Rock Band 3 angers and amazes fans, respects the Wii, and tries to teach me keyboard

Infendo

Want to see the whiniest place on the internet? Drop by the Rock Band forums this week to witness the shrill cry of outraged fans discovering their favorite game’s become an entirely new beast. Comfort zones have been shattered. The familiar’s been bulldozed. Cash no longer exists, everything’s restructured and (shock) playing a real keyboard is haaaaaarrrrrrrrrd.

I’m siding with the optimistic voters: Rock Band 3 is incredible. It’s as fun-and-breezy or as back-breakingly demanding as you want it to be. Want to keep it a pure video game and play in the original five-button style? Click here. Want to take some classes and learn to play “Roundabout” on keyboard for real? Head this way.

Here’s a quick test to see if you’ll like the game as much as I do: Are you the kind of person who will spend two hours with the improved character creator, a half hour conjuring the perfect band name, and another hour creating your band’s logo? Welcome to my world. Go buy it now.

RB2’s role-playing-style Tour Mode has been completely reworked (much to the dismay of some fans), with less emphasis on reality and more on surprise challenges and random bonus conditions. It’s actually more game-like than ever, and a lot of fun. Your created band now takes over the entire game, cavorting through the menus and load screens. Everything you do—from practice to quick play to calibrating your system, earns points. Things unlock constantly.

Little has been said online about the specifics of the Wii version. Here’s what you need to know:

Once again, as with RB2, The Beatles, and Green Day, Harmonix has treated Wii well. The game has 99% of the features of its PS3 and 360 counterparts, including the full character creator. It plays perfectly.

It looks fine. RB2 looked muddy, but solid. RB3 looks sharp but a bit glitchy. If that trade-off was necessary to get the new character creator in there, I don’t mind at all.

Importing the RB2 set list is ingeniously simple: If there’s an RB2 save file on your Wii, the tracks become available in the online store ($10 for 70 of RB2’s songs).

The keyboard is rock solid and works beautifully. It’s also surprisingly heavy. The keys are full-size piano keys, and they feel just right.

Okay, now we come to RB3’s true wild card: Pro mode. No five-color frets and strum bar here: This mode requires the new guitar peripherals or the keyboard. You have to play the real notes and chords.

First off, I just want to say that Rock Band didn’t need to do this to justify its existence. Rock Band 2 was fun. As a video game, that’s all it needed to be. Rock Band 3 is also fun, with or without Pro Mode. Harmonix, however, wants to give Rock Band deeper options, and I call this a pretty cool experiment. I hope it’s a huge success.

As for my experience with Pro Keyboard…as someone who hasn’t played piano since my middle school-era lessons…

Help. I suck! Even at the tutorials! I’m having fun, though, and I’m going to keep trying. I really want to see if RB3 can teach me to play. I’ve set a goal: If, by Christmas, I can sit down at a real piano and play “Imagine” and “Werewolves of London,” I’ll be a fan of Pro Mode for life.

Some are calling this the greatest rhythm game of all time. So far, I’d say it’s looking that way. It’s certainly the most ambitious.

Anyone else here trying out RB3? I’d love to get your feedback.