grove?

Now, you've got a much larger pool of people to impress. You are a foreigner to their city, and you're not ultra-famous yet, which means you'll have to try a lot harder to heat up the audience! It would really suck to leave them cold as ice.

I like to imagine that the band members learn to know each other during that time. What were, at first, weak links of friendship have grown to turn into a solid bond. Together, these characters are facing the perils of the road (like crosstown traffic), and the common perils of concerts, like rude crowds and technical difficulties. It doesn't matter if they're playing songs from The Doors, Ozzy Osbourne or Jimi Hendrix; it's still one Heck of an experience.

Your first out-of-town tour goes pretty well, passing by four cities near the east coast: Portland, Manchester, Providence and Boston. Keep collecting spades and stars on the way, and avoid the bottles flung at you by angry drunkards! ...Hey, every success story had to start in some way. Bieber was a little nobody before he found fame around Usher. Weird Al was setting out to become an architect before he discovered he was good at making parodies. Willow Smith was never quite a nobody, but that's because of her famous parents - and besides, that doesn't mean she makes good music (Whip My Hair, anyone??). And every humorist out there will tell you that bars are a step that cannot be avoided when making a name for yourself. But since you're just on the road in your minivan, it'll take a while before you travel around in a jet, forced to rent a suite in Tokyo hotels so that you can play on the next day in front of a large group of humanoid creatures, AKA humans. And probably a few robots. And, hopefully, no tentacle monsters.

After which there's a second tour, in which your band goes around “some of the coolest cities of the US”. Oh, really? You want cold, you should go to Canada. First it's Cleveland, then Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago.

Once you've earned the tour bus, your band organizes a pool party. I like to think the band members are smart enough not to destroy anything in rock star fashion. Did you know that there are bands considered persona non grata in some hotels due to that kind of behavior? OK, it's mostly because of their drummers (Looking at you, Keith Moon), but still... Enough blabbering, we got more tours to do! Hope you enjoy long rides in a bus, because that's what your life will be like for a while. Besides, with these soft cushions, this in-bus TV, this copy of Guitar Hero and this minibar, traveling in this tour bus will be awesome! This feel just like Heaven, or at least pretty close to it! You'll never feel bored during these hours spent traveling, because everything in here is the cure for boredom!

Where's the first big tour with the bus? Nowhere else than in Canada! NOW we're leaving the Land of Freedom for countries never seen before! (Unless you were crazy enough to give huge backstories to your characters – even though this isn't a RP – and made sure to mention trips to other countries in those... but would you really do that?) First it's Vancouver, and then Winnipeg, and finally Montreal. I TOLD YOU we could rock in Quebec! I told you! I keep telling everyone that we're awesome, all the bands love it when they come here to play, but nobody ever listens! It doesn't have to be in Montreal, either; Quebecois are an awesome public wherever they live! We accept any and all artists! Just don't be a politician. These days, we really don't like that kind of people. However in Montreal, even if your name is Jane, and you've got an addiction, and you've been caught stealing, you're gonna have to know how to fill the prison papers in French AND in English!

...Okay, that last sentence really went nowhere.

By the way, one of the annoying things about the stars and spades system is that while you will always gain stars based on your performance playing the song, the requirement for spades changes on EVERY. SINGLE. SHOW. There are 3 to 8 shows per tour, and every show has 1 to 5 songs that you must play (with 2 songs on most shows); and of course you can only save at the end of a show. You can't save or quit in the middle of a show (between two songs), but you can save and continue or quit between any two shows. Oh, also the game will force you to use either Normal or Pro mode, which both have pros and cons for each Spade Challenge. Thankfully, you'll be reminded of what the Spade Challenge is before every song, on every show. But the challenges vary a lot in difficulty. In some cases, you'll have to activate the Trance as long as possible; in others, you'll have to play particular instruments as indicated by a “Projector” (motifs around the instrument's icon over the fret tracks). Then there are challenges demanding that no instrument goes red... and then there are some goddarned challenges, such as one that combines two regular challenges into one Hell of a tough one: You have to achieve Group Groove (by reaching a 5X multiplier on a song, usually done by completing 4 song phrases in a row without missing a note) and THEN you have to remain in Group Groove AND play sections on instruments indicated by a Projector. For the record, if you even miss ONE damn note, your whole Group Groove is lost. It's extremely hard to keep the Group Groove, so imagine when you have to maintain it all while you need to keep track of which instrument to play to increase the number of spades you'll get for this song- Phew! Just saying this out loud makes me cringe. Oh, and by the way, even if you restart a song, you won't get to see what Spade Challenge you got. Oh no; you'll see it on the next song once you get to it... or you can restart the entire show, that works too. But it's rather annoying to do this, as every song is anywhere between 2 and 3 minutes (Bohemian Rhapsody being the sole exception; the 6-minute song is played in its entirety), so you still have to replay through the song you didn't do with the Spade Challenge in mind.

Don't get me started on having to restart entire tours because you ran short of a few spades to get the gold achievement for that tour. Since tours have anywhere between 7 and 18 songs (thus ranging from 14 to 54 minutes of your time, and that's if your neck has the strength to keep your head tilted towards the bottom DS screen for that long without aching), it can get very disheartening if you have to re-do an entire tour because of a few fucking spades.

Sorry for the curse word. In a game like this one, it usually gets bleeped off.

[...] it can get very disheartening if you have to re-do an entire tour because of a few ******* spades.

Much better. Though while I can use asterisks on the blog, in the actual game the word's censoring would just leave an awkward blank among the words sung by the singer. You know something's fitting there and since that blank shouldn't be there, you know it's a censor for a “bad” (read: too vulgar for the T-rating) word. I guess they couldn't find any better way to censor these words, but still, it's quite noticeable. And Smash Mouth's Walkin' On the Sun is the one in which it's at its most obvious. **** **** **** ****!!!!!! ****!!!

OK, enough blabbering, we've got tours to do!

Keep it up, and soon you'll show the entire world that you ROCK!
The next tour takes place around cities south of the United States: Memphis, Chapel Hill, Atlanta and Austin. And then, the last bus tour follows the West Coast: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and finally San Diego. Sorry, you can't stay for the Comic-Con. But for the last show, your band arrives in a helicopter. Now that just screams Rock Star. ...Even if you're still just covering songs.

For the first Jet Tour, your band will go to the best party cities in the world: three in America, one in Europe. Yep, we're goin' INTERNATIONAL, baby! ...But I have a feeling the World Tours will have to wait for next Friday. Come back then to hear the rest of the story! Now you'll finally break on through (to the other side... of the planet), forever opening the doors of success to you!

Hey, I had to get a last one in there before the end! OK, see ya Friday!