BandFuse: Rock Legends Preview

Not just the second string.

The peripheral-based rhythm genre is by and large an endangered species. The oversaturation of Guitar Heroes and Rock Bands eventually wore itself out, turning cluttered living rooms into cluttered closets. Don't dispute me... I have one of those closets.

What remains of this rock-tastic era are seemingly endless DLC packs for Rock Band 3 and several attempts at simulation-based rhythm games like Ubisoft's Rocksmith, which is compatible with nearly every real guitar on the market. On a similar front, Realta Entertainment's upcoming BandFuse: Rock Legends attempts to accomplish the same thing but with a conscious design derived from a musician's perspective.

Though its similarities to Rocksmith are numerous, in the one-hour hands-on demo I had with BandFuse, it already feels like the better option for anyone hoping to learn guitar techniques and notation, if just for the reduced latency of only 20 milliseconds. Instead of scrolling notes toward the player on a slanted 3-dimensional plane, BandFuse moves notes simply in a side-scrolling fashion, providing the correct tablature and fingering without hitting players over the head with them. Stick with BandFuse long enough and players can easily translate their sightreading skills over to actual tablature.

Each difficulty carefully guides players from easy, which only involves a few notes and strings, to the hardest setting, which comes replete with palm mutes, slides, vibratos, and natural harmonics. All of these techniques are explained in the Shred U section of the game, sometimes with instructional videos from Slash, Nancy Wilson, Zakk Wylde, or Five Finger Death Punch. For several particularly tricky riffs, there will be videos with a zoomed-in camera on a guitarist's hands so that players can nail down the technique and the tone.

Though I only have rudimentary experience with a real guitar and with Rocksmith, I was able to knock off 91% of a song on the easiest setting. That said, earning stars, points, and a high multiplier isn't the point here as much as pinning down the rhythm and clarity of each note. I'm not yet permitted to reveal certain parts of the tracklist nor how extensive Practice mode will be, but suffice it to say, BandFuse has everything a player needs to become a shredder. It even has a polyphonic tuner and plenty of amps, pedals, and tone options, all unlocked from the very start.

BandFuse has a lighter side as well. Supporting up to four players, with two on guitar, one on bass, and one on vocals, it easily translates to parties. Vocals work pretty much exactly like they do in Rock Band and can be switched to karaoke mode, and doing poorly on any instrument doesn't fail a song or drop that person out. The tracklist announced so far has a strong range, from The Strokes and Alanis Morissette, to Judas Priest, Pantera, and Rush. In total, Realta Entertainment plans a list of 55 songs overall, with DLC packs arriving after release.

BandFuse is slated for Early Spring 2013 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In addition to the standalone game, Realta Entertainment plans to release bundles that include a Squier Stratocaster, with no plans on bundles with a bass. It should cost around $150-200, but that's just an educated guess.