Randy Marsh Would Be Proud.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Guitar Hero or any other game that supplemented musical talent with fake plastic instruments. So that’s pretty much just Rock Band and Guitar Hero, which have been the most prolific faux-realistic music party-games for almost a decade. It’s not that these games weren’t fun; it’s that they weren’t really beneficial to the player apart from learning rhythm. The guitar is an amazing instrument to learn and pushing buttons doesn’t make you a rock star. If you have the same qualms about fake guitar games and want to actually learn how to play an instrument while having a great time, Bandfuse: Rock Legends might be what you’re looking for.
Unlike its mainstream competition, Rocksmith 2014, the design of Bandfuse: Rock Legends makes it more of a party game. At almost any moment, you can plug in up to four instruments, whereas in Rocksmith 2014 you can only add a second player as a guest. This is an extremely beneficial feature because it allows for a lot of interesting combinations. In the instrument selection menu you can choose to have Guitar 1, Guitar 2, Bass, and Vocals or pair Vocals with one of the Guitar options if one of the players wants to do both. The ability to combine one of the guitar options with vocals make for a more authentic experience when playing with multiple people, turning one player into the frontman. It’s also nice that anyone performing vocals gets scored separately using a system that reminded me a lot of Rock Band's vocals as well as the Karaoke mini-game in Sleeping Dogs, except your voice is what earns you points.
Speaking of karaoke, there is an actual karaoke mode in Bandfuse: Rock Legends. If your party starts to die down because nobody wants to play guitar anymore, you can just hand somebody a microphone and sing along to any of the songs available in game. As an added bonus you don’t have to deal with crappy karaoke versions of your favorite songs like you’d have to deal with if you went to some karaoke dive bar—not to mention the incredibly bland or demented reimaginings of music videos that some of those places have on-hand. Here, you’ll be accompanied by fullscreen original versions of music videos for each song. For me the benefit to the karaoke mode, in addition to not having to go out to a karaoke bar, is not having to deal with large packs of frat boys and their lady doppelgangers performing songs by The Village People, back to back. (True story.)
The most astonishing feature of this game for me is the acoustic guitar adapter. It is a cable that is included in The Band Pack for $79.99, and it is a game-changer. Up until I tried out the acoustic guitar adapter, I didn’t believe there was anything that would top the experience of plugging in an electric guitar and being able to play a video game with it. The adapter attaches to the standard Bandfuse USB-to-¼” guitar cable and functions like an electric guitar tuner, such as the Snark SN-1. You clip it onto the headstock of your acoustic guitar, and it translates the vibrations into a digital signal, which is how it determines what note you're playing. The downside is that since the game is built around the precision of an electric guitar, the acoustic signal does not register as well in the game, but it is still awesome.
After playing a variety of songs with my acoustic guitar plugged in, I’d say that the accuracy of the adapter was about 90%, which is quite good considering this a brand new piece of technology. Single notes and power chords registered well, but I found that the game failed to register open notes the majority of the time. It wasn't because the guitar wasn’t in tune; it was because the adapter for some reason didn’t as easily pick up the vibration of open strings. In order for me to get open notes to register in game with my acoustic guitar I had to play them more aggressively than I normally would. This inconsistent accuracy is annoying, but it will not detract from the fact that the acoustic guitar adapter works, just not as good as it could.
Bandfuse: Rock Legends is a great game for those making the leap from Guitar Hero to an actual guitar. They’ve even modeled the learning format to elements from Guitar Hero and Rock Band, color-coding the tablature based on the colors used on their guitar controllers. This color code system tells you which finger to use when playing certain notes so you can get used to proper hand placement and movement during certain songs. This is one of the most important things to learn and using a color-coded system that most novice gamer guitar enthusiasts are used to will make the learning curve less severe for most players.
There are many amazing things that Band Fuse: Rock Legends does to revolutionize the way we play guitar, and it’s inspiring. If you’ve already got an electric guitar, you can get by with the $69.99 Artist Pack, but I highly recommend upgrading to the $79.99 Band Pack for those of you who have a guitar already and want to rock out with your friends. It’s also a good pack to buy if an acoustic guitar is all you have and you don’t have extra money to upgrade. The more expensive Guitar Bundle seems to be sold exclusively through Guitar Center at the moment but is an amazing deal for those who do not yet own a guitar. Priced at $179, you can choose from two versions of the Squire Bullet: the HSS option has a slight wood finish and the second option has a simple Black and White finish. Both are awesome-looking guitars and appear to include a whammy bar/tremelo Arm. Bandfuse: Rock Legends has more gadgets, more multiplayer inclusiveness, and far more party game appeal then any game of its kind.